4 World-Famous Toys (That Have Creepy Dark Origins)
It's nice to think that our favorite childhood toys were all conceived by fanciful Willy Wonka types who simply wanted to bring joy into the world and only murder a few children along the way. But the truth is that even the most seemingly innocent toys might have been secretly funding the work of some mad scientist hellbent on building a sex ark for the master race. That's barely an exaggeration. For example ...
View-Masters Were Invented By A Nazi
View-Masters are a great way to distract a child for up to ten seconds at a time, and for those brief, precious moments of silence, we have to thank William Gruber. He was a dedicated family man, amateur photographer, and registered member of the Nazi Party.
Gruber joined the Nazis in 1921, and by all accounts was an ardent believer in Hitler's cause. He moved to Oregon in 1924, but soon came under investigation for his involvement with pro-German groups, ultimately leading to an exile to Idaho. Do you have any idea how hard it was to get kicked out of Oregon for being racist back in 1924?
Gruber's Nazi connections haunted him for decades to come, but his invention of the View-Master in 1938 gave him a good in with the U.S. government. A few years after the toy's debut at the New York World's Fair, the military realized it could be a useful tool to train the influx of new recruits brought on to fight Gruber's former hero.
The problem was that these fresh-faced kids barely knew which end of the rifle went "bang," let alone what the silhouette of a German JU-87 bomber looked like. Needing a quick, cheap way of teaching servicemen which vague shapes on the horizon were okay to shoot at and which weren't, the government purchased tens of thousands of View-Masters, along with millions of accompanying reels.
That huge initial investment catapulted the toy to overnight fame, and it soon became America's top choice for looking at blurry slideshow images.
Thanks again, Nazis!
The sarcasm came through there, right? Oh god, never quote us on that.
The Creator Of Sea-Monkeys Armed White Supremacists
There's a pretty good chance you've inadvertently given money to someone who then turned around and donated thousands of those dollars to the KKK. How? Well, it's all thanks to those ads in the backs of comic books for disappointing packets of brine shrimp. Yes, if you ever fell for the ol' Sea-Monkey trick, you have funded evil.
Harold von Braunhut never admitted to being a white supremacist during his lifetime, but according to Dale R. Reusch, a grand dragon for the KKK, von Braunhut loaned him around $12,000 to buy firearms. "Sea-Monkeys" to "racist guns" is about as 0 to 60 as it gets, but von Braunhut decided he needed to more directly arm white supremacists, so he started selling a self-defense baton called the Kyogi Agent M5. He advertised this item in the same manner as his lighthearted kid toys: with a full-page ad in a newsletter. It just so happened to be the newsletter for the Aryan Nations.
Later, the founder of Aryan Nations, Richard Butler, claimed von Braunhut was a friend. Oh, and of course, the address where people sent mail order forms for Sea-Monkeys was the same as the return address for an organization known as the National Anti-Zionist Institute. So if you were planning on buying Sea-Monkeys, now you have yet another reason not to. Not that you ever needed more.
The Man Behind Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots Was A Miserable Bastard
Remember Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots? Along with dozens of other classic toys and games, like Lite-Brite, Mousetrap, and Operation, it was a product of Marvin Glass and Associates. Glass, the head of the company, brought joy to millions of children with his unending stream of wacky toys. He was also part crazy and all asshole.
Glass derived zero joy from his work, and considered himself a lifelong failure who provided nothing but cheap junk to consumers. He just couldn't be happy. He owned thousands of dollars' worth of cuff links that he never used and a mansion he rarely lived in, instead preferring to sleep in his office, which he ran like a supervillain lair on Bond Alert. It had CCTV monitoring, multiple locks (changed on a regular basis), no windows, and round-the-clock security to escort guests directly to his office, in case there was ... a board game heist? He was also described as "manipulative, predatory, and sexually voracious" -- and that was in the '60s. For somebody to call a man out as being exceptionally predatory back then, he basically had to hunt women for sport.
Barbie's Designer Was A Coke-Addled Sex Fiend
The creator of the Barbie doll, Ruth Handler, seemed like a wonderful, creative lady. She mostly avoided controversy, and spent her golden years charitably, developing realistic fake breasts for mastectomy patients. The man who actually designed the doll, however, was a maniac.
The fact that Barbie designer Jack Ryan (no relation to Tom Clancy) was somehow Zsa Zsa Gabor's sixth husband is only the start of the weirdness. Described by one unauthorized biographer as a "kinky swinger with a manic need for sexual gratification," Ryan used some of those Barbie royalties to turn his Bel Air mansion into an "orgy castle," which obviously included a dungeon lined with black fox fur. Can you even call it an orgy castle without a black fox fur dungeon?
At this point, you probably won't be shocked to learn that he was an enthusiastic consumer of cocaine, which can make hosting swinger parties every other day -- complete with acrobats, jugglers, and fortune tellers -- sound like a sensible way to blow through a fortune.
Mike Bedard invested his money in Pokemon cards instead of Beanie Babies. See where that got him by following him on Twitter.
If this is how bad toys were back then, might as well just get a Nintendo Switch now.
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For more, check out 6 Beloved '80s Toys With Bizarrely Horrifying Origin Stories and 5 Classic Board Games With Disturbing Origin Stories.
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