The Time A 'Haunted' Toys 'R' Us In California Hosted A Séance
Honestly, how a toy store being haunted in California during the '70s hasn't been turned into a movie already makes as much sense as a toy store actually being haunted. But here we are, filmless and flabbergasted, because we're not only talking about '70s sepia filters over shots of balls bouncing down aisles at random and Rock' Em Sock 'Em Robots coming alive and kicking the crap out of each other.
No, we're also talking about a movie featuring a psychic woman who ends up in a bizarre relationship with the ghost who decided to go hang out in a toy store forever. Sort of like the scene in Ghost, but instead of a pottery wheel, it was a Rubik's Cube.
The now-defunct toy store in Sunnyvale, CA, was built in 1970 and almost immediately said to be haunted. The spooktacular stories (told by employees, mostly) ranged from flying dolls and stuff just generally being out of place to people claiming cold breezes, phantom hands, and an eerie voice calling out to them. It wasn't long before medium Sylvia Browne was summoned to perform a séance inside the store because that's probably just the most Californian thing to do.
Browne claimed that the ghost who ended up haunting the newly-built Toys' R' Us store was a Swedish preacher named Johnny Johnson (really?) who worked on the Murphy farm in the 1880s before it became the city of Sunnyvale. Johnny Johnson — we're saying his full name again because if you say something enough times, it'll sound more real and not totally made up — fell in love with farmer Murphy's daughter, Elizabeth. She, however, didn't much care for our Johnny and instead ran off with some lawyer guy, leaving sad Johnny Johnson to die alone after — checks notes — accidentally chopping his leg off instead of a tree and bleeding to death before he could find help. Damn. That took a turn.
It gets even more bonkers because Browne then struck up some pseudo-relationship with the ghost of Johnny Johnson (we're definitely starting to hear a folk song hidden in that name). One which she would later describe in detail in her book The Other Side and Back: A Psychic's Guide to Our World and Beyond because if a tree falls in the forest, did the psychic know about it if they didn't write a book?
Anyway, Browne and Johnny Johnson Who We Wish Were From Wisconsin apparently had many an argument during their "meetings," and their relationship sounded pretty darn manipulative, so we don't know exactly what Browne was projecting here, but that's maybe for the best. What we do know is that her story about the broken-hearted preacher doesn't check out. For one, Elizabeth didn't run away with some East Coast lawyer, and Johnny Johnson didn't even meet her because she died long before he went to work on the Murphy farm.
No, wait, scrap that because there's actually no record of a Johnny Johnson (or a "Jan," which is said to be his Swedish name) in California's census records. Some have claimed old newspaper clippings as evidence of Johnson's grisly death, but those don't seem to actually exist, either.
But who cares, because those are just pesky facts trying to ruin a good ghost story.
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