The Haunted California Toys “R” Us who hosted a screening
The haunted houses depicted in horror movies tend to fit a certain mold. These are often old mansions sitting on top of secluded hills, with walls covered in cobwebs and creaking spiral staircases of their own. But supporters of the paranormal will tell you that ghosts aren’t picky about the places they frequent. The story of a former Toy “R” Us in Sunnyvale, Calif. Is the perfect example of an unexpected haunt.
Reports of ghostly activity began shortly after the Bay Area store was built in 1970. Employees claimed to see dolls flying off shelves and balls bouncing in the aisles. When they were alone, they felt a cold breeze on their backs or heard a disembodied voice calling their name. Some witnesses reported being hit by an invisible hand.
The phenomena have become common enough to warrant a visit from a psychic. Sylvia Browne has brought her supposed psychic abilities to various cases throughout her life, but the session she held at Toys “R” Us in the late 1970s was probably a first in her career. During the ritual, she claimed to feel the spirit of a Swedish preacher named Johnny Johnson who had worked on the land that became the town of Sunnyvale. While helping out on the Murphy Farm in the 1880s, he fell in love with the family’s daughter, Elizabeth. However, she did not return her affection and ran away with an East Coast lawyer. Johnson’s sad story came to a tragic end when he injured his leg while cutting down trees. He couldn’t get help and slowly bled on his own.
Browne has returned to Toys “R” Us on several occasions to communicate with Johnson, whom she called “the most stubborn, meanest, most argumentative ghost I have encountered” in her book. The Other Side and the Back: A Psychic Guide to Our World and Beyond. “I tried several times to explain to him that his life as Johnny Johnson is over,” she wrote. “He’s finally so fed up that I’m pestering him about it that he gave me an ultimatum: ‘If you tell me again that I’m dead, I won’t talk to you again.’ Browne dropped the deal; she and the ghost reportedly had a “quasi-friendship” in which they found “other things to talk about,” including the annoying and noisy kids who frequented the store.
But while the Murphys and their farm were real, the other details of Browne’s account don’t match. SFGate reports that Elizabeth did not run away with a lawyer: she married the son of a wealthy businessman in an elaborate ceremony in 1863. She died in 1875, several years before Johnson worked. on his family’s farm. And Johnny Johnson may never have existed in the first place – there is no record of him in California census data.
Regardless of their validity, the ghost stories surrounding the Sunnyvale Toys “R” Us have persisted. The company was propelled into the national spotlight when it was featured on the reality show It’s incredible! In the 1980s. The episode featured a shoot with Browne and the most compelling evidence of the case to date: a dark figure looming in an infrared photograph. When investigators watched the captured high-speed film at the same time and location, the figure was missing. You can watch a clip from the episode above.
Despite its reputation, the Sunnyvale Toys “R” Us continued to operate for decades before shutting down permanently in 2018. The following year, the building hosted a business that better fits its dark history: Spirit Halloween. (It’s now an REI.) Believers believe the site could still be haunted after the change of scenery, although it might just be the board games and the Barbie dolls that the ghosts were interested in.