This month’s haunting brings us back to the golden state to explore our first (and quite possibly only) retail-space-based haunting. Toys R Us may not have physical locations anymore, this building will forever be known as the Sunnyvale Toys R Us. Why? Well, because the ghosts liked the toys, apparently. Let’s explore.
There are two points of origin for this haunting, so let’s cover the more credible point of origin first. Several Toys R Us employees reported experiencing haunting phenomena while working at this location. While most individuals chose to remain anonymous, a few names can be found online if you look hard enough. I will not be naming them here as I don’t know how they feel about their connection to this haunting.
The…less credible but far more sensationalized point of origin comes from “psychic” Sylvia Browne. (Side note: I believe that it’s possible for people to have some sort of psychic ability. I do not believe Sylvia Browne to be in any way genuine.) Browne claimed to have made contact with the spirit of a young man named Johnny Johnson – though she also claimed he spoke with a Swedish accent, so the name John/Johnny may have not been totally correct. Before we get into what she claims to have intuited from being in the building, I think it’s important to note that her involvement with the Toys R Us was highly publicized and landed her on TV. Anyway.
The spirit had apparently lived on the land in the late 1800s (years vary, but the most commonly mentioned decade is the 1880s). At that time, the Murphy family operated a farm there. Johnny Johnson was said to have been a farmhand there. He fell in love with the daughter of the Murphy family, though the feelings were unrequited. According to legend, the Murphy daughter married a lawyer on the east coast. The story of this spirit’s death also varies between retellings. Some say that he accidentally hit an artery with his ax while chopping trees and beld out on Murphy’s farm. More ominous retellings claim the wound was actually to his neck, which would hint at either murder or suicide. No official records have ever been found to corroborate this account.
There have been all sorts of phenomena reported by employees and visitors to the Sunnyvale Toys R Us. Toys were routinely shoved from shelves that they were securely placed on moments before – the spirits seemed to favor dolls and trucks. There were also unexplained breezes throughout the store – and they were always cold breezes. Baby swings and rockers moved on their own. Many employees also repeatedly heard their names being called when no one else was near them. Overall, typical haunting fare.
Creepily, the phenomena also manifested in the women’s bathroom. Not both bathrooms. Just the women’s. The faucets would turn themselves on and off, and women who entered alone reported feeling something playing with their hair gently. Despite the invasiveness of this experience, none of the women who experienced it claimed to feel like they were in danger. (But still, Johnny, boundaries.)
And, finally, an employee who has spoken very openly about what they experienced during their time at the Sunnyvale Toys R Us, claimed to have seen the apparition of a young man. They described the spirit as being a male in his twenties or thirties, wearing a tweed hat, white shirt, and baggy-kneed pants (often referred to in retellings as knickers). The spirit did not acknowledge this person at all, and walked right past them.
As stated in the opening of this post, no brick-and-mortar Toys R Us stores exist anymore. For a time, while the building remained vacant, Spirit Halloween occupied the building seasonally in the time around Halloween. How fitting. The most recent development in this Sunnyvale Saga is the fact that REI has bought the building this past month. For those of you unaware, REI stands for Recreational Equipment Inc. The company sells equipment and accessories for camping, fitness, sports, and travel. At least the spirits will still have balls to play with, I guess.