When I was growing up in the South Bay Area, there two haunted locations that we heard about every Halloween. The first is the world famous Winchester Mystery House. The other was a toy store.
Yes, you read that right, a toy store. The Toys”R”Us store in Sunnyvale, California was supposedly haunted by the ghost of a farm worker who died in the area. Most people report poltergeist activity of sorts – breezes with no apparent source, toys found on the floor at the opening of the store, people hearing their names called when there is no one around.
Like all good ghost stories, the exact details of the haunting are fuzzy, but there are a few known facts that can be confirmed. A circuit preacher named Johnny (or Johan or Yonny) Johnson worked on Martin Murphy plantation in Sunnyvale, CA. He had unrequited affection for Elizabeth Murphy, the owner’s daughter. Shortly after finding out she was to be married, he died. One story claimed he was found dead in an orchard with an axe wound to his neck. News clippings from the era claim he had an accident while chopping wood and bled to death.
This has been “confirmed” by the self-proclaimed psychic Sylvia Browne during a seance held in the 1980’s. When asked why he was haunting the store instead of going into the light, Johnny told her that he was waiting for Beth, and enjoyed playing with the children while waiting.
What caught national attention is that there is photographic evidence of Johnny. During the seance, photos taken of the group using both infrared and high speed black-and-white film. In the infrared shots Sylvia Browne is in the lower right corner, almost washed out in a haze of light. But what caught everyone’s attention was the sillouette of a man standing outside the circle of seated figures. He’s leaning against something that isn’t visiible. And he isn’t visible on photos taken at the same time with the black-and-white film. The people attending the seance claimed he wasn’t visible either, and that an odd buzzing noise could be heard whenever Johnny was answering Sylvia Browne’s questions. The infamous picture, as well as a recreation of the seance, was featured on the TV show “That’s Incredible” and can be seen on many paranormal themed web sites.
Alleged photograph of Johnny Johnson, the ghost of the Sunnyvale, California Toys “R” Us. pic.twitter.com/vDb6PsT6dF— Stranger Dimensions (@Dimentoid) July 4, 2016
So what will happen to Johnny and his legend now that the Toys”R”Us chain is closed? Rumors are already floating strange things are happening at the Petco across the parking lot. Stories about balls rolling out of bins on their own and paperwork fluttering off desks without the aid of a breeze. But if Johnny is haunting the toystore still, he will have a fun time until November first. Appropriately enough, a Spirit Halloween store is currently in the old Toys”R”Us spot. And the ghost may have a second life if Toys”R”Us is reopened.
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