Guest Author Christy Lawryniuk recounts the tale of the Haunted Toys-R-Us

In Northern California there is a well known Toys-R-Us store.  This Toys-R-Us is located at 130 El Camino Real East, Sunnyvale, approximately 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of San Francisco.  The reason that it is so well known is that it is haunted.  In doing my research I found that there were many details of the story that couldn’t be clearly confirmed, however the basics of the story are very much the same.

The Toys-R-Us building was built on top of an old orchard in 1970.  The orchard was owed by either a Martin Murphy Jr. or John Murphy Jr. in the 1800’s.  Since his first name couldn’t be confirmed we will call him Mr. Murphy.  During his ownership of the land Mr. Murphy hired a man named Johnny Johnson, who is the true focus of this story.

Johnny Johnson was a Swedish immigrant who came to work on the Murphy Ranch after being stuck down with an illness.  Johnson originally lived in Pennsylvania before moving west to California to become a circuit preacher.  During his time as a preacher Johnson became ill with encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) which left him mentally handicapped.  His mental illness resulted in the locals calling him “Crazy Johnny”.  Since Johnny could no longer perform his duties as a preacher he sought out miscellaneous work.

Johnny was hired as a ranch hand by Mr. Murphy (dates unknown) and while working on the ranch he fell in love with Mr. Murphy’s daughter Elizabeth.  It is not known if the feeling were mutual.

One day while chopping wood Johnny swung the axe and missed the wood accidentally cut himself with an axe.  It hasn’t been confirmed if he cut his leg, or his wrist or his neck, regardless he cut himself and slowly bled to death.

Elizabeth eventually married an East Coast Lawyer and became Elizabeth Yuba Murphy Tafee.

When the Toys-R-Us store opened in 1970 employees and customers started claiming to have had strange supernatural experiences.  A lot of the activity seemed to be coming from specific locations.  Stories of aisle 15C and other back aisles reported boxes being thrown from the shelf, bikes being ridden up and down the aisle with no one on them, toys suddenly turning on when no one was in the store, balls bouncing out of the tall cage and continuing down the aisle without slowing down.  Another location in the store that was experiencing a lot of activity was the women’s restroom.  In the restroom the faucets would turn on and off when a woman was in the bathroom.  There were also reports of the drinking fountain being turned on when people walked by.  The most common experience was that most women in the store shopping claimed that they could feel someone either brushing their hair or tapping them on the shoulder.

In 1978 a local writer Antoinette May became interested in the story of the “Haunted Toys-R-Us”.  She enlisted the assistance of psychic Sylvia Brown and a photographer to join her in an investigation of the haunting.

The story of the investigation goes like this; while they were investigating, Brown confirmed that the ghostly presence was that of Johnny Johnson.  Some had previously thought that it might have been Mr. Murphy.  He told Brown that she should move unless she wanted to get her feet wet.  It was later confirmed that where Brown had been standing at the time was where a well used to be when the ranch was still intact.  Brown preformed a séance with several guests that had also joined the investigation.  At the beginning of the séance, Brown stated that they had an additional guest, a tall lanky man standing in the door way of the room, with his hand in his pocket.  The photographer took a snap shot of the area Brown pointed to.  When the picture was developed sure enough there he was.

While Brown was talking to Johnny’s spirit she confirmed much of the above information and asked him why he was there.  He told her that he was waiting for the love of his life Beth.  When asked who Beth was Johnny confirmed it was Elizabeth Murphy.  Brown told Johnny that Elizabeth was no longer there, that she had passed on a long time ago.  She told him that Elizabeth had married and moved on to live her life else where before she had passed on.  She informed Johnny that it was ok for him to move on.  He told her no, he was going to continue to wait and that he enjoyed being in the store and playing with the children and the toys.

Since that visit, stories and reports still come out of the Toys-R-Us of ghostly encounters, and the legend of Toys-R-Us still lives on.  To our knowledge, no other medium, psychic or ghost hunter has ever conducted a follow up investigation of the site.  So, if you ever get the chance to visit Northern California be sure to make Haunted Toys-R-Us your ghostly destination.

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