Ghostly Pics: Toys R Us Ghost
For most of us, toy stores conjure up childhood images of fun, freedom and imagination.
However, a Toys R Us location in Sunnyvale California has become more well known as a place of terror then pleasure.
It is said that a ghost resides in the shop, a ghost searching for a lost love.
A ghost that during an investigation by well known psychic Sylvia Browne just happened to have his picture taken and became one of the most well known paranormal photographs in the world.
About a hundred years before 130 East Camino Street was the site of a Toys R Us location, it was a large area of farm land owned by a man named either Martin or John with the surname of Murphy.
Murphy had a wheat plantation on his land, as well as livestock and a large orchard. Sometime in the late 1800’s Murphy hired Johnny Johnson, a young Scandinavian immigrant who was also studying to become a minister.
Johnson fell in love with Murphy’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth, but her heart was already won by a lawyer from the East.
Another issue that plagued Johnson beyond the broken heart was a case of Encephalitis, or an acute inflammation of the brain. This condition can bring on symptoms such as hallucinations, confusion and memory problems.
Because of this Johnson was labeled “Crazy Johnny” by some of the Sunnyvale residents of his day.
In the Summer of 1884 Johnny Johnson would die in the Murphy orchards after he had an accident with an axe while chopping wood. Johnson had badly cut his leg with the axe and bled to death on the spot.
Although the Murphy family would continue to live on the land in Sunnyvale until the 1950’s and 60’s, they would soon move on. By 1961 the main mansion was in disrepair and had to be demolished and most of the land once a part of the huge farm and orchards would have be sold off.
One development project that was undertaken on the former farm land was the construction of a Toy R Us toy store right at the corner of El Camino and Saratoga Road in the early seventies.
Ghosts R Us:
The 60,000 square foot Toys R Us ‘Mega-Store’ opened in 1971.
However, it was soon apparent that there was much more to the store then fun and games.
Customers and employees at the Sunnyvale Toys R Us would state that toys would be moved off the shelves during the night or were stacked up on the floor.
Strange odors, temperature drops, ‘fingers’ being ran through female employees hair while in the stock room ,strange sounds and voices calling out employee names were just some of the paranormal activity going on in the toy store.
An area within the store where lots of activity was reported was the women’s bathroom. Here, the faucets would mysteriously turn on by themselves and people would feel like they were being watched in the room.
These events were experienced by several people, with some even refusing to go into the bathroom alone.
One amazing account of this activity comes from Cheryl Royce, who at one time was the store manager at the Sunnyvale store:
“I had gone in to use the restroom.
[I] was in one of the restroom stalls…heard the door open, heard the water turn on. I kind of looked under [the stall door] and saw nobody in the rest room.
The water turned off, the door opened and I refused to use the restroom for the rest of the six weeks I was here.”
The activity continues at the location to this day and has been experienced by a large number of individuals since the 1970’s.
However, what makes this case unique is that it spawned one of the most famous ghost pictures ever taken.
By the late seventies the case had gotten the attention of the producers for the television series That’s Incredible and they arranged for a segment to be shot about the haunted toy store to be broadcast in 1978.
Part of this investigation included the involvement of psychic Sylvia Browne, who would hold a seance to get in contact with “Johnny” with some of the store staff also present along with the television crew.
In addition to Browne and the store employees, photographer Bill Tidwell came along, armed with two 35mm cameras. One loaded with black and white infrared film and a high speed film that Tidwell claimed could “take photos in almost complete darkness”.
Sylvia Brown went on with the seance, stating that she had indeed come into contact with Johnny or Johan. While Browne observed that Johnny was standing farther down the aisle from where the seance was being held at, Tidwell was snapping tons of pictures.
If the story is to be believed then Tidwell captured the infamous image of Johnny Johnson at the same time Sylvia Browne was describing the spirit taking similar actions:
“He’s got his hands in his pockets, he is looking down at his shoes.”
It also would seem that the photograph has some proper evidence to prop itself up on as well.
First of all, there is the fact that the high speed 35mm film captured nothing in the exact spot where the figure was captured on the infrared film at almost the same moment in time.
Add this to the fact that there are historical documents and photos to back up the existence of “Johnny” once residing on the Murphy Ranch in Sunnyvale and story gains even more steam.
Then we have the opinions of photography experts on Tidwell’s picture, which was deemed to not be fake or at least not the result of photographic trickery or photo editing.
But there are kinks in the chains and they start and end with Sylvia Browne and the way her reputation as a genuine psychic has fell like a rock since she was first involved in the Sunnyvale Toys R Us case.
Sylvia Browne: Psychic or Fraud?
Sylvia Browne claims that she first discovered she had psychic ‘gifts’ when she was around five years old. Her grandmother Ada, who Browne claims also was a psychic, explained the nature of her powers to Sylvia.. Browne also claims that one of her great uncles was psychic as well.
Browne started giving psychic readings in 1974 and has also claimed to have worked on numerous police cases for various law enforcement agencies as well as the FBI.
Browne also has written over a dozen books on paranormal and psychic activity, as well as running a website devoted to her work and a church she created called the Society of Novus Spiritus, which she founded in 1986.
It is claimed that Sylvia Browne makes about three million dollars yearly from her business ventures and royalties.
However, making money is not a crime nor a reason n to doubt anyone’s ability in any particular field of study. Rather it is the false and incorrect claims that Browne has been caught up in over the years that make any sensible person doubt any case Browne has ever been connected to.
Browne’s first ex-husband, Gary Dufresne, claims that she had no psychic abilities at all and that at some point she had told Dufresne that people were gullible and therefore deserved to be taken advantage of.
This claim could be chalked up to bitter words from an ex, but there is also the matter of Browne being convicted for investment fraud and grand theft in 1992.
In that case, Browne and her then husband Kenzil lied to investors in a gold mine investment, including about where the money they were investing was going.
In one instance, the money given by an investor was supposed to go onto start up costs for the mine but instead was transferred into the accounts of the Nirvana Foundation for Psychic Research, which Browne owns.
Selling people fraudulent dreams is not too far away from committing paranormal fraud or making up a back story to a prominent haunting to get publicity or a payday is it?
Another telling sign is that many of the murder cases Browne has claimed to have been involved in have been proven to be lies, while the ones she was actually a part of seemed to have not been positively affected by her involvement.
Additionally, Browne has made many false ‘psychic’ claims and predictions, including:
- That Michael Jackson would be found guilty on molestation charges in 2005.
- That Bin Laden was dead years before he was killed in a US military operation.
- That Bill Clinton was not guilty in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which he later admitted to.
- Went on the show Coast To Coast AM and claimed that most of the miners in the Sago Mine Disaster were alive when most were in fact dead.
- Told a mother on the Montel Williams Show who had lost her daughter that she was working as a stripper in California only for her to later be identified as a body found in 1996, six years before Browne claimed she was still alive.
- Similarly, Browne told a grandmother on Montel that her six year old granddaughter had been abducted and taken to “Kukoura”Japan, even though no such town exists in Japan by that name. Later, the child’s remain were found in the US with evidence that she was killed soon after she was abducted.
- In may 2013, Amanda Berry was found in captivity after Browne claimed she was dead to her mother on Montel in 2004.
The list goes on and on, but it would appear that despite Sylvia Brownes prominence as one of the first ever “TV Psychics”, her powers may be more criminal then paranormal in origin.
So Is “Johnny” Real?
Although Sylvia Browne’s credibility comes into question heavily with her run ins with the law as well as her false predictions and claims, the numerous eyewitness accounts of paranormal activity at the Sunnyvale Toys R Us were happening before and after Browne’s involvement with the case.
We also know that Johnny ‘Crazy’ Johnson did indeed exist in some form or another in Sunnyvale’s past. His tale of lost love, mental illness and tragic death fit into the classic ghost story mold.
Perhaps they fit too well?
My own little theory, and it is nothing I can prove of course, is that Browne heard about the haunting in the toy store, saw an opportunity to gain some publicity on national television and dug up some interesting history about the property prior to taping.
If she did do this, did she possibly use this information to concoct a story that fit the ghostly activity?
As for the photos Bill Tidwell took, I can see no reason to doubt the photo itself, although it does seem a little too perfectly scripted to Brownes dialogue at the seance.
I definitely do not think this figure is “Johnny Johnson”, who I think is just a minor player in California history Sylvia Browne attached to the spirit in the Toys R Us haunting. No one would remember “Crazy Johnny” if Sylvia Browne had not dug him up.
Is the photo a fake?
Does Tidwell know its a fake if it is?
If it is genuine then it must be of the real Toys R Us ghost.
Who is he?
It is a shame that a case so recent and so highly documented was tainted by involvement with a “paranormal expert” who has a history of fraud. It mires the pond and makes it hard to guess what exactly is going on in Sunnyvale.
Reports continue to this day that the place is haunted, but as some as these claims are random comments on the internet who can tell for sure. I think this is a case that should be looked into more closely in a professional manner.
The second video also features eyewitness accounts of the haunting at about the five minute mark.
There is something going on in that toy store, or at least forty plus years of employees think that there is…