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The Ghost of Toys 'R Us

Updated on October 23, 2012

The ghost of Toys 'R Us - the haunted toy store

The Toys R' Us mega-store in Sunnyvale, California is more famous for its resident ghost than its shelves full of toys, video games, dolls, and action figures. The paranormal activities were noticed by employees in the 70's when the store was first built over the land of an old orchard. Toys and boxes would be found tossed into the aisles to be discovered by employees opening the stores in the morning. The ghost had a penchant for touching ladies' long hair, tapping their shoulders and whispering their names. This store has been featured in "That's Incredible", "Ripley's Believe it or not", "Unsolved Mysteries" and made into a documentary. Paranormal investigators have repeatedly visited this store, employees and construction workers who have had encounters with the spirit have told their stories. Most importantly, there was photographic proof of the apparition captured by an infrared camera during a séance conducted by renowned psychic, Sylvia Browne.

Who haunts this toy store, why, and where has he been seen? Why is he still here?

The haunted toy store in the 70s-90s - It is still haunted today

This was what the original Toys R' Us toy store looked like before the recent 2009 renovation. It was "The Place" to go hangout for kids of all ages in this massive 60,000 sq. ft. treasure trove of toys At that time, I had no knowledge of any hauntings or ghost in the store until I read about it in the local paper. Then I became fixated on the ghost and watched all the TV specials about it.

Photo Credit: jennysh_who

Where is the haunted toy store in Northern California?

The Toys R Us is located on 130 East El Camino in Sunnyvale, California which is about thirty miles from San Francisco. It was built on an 1800's orchard that was part of a massive ranch owned by Martin Murphy Jr. and his family.

Photo Credit: jennysh_who


Martin Murphy, Jr.

Founder of the city of Sunnyvale

Martin Murphy Jr. and his family were Irish immigrants who came to Northern California in search of religious and educational freedom in 1844.

He purchased the 5000-acre Spanish land grant Rancho Pastoria de la Borregas, established the Bay View Ranch, built the first wood frame house, and planted Santa Clara Valley's first orchards. After living in Bay View Ranch for six continuous generations, the Murphy family sold Bay View to the city of Sunnyvale in 1953. The Murphy mansion was made a State Historical Landmark in 1958 but was unfortunately demolished by the city in 1961 due to extensive damage following a fire and to make way for Central Expressway.

The Murphy Mansion at Bay View Ranch - First wood frame house

Longing for a New England-style home, Martin instructed carpenters to prefabricate a house in Bangor, Maine, dismantle it piece by piece and ship the parts of the massive 20-room mansion to California from Boston via Cape Horn. The Murphy's mansion was to be the hub of every political and social gathering during the Gold Rush. In 1881, Martin and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at Bay View with 10,000 people in attendance.

Photo Source: jennysh_who

From the Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum


Séance with psychic, Sylvia Browne

Unraveling the mystery

In 1978, renowned psychic Sylvia Browne was hired to conduct a séance for a segment of the TV show "That's Incredible:The Haunted Toys 'R Us." The attendees were seated on the floor in a circle along with Sylvia as she attempted to contact the spirit haunting the store. She said he spoke with a Swedish accent and his name was Johnny Johnson or Johan Johnson who was a minister at the time when he was hired by Martin Murphy Jr. in the 1880s to work as a farmhand in his large ranch. Johnny fell madly in love with by one of Murphy's daughters, Elizabeth, but was rebuffed when she accepted a marriage proposal from a lawyer in Boston and the couple moved to Massachusetts. Broken-hearted and downtrodden, Johnny continued to work in the ranch until 1884 when he contracted a viral brain disease, encephalitis, which caused his brain to swell up and made him behave strangely. This earned him the nickname "Crazy Johnny." While chopping wood one day, Johnny accidentally cut his leg and bled to death.

While the séance was going on, professional photographers from Alpha Labs took simultaneous pictures of the empty aisle using both infrared and high-speed film. The infrared camera captured the obvious image of a young man in his 20s or 30s leaning against a post, while the high-speed camera showed an empty aisle.

Click Here

Watch the segment of "That's Incredible" as Sylvia talks to Johnny Johnston during a séance at Toy 'R us.

Johnny Johnson makes an appearance at a séance - Unwittingly trapped in a toy store

Photo source :thisworldishaunted

This is the famous infrared photograph of Johnny Johnston leaning against a post with his hands stuffed in his pocket. Sylvia Browne is the lighted figure on the bottom right. No one in the séance saw the figure.

Johan or Johnny roams some of these aisles - In a time warp and unable to cross over


Johan was known to roam the back aisles where the Mickey Mouse dolls and Batman toothbrushes were. He was also seen around the Play-doh aisle. Cold spots and and a breeze can be felt, as well as the fragrance of fresh flowers can be smelled in Aisle 15C. But the store has been recently renovated and a portion of the store became Babies 'R Us.

I drove to the store to take these pictures but noted that the aisles have been rearranged, and the toy section now ends at Aisle 13B. The infamous Aisle 15C is gone. However, Johnny is here to stay. Johnny is in a time warp and does not know he is dead. He is still waiting for his beloved Elizabeth to come back to the orchard where the toy store sits today.


The stairs to the stockroom

What lies above

Johan is purported to live in the space above the stockroom in a cool, breezy corner according to a long-time employee, Putt-putt O'Brien. She been stacking toys in the stockroom for over 18 years and have seen Johnny, a young man in his 20's or 30's, wearing knickers, a white long-sleeved shirt and a gray snap-brim tweed hat walk pass her. At one time, O'brien heard the sound of galloping horses. Johan apparently used to exercise the horses at the ranch. Now he gets his kicks by playing tricks with the staff.

Closeup of two orbs at the top of the stairs. - Was Johan watching me taking the photos?


Notice the two orbs in the photo at the top of the stairs. I do not know much about spirit orbs. It could be a reflection of dust or whatever captured by my digital camera. But then again, it could be the presence of a disembodied spirit, or Johnny making his presence known.


Where Johnny lives

What lurks above the stairs?

This is the stairs to the stockroom upstairs. One employee was up on a ladder checking the inventory when someone brushed her hair and whispered the name "Beth." This was supposed to be the nickname of Murphy's daughter, Elizabeth, who Johnny was in love with.

Immediately, the employee tore out of the room and reported the incident to her supervisor who made light of the situation. Later on, the supervisor entered the stockroom to witness toys spinning around the floor and trains chugging on tracks by themselves.

Johnny the prankster likes to hang out in the ladies' room

Johnny the prankster likes to hang out in the ladies' room
Johnny the prankster likes to hang out in the ladies' room

Mysterious haze outside the ladies' room - This really freaked me out

The ladies' restroom was the scene of several paranormal acitivities. Employees were afraid to go to the restrooms alone. Johnny would follow them and play tricks on them. Faucets would turn on and off by themselves; lights would turn on and off; doors would open and close, and ladies' would feel someone touching their hair and whispering their names.

Johan the prankster - Played childish tricks on the toy store employees

During the hauntings, balls would bounce around, trucks and books would fly off the shelves, dolls which were not supposed to talk would talk and baby swings would swing by themselves. These were from some testimonies of contractors and construction workers who witnessed the paranormal activities.

The Haunted Toys 'R Us - narrated by Leonard Nimoy Part I

Psychic, Sylvia Browne then was also a Police consultant who visited the store more than a dozen times. She revealed that Johnny was a hired hand in Murphy's farm and was in love with one of his daughters, Elizabeth, but was coldly rebuffed. One day, he accidentally cut his leg with an axe and bled to death.

Part II The séance

During the séance, Sylvia Browne contacts Johnny to come forward. She says that he is in a time warp and does not know he is dead. He is unable to cross over to the other side.


Halloween Night

Sleepover requests

Many teenagers beg the store managers if they could stay the night at the store. Many are willing to take the rare opportunity of coming face-to-face with Johnny. Halloween is specially popular wth customers who are lured to the toy store in hopes of finding fiendish or ghoulish costumes but also a chance meeting with a "real" ghost.

Fascinating true ghost stories

The Ghostly Register
The Ghostly Register

This book by Arthur Myer's is a compilation of ghost activities in different U.S. states. The chapter on this Toys R' Us store is under California hauntings (The Haunted Toy Store on page 52). Other fascinating stories include "The ghost who made phone calls", "The non-paying hotel guest", "The Enchanted Dolls","The ghost who tidied things up."


Stop by

When you happen to be in Northern California, do take a trip to this Toys 'R Us store in Sunnyvale. Johnny may be waiting to meet you!

Is this haunting for real or a hoax?

Do you believe that the ghost at the Toys 'R Us really exist?

See results

This lens was one of the 40 finalists in the Squidboo October 2010 Challenge.

Earthly visitors, do make your presence known here.

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    • SimonJay profile image

      SimonJay 4 years ago

      Wow what a cool read got fascinated by this story i don't really believe in ghosts but who knows i also think that maybe someone started this in the work place and others wanted to get involved so made their own versions of the story but who really knows.

    • bornot2b1 profile image

      bornot2b1 4 years ago

      This is so cool! Love this lens! (Yes, if we have a chance, we will definitely visit Johnny at that store. You never know, he may decide to migrate to Australia for a change (by following us). Bet we have pretty single ghosts here too, waiting for someone handsome like Johnny!)

    • profile image

      Pangionedevelopers 5 years ago

      i liked this so much, I " liked" you 5x :)....return the favor would be appreciated

      "show me some like"

    • yayas profile image

      yayas 6 years ago

      Would I shop in a haunted Toys R Us? I'm not sure, to be honest. As far as considering staying overnight, as the teenagers you mentioned wish to do... nooooooo; I don't think so. I did enjoy learning about this very interesting haunted spot, however. Thanks for the information. I think I will just hope never to be in the vicinity; thank you very much. LOL

    • chocsie profile image

      chocsie 6 years ago

      this is extremely interesting! I'm a little scared to go now, but if I'm ever in California, I just might stop by. Great lens!

    • Mishael A Witty profile image

      Mishael A Witty 6 years ago

      Huh! You never really think of Toys R Us being a haunted place, but I guess it's really the land that's haunted more than the building - if it is really haunted. I do think it's odd that Johnny, being an immigrant farmhand minister, would have the medical knowledge and the command of the English language necessary to actually name his condition as encephalitis - never mind the fact that, if he died impaired, how did he have enough conscious power to know what his mental state was? Yes. I guess you could say I'm a skeptic. Still, it is a fascinating story. Thank you for sharing it!

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      Very nice job on this. There are so many sites wehre multiple people have had unusual experiences. Does make one wonder...

    • meisgood132 profile image

      meisgood132 6 years ago

      Excellent job on this Squidoo lens love ghost stories and looking at quality real ghost pictures this was a joy to behold.

    • cloudiosify profile image

      cloudiosify 6 years ago

      Really scary. Contentful lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This (That's Incredible film crew and Sylvia Browne) happened sometime during the summer of 1980, not 1978. I know this because I worked at this Toys R Us as a stock clerk from May, 1980 to Jan. 1981 during my senior year in high school. As an employee I was invited to the séance but did not attend. I remember employee Putt-putt O'Brien as well as the store manager, Judy Jackson. All in all it was a fun place to work. Older (and longer tenured) employees did tell me of strange happenings in the store (water tap mysteriously turning on in bathroom, moved stock items, opened doors, etc.) but I never noticed anything out of the ordinary while I worked there.

    • asiliveandbreathe profile image

      asiliveandbreathe 7 years ago

      Spooky! I was just about to post a comment here when my computer, TV and lights switched off and on again - I jumped a mile !!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I have not gone to the Toys R Us myself but one of my paranormal team members goes since she lives close by. She hasn't see anything but I am sure Jonny is there. I plan on going to CA in the next couple years with my other crew members to visit and see what's up :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Fun and interesting lens! I love watching the ghost shows on TV but haven't seen the Toys r Us one. Your pictures are great!

    • EditPhotos profile image

      Edit Photos 7 years ago from Earth

      Not a believer - but a great lens! Blessed!

    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 7 years ago

      This is great a modern ghost story. I had no idea. I wonder if we have in UK Toys R Us stores? woooooooooooo

    • profile image

      jgelien 7 years ago

      I never heard this story before. My daughter lives in that area. I'm sending her the link to your very intriguing lens.

    • profile image

      SiufuChiu 7 years ago

      For that "Mysterious haze outside Ladies' restrooms", I remember a TV report

      I saw a few months before. It is a school's basement in a small town. Some

      teachers saw the scene that happened during civil war. It used to be the

      medical center for North. What they saw was those wondered soldiers on the

      simple operation tables, people were screaming and blood were everywhere.

      Maybe nature has the ability to record some special event.

    • Tyla MacAllister profile image

      Tyla MacAllister 7 years ago

      Wow! I can't believe I never heard this story before. If I ever manage to get to Northern California I'll be sure to check out the haunted Toys-R-Us. Congrats on being a squidboo finalist.

    • Amy Fricano profile image

      Amy Fricano 7 years ago from WNY

      Very personal content. Terrific story. Great images. You have it all. i was shocked to make the list at all. You need to be crowned, big time.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      What a fantastic story! No wonder you are one of the finalist in the SquidBoo Contest! Awesome...just awesome!

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 7 years ago

      This is fascinating! I'd not heard about it before. Great lens - good luck in the Squidboo contest - I voted for you!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 7 years ago

      Well, it's a great story no matter what you believe. What a shame the mansion was destroyed. Happy Halloween!

    • KokoTravel profile image

      KokoTravel 7 years ago

      Seems a bit frightening to some people, but I look for the good spirits...

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 7 years ago

      Great Halloween story! Congratulations on being in the top 40. I have one there, too.

    • CastleRoyLisa profile image

      Lisa 7 years ago from Rhode Island

      wonderful Halloween lens a chilling great story.

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 7 years ago from USA

      A haunted toy store. . . sounds like a fun place to not be alone.

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Kids love these kind of hauntings especially if it is in a toy store.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Intriguing. I bet my sons would have wanted me to take them there.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Interesting lens. I can't believe you found an employee to discuss this're so motivated. Now about those fp collateral... :-)

    • squid-janices7 profile image

      squid-janices7 7 years ago

      Interesting lens and you did a great job of presenting the evidence/facts. Big thumbs up!

    • WhiteOak50 profile image

      WhiteOak50 7 years ago

      Great Lens for Halloween so I am leaving you with a ~SquidBOO Angel Blessing~ and to let you know your lens will be featured on: Spooky Angel Blessings

    • profile image

      the777group lm 7 years ago

      I particularly enjoyed this lens because you have done some genuine research. I don't know what the paranormal and skeptics associations would say but to me it sounds pretty interesting.

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you Tipi for your quick response. I would greatly appreciate it if you could find out from you friend if that was a real orb. Thank you for stopping by. I enjoy your spiritual lenses.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Awesome spooky lenses. I took and zoomed in as much as I could on the orb pictures and and the one is definitely an orb that shows up with the wall behind it. The light at the top of the stairs is a little trickier to identify by zooming in, but it does look like an orb. I would have to download that picture on my computer and email it to a friend who has some high tech software for looking at picture up close. If that would be ok with you, I'll do that. Your picture will not be used in anyway shape of form, except to examine it, and I would let you know what is the result of that. ~ Excellent lens, I really like this. Appreciate you stopping by my orb lens and asking about the picture. It doesn't appear to be a man made or natural light source, but I could be wrong. ~ Wonderful lens!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 7 years ago

      @anonymous: It is not the toy store that is haunted but the land it sits one. The notoriety the toy store gets from the ghost stories surely does not hurt the business, especially at Halloween time.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I still have goose bumps. Great lens but freaked me out.

    • DecoratingEvents profile image

      DecoratingEvents 7 years ago

      Excellent account! I enjoyed it very much.

    • profile image

      TrueGhostTales 7 years ago

      Great topic and a very thorough lens! I just posted this on my face book fan page

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      What better place to hang out for eternity than a toy store? :-)

      I wonder if Johnny knows what "Hot Wheels" are?

      The original farmhouse in the photo looks much nicer than that big store does now.

      Thanks for this interesting story.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Well done, I have never heard of this. Then again a store selling toys wouldn't exactly want to be associates with something unearthly.Thank you.