Urban Legends

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Urban Legends

Post by bunniefuu » 06/19/02 04:51

So many. Have fun. Post them here.

Okay, first one...
Legend: The ghost of a disappointed lover haunts the Toys 'R' Us store in Sunnyvale, California.
Origins: If you like a good ghost story, this 1993 newspaper story is for you:

Enter the Play-Doh aisle at your own risk. Browse the children's books with caution. And don't even ask to go upstairs, where the toys are stacked.
The Toys 'R' Us in Sunnyvale is haunted by a man named Johnson, employees and psychics say.

"I don't believe in ghosts," said Putt-Putt O'Brien, who has spent 18 years stacking toys at the store. "But you feel a breeze behind you. Someone calls your name and there's nobody there. Funny things happen here that you can't explain."

Rag dolls and toy trucks leap off shelves. Balls bounce down the aisles. Children's books fall out of racks. Baby swings move on their own. The folks at Toys 'R' Us say they've tried to explain it logically but can't.

"Many people have experiences, not just one or two of us," O'Brien said. "He's like Casper. Nothing he does ever hurt anybody."

Others have taken notice, too. Newspapers have written about him.

The toy store has been featured on television's That's Incredible and other shows. A Hollywood script writer for the movie Toys spent two nights inside doing research. Psychic Sylvia Browne held a seance there in 1978 and has been back a dozen times.

Browne said Johnson told her he was a preacher and ranch hand in the 1880s on the Murphy family farm, where the toy store sits today. He spoke with a mild Swedish accent, and his first name was John, Yon, or Johan. Ten of sixteen people assembled there for the seance said they heard a "high buzzing noise" when Browne was supposedly listening to the ghost.

Browne said the ghost told her he had been in love with Murphy's daughter Elizabeth, who ran off with an East Coast lawyer. Old news clippings say Johnson accidentally hacked his leg with an ax while carelessly chopping down trees. Another story said Johnson was found dead in the orchard with an ax wound in his neck. Both stories say he bled to death.

O'Brien said she saw Johnson once: A young man in his 20s or 30s, wearing knickers, a white long-sleeved work shirt, and a gray tweed snap-brim cap, walked past her. Another time she heard the sound of galloping horses.

"Yohan used to exercise the horses, they say," O'Brien said.

Now he apparently gets his exercise playing with the staff. There was the time when men were waxing the floor, for instance, and a teddy bear kept appearing in each aisle as they moved their equipment through the store. There's the overwhelming sweet smell of garden flowers that haunts Aisle 15C, next to the Mickey Mouse dolls and the Batman toothbrush sets.

So, now the obvious question: Is it all just a desperate sales gimmick?

"It's very good publicity for us," said store director Stephanie Lewis. "But I personally don't believe in it." But even if Lewis doesn't believe it, others do. "Last week we had to chase three or four teenagers away," she said.

"They were sitting out front at 4 a.m. with a Ouija board, trying to conjure up the ghost. Once a week someone comes in here asking about it. Teenagers beg us to let them spend the night on the floor."

"I have employees who will not go into the women's bathroom alone," Lewis said. That's because Johnson follows them in there and turns on the water faucets, she said.

Longtime employees say Johnson has also pulled pranks on contractors who come to do short-term jobs. They see a toy leap from a shelf and refuse to come back.

O'Brien believes Johnson lives upstairs in a breezy, cool corner.

The pranks he pulls upstairs are also harmless, she said, but it's spookier because one is usually alone. "When I go up there, I'll say, 'Johan, I'm only here to work,'" O'Brien said.

So if the place is haunted, why stick around?

"It's a good ghost," said Lisa, another employee, who didn't give her last name. "It's fun here."

Barbara "spirited" Mikkelson

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Urban Legends

Post by bunniefuu » 06/19/02 04:59

Claim: FBI agents holed up in a psychiatric hospital attempt to order pizza delivery.
Status: True.

Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1995]

FBI agents conducted a "search and seizure" at the Southwood Psychiatric Hospital in San Diego, which was under investigation for medical insurance fraud. After hours of poring over many rooms of financial records, some sixty FBI agents worked up quite an appetite. The case agent in charge of the investigation called a local pizza parlor with delivery service to order a quick dinner for his colleagues.
The following telephone conversation took place:


Agent: Hello. I would like to order nineteen large pizzas and sixty-seven cans of soda.

Pizza man: And where would you like them delivered?

Agent: To the Southwood Psychiatric Hospital.

Pizza man: To the psychiatric hospital?

Agent: That's right. I'm an FBI agent.

Pizza man: You're an FBI agent?

Agent: That's correct. Just about everybody here is.

Pizza man: And you're at the psychiatric hospital?

Agent: That's correct. And make sure you don't go through the front doors. We have them locked. You'll have to go around to the back to the service entrance to deliver the pizzas.

Pizza man: And you say you're all FBI agents?

Agent: That's right. How soon can you have them here?

Pizza man: And you're over at Southwood?

Agent: That's right. How soon can you have them here?

Pizza man: And everyone at Southwood is an FBI agent?

Agent: That's right. We've been here all day and we're starving.

Pizza man: How are you going to pay for this?

Agent: I have my check book right here.

Pizza man: And you are all FBI agents?

Agent: That's right, everyone here is an FBI agent. Can you remember to bring the pizzas and sodas to the service entrance in the rear? We have the front doors locked.

Pizza man: I don't think so.

Origins: This is one of those pieces that keeps us on our toes by reminding us that the far-fetched is sometimes true. Often attributed to a "Center for Strategic and International Studies report on GLOBAL ORGANIZED CRIME" or "a talk by R. James Woolsey, Director of Central Intelligence, given at a conference on global organized crime," this anecdote really is true, and we're indebted to Special Agent Wayne A. Barnes of the FBI for supplying us with the details.

In 1993, the FBI was assisting the Department of Health and Human Services in investigating health care fraud. A medical organization that ran psychiatric hospitals in nine different cities was under suspicion, and coordinated raids on all nine facilities were scheduled for the same day so that none of the hospitals could tip off the others. The unexpected bulk of records seized meant the morning raid at Southwood Psychiatric Hospital in Chula Vista turned into an all-day affair, and when the agent in charge of the investigation realized his men were running on empty, he attempted to order pizza from a local delivery outfit, placing the call now immortalized in this piece. (Contrary to what is stated in most versions, the FBI was not taping all the hospital's calls that day; the conversation was reconstructed from the memories of those present.)

And yes, they did get their pizzas -- but several agents had to drive over and pick them up.

This real life occurrence strikes a number of similar notes to that of a well-travelled legend manifested in many forms about the sane being mistaken for inmates of a lunatic asylum. Our Drive Me Crazy page details a number of those legends.

Last updated: 24 August 2000

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