It sounds strange describing someone who died from bleeding to death from an axe wound as “lucky,” but that could be the case for Johnny Johnson.
Johnson, as the story goes, was a Sunnyvale, California farmhand in 1881, who was in love with Elizabeth, his boss’ daughter.
Unfortunately for Johnny, Elizabeth loved someone else, and refused to marry him.
It was a bad week for Johnny, because a short time later, he was chopping wood when the axe slipped and lodged in his leg, killing him.
Moving to the present day, we find a Toys R Us store built on the exact spot where Johnny died.
For the record, despite having spent more time in cemeteries than is healthy finding the graves of the famous and infamous, I have never experienced anything paranormal. So when talk turns to all things “spiritual” – I’m a skeptic.
Still, I’m nothing if not curious, so this past weekend when Kimi and I were in the Bay Area, we went over to Sunnyvale for a walk on the weird side.
According to the book Weird California where I first heard mention about the ‘”Haunted Toys R Us of Sunnyvale,” Johnny is usually found hunting for his beloved Elizabeth around aisle 15C.
We traversed the store and couldn’t locate the aisle because as we later learned, the store had recently been remodeled.
This forced me to ask an employee for directions to the current hangout of their resident ghost; something I felt a bit embarrassed to do.
Trying my best not to sound like a Ghost Hunters groupie, I stopped an employee, who we will call Mike, and told him I was a writer doing a piece on the store’s “supposed ghost.”
“You mean Johnny,” he said, as matter-of-factly as if I were inquiring about a living stockroom attendant. “You can usually find him in Aisle 2C.”
Mike explained that Johnny likes to knock toys off of shelves, roll balls down empty aisles, and trip sensors which open doors in the middle of the night when no one is in the store. He also explained that Johnny only seems to pull his pranks on employees, generally leaving the customers alone.
We were standing in Aisle 2C, which was lined from floor to ceiling with dolls. While he was talking, dolls on both sides of the aisle were gurgling and gyrating, which was to be expected, as they were activated by motion.
But what was strange was that as soon as Mike left the aisle, the dolls stopped moving.
Although Kimi and I ran up and down the aisle, the majority of them remained inert until Mike returned, which brought them to life again. We were able to get some of the dolls to move without the employees around, but we basically had to shake them.
Odder still was a baby doll that would giggle when Mike was around. This doll was not motion activated. (Although, it did appear to be activated by heat. We were able to get it to giggle by nearly touching it. When Mike was around, it went off even though he stood several feet away.)
Am I now a believer? Hardly.
There are several possible explanations for the happenings in Aisle 2C that have nothing to do with anything supernatural. And had I not known of the story ahead of time, I wouldn’t have paid any notice to the peculiar actions of the dolls.
But who knows?
Should it turn out that there truly is such a thing as a disembodied spirit, and that the ghost of Johnny Johnson is responsible for the shenanigans that are said to happen in the store, then it makes his death a bit less tragic.
That’s because this “lucky” ghost gets to spend eternity playing with skateboards, action figures, and toy trucks, rather than having to creep around dank, spooky cemeteries and haunted houses.