As a “haunted” Toys ‘R’ Us in Sunnyvale rises from the dead as a Spirit Halloween store, the Chronicle has an excellent deep dive into Census and historical records of the 19th century people whose ghosts reportedly still roam the aisles.
There is currently only one in Spirit Halloween store in San Francisco, so you’ll have to shlep over to West Portal for your sexy Mister Rogers or sexy Ruth Bader Ginsburg costumes. Instead, consider going all the way to down to Sunnyvale, where a Spirit store at 130 East El Camino Real possesses the building that was a Toys ‘R’ Us until that company’s 2018 bankruptcy. Why go all the way down the South Bay? Because the place is haunted, which Snopes absolutely confirms by marking the claim as “Legend.” As the spooky season this way comes, the Chronicle digs up all manner of dead people’s stories to explain the haunted Toys ‘R’ Us, which was featured on the early 80s television show That’s Incredible!
It’s unclear what year That’s Incredible! originally broadcast the above segment (the show ran from 1980-1984), but a production team held “their own incredible seance” after business hours and the undisputable paranormal scientific results speak for themselves. Psychic Sylvia Browne explains how “a lot of professional camera people” “actually caught” the ghost, and she has a “psychic sense” that the ghost was a nomadic preacher named Jan "Johnny" Johnson.
If you need any more proof of Browne’s impeccable psychic credentials, co-host John Davidson notes the show has “several letters on file from medical doctors and professors attesting to Sylvia Browne’s psychic ability.” He provides no further evidence, as clearly none is needed. Browne then manages to make contact with “Johnny,” speaking aloud to a ghost that no one else can see or hear, proving beyond all reasonable doubt that the Toys ‘R’ Us is definitely haunted, case closed.
The Chronicle looked in to historical records about this Jan "Johnny" Johnson, who as legend has it was a jilted suitor of a certain Elizabeth Murphy. They found that according to Census records, Johnny never existed. Elizabeth Murphy definitely existed, but she died in 1875, completely contradicting the alleged timeline. Elizabeth and her husband William were gifted the entire 3,000 acres we now call Los Altos Hills as a wedding gift, and some workers did die on-site in various accidents. Elizabeth and William also both died young, and one of their sons did die in childhood. So whoever this definitely real ghost is, it’s likely one of them.
Snopes’ completely unsourced reporting on the haunted Toys ‘R’Us describes toys and books flying off shelves, unexplained cold breezes indoors, and swings moving on their own. They also quote a store director who says, “It’s very good publicity for us,” and that “Teenagers beg us to let them spend the night on the floor.”
The same store manager mentions that “I have employees who will not go into the women’s bathroom alone,” because “Johnny” would follow them and turn on the faucets. So it sounds like this Spirit store needs to start selling “sexy Johnny the Ghost” costumes.
Related: Do You Live On A Former San Francisco Cemetery? [SFist]