The Dolls that Haunt Us: 50 Years of Terrifying Toys

The Dolls that Haunt Us: 50 Years of Terrifying Toys

Autumn is upon us, replete with all things paranormal and pumpkin spice. Hollywood once again offers us an opportunity to be terrified for the cost of a movie ticket and large popcorn. Annabelle (2014) isn’t the first “playful” villain that has captured our collective attention: for a half a century, scary toys have come alive in books, on television, and on the big screen.

“Who Hates Ya, Baby?”

Chatty Cathy dominated the doll-scene during the 1960s, but was she powerful enough to truly snuff out her competition? Chatty Cathy doll, 1960, gift of Frank A. Smith, courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.A 1963 episode of The Twilight Zone featured Telly Savalas and a doll that looked and sounded eerily like the popular Chatty Cathy. The dolls sound alike for a reason: June Foray, the original Chatty Cathy voice, recorded Talky Tina’s lines for the episode. In “The Living Doll,” Savalas’ ill-tempered character is livid when his wife buys his stepdaughter a Talky Tina doll. When his wife and step-daughter are out of earshot, Talky Tina expresses her displeasure: “My name is Talky Tina, and I am going to kill you.” Twilight Zone host Rod Serling gives the audience this “reassuring” epilogue: “Of course, we all know that dolls can’t really talk, and they certainly can’t commit murder. But to a child caught in the middle of turmoil and conflict, a doll can become many things: friend, defender, guardian…”

“I’m Sorry, the Card Says ‘Moops’”: Play in Seinfeld

“I’m Sorry, the Card Says ‘Moops’”:  Play in Seinfeld

Seinfeld is not, as people often claim, a “show about nothing.” It is a television show about four narcissists whose seemingly petty dialogue and ripple-effect exploits produced a significant impact on the modern pop culture landscape. I confess―I’m a Seinfeld devotee. In fact, I recently completed my own personal “Summer of George,” where I re-watched…

Cabbage Patch Kids: A 1983 Phenomenon

Cabbage Patch Kids: A 1983 Phenomenon

As a child who preferred playing outside with sticks and leaves, only a handful of dolls ever really captured my attention. In fact, I only recall true fondness for four dolls: Baby Tenderlove, Raggedy Ann, Darci cover girl, and my Cabbage Patch Kid—Kendall Walter Winner. In 1983, at the age of 13, I wasn’t interested…

Screen-Play: Television Characters Ruin Game Night, Too

Screen-Play: Television Characters Ruin Game Night, Too

My friends and I embrace game nights: snacks, beverages, stuffed mascots, inspirational posters. Some people don’t, probably because not everyone can handle it when (not if) their true colors emerge in the throes of battle. Similarly, television series use games as plot devices to place characters in opposition to each other, draw out the best…

Of Monsters and Airplanes: The Enduring Joy of Paper Toys

Of Monsters and Airplanes: The Enduring Joy of Paper Toys

What comes to mind when you hear the term “paper toys”? Whatever you envision, chances are the idea of paper toys in our digital era doesn’t evoke quite the same level of enthusiasm as some other playthings do. Paper toys seem quiet and simple, perhaps even old-fashioned. But paper toys such as paper dolls, which…

Let Me Teach You the Game of My People: Card Games, Identity, and Finding Home Again

Let Me Teach You the Game of My People: Card Games, Identity, and Finding Home Again

What is your game? There seem to be an infinite number of games to play with one simple deck of playing cards. What game did you learn, perched on your parents’ or grandparents’ knees? What game brings you feelings of home and belonging? My family’s game was Rummy. After we had mastered Go Fish, we…

A Family of Meticulous Puzzle Cutters: Fiss Puzzles at The Strong

A Family of Meticulous Puzzle Cutters: Fiss Puzzles at The Strong

Today gamers often seem immersed in their favorite games. But serious, focused gaming is nothing new. Just after the turn of the 20th century, many Americans concentrated and deliberated in a similar manner trying to assemble the latest plaything for adults and families—jigsaw puzzles.

Lionel for Ladies?

Lionel for Ladies?

Many baby boomers and their children (and maybe their grandchildren too) admire the toy trains of the Lionel Corporation in The Strong’s collections. The toy company, founded in the early 1900s by Joshua Lionel Cowen, reigned as the premier maker of electric train sets for much of the 20th century. In the early 1950s, Lionel…

Screen-Play: Games Only Fictional Characters Could Invent

Screen-Play: Games Only Fictional Characters Could Invent

Pendulous grey clouds loom ominously to the west. Today is not an outdoor day. Salvation is in the closet, where colorful boxes of boards, cards, and tokens beckon us into other worlds. Games pass the time, make us laugh, and strengthen bonds among loved ones. The Strong is proud to preserve the history of games…

Screen-Play: Video Game Mania on Television

Screen-Play: Video Game Mania on Television

“Finish him!” “Save the princess!” “Time is running out!” Video game designers excel at creating high-stakes environments. And television has earned some laughs depicting the obsessive players who heed these calls to action. Here are some of the memorable ways television shows have turned video games into life-or-death situations. Seinfeld: “The Frogger” George holds the…