The year was 1975 and my family and I were in Zayre department store. It was always a treat to go here, looking at the record department and of course, the toys. Along the back wall of the toy department were where the cheaper toys were. These were the toys that most parents opted to buy for their kids as a cheap toy was better than no toy.
I still remember it like it was yesterday. There were no shelves here; only peg board that the toys hung from. Then, along the bottom, were toys that either couldn’t be hung or didn’t fit in other areas of the department as they were one of a kind, and not part of a toy line. It was here that my brother and I found a toy called Pet Ghost, from a company called FunStuf, a small, now defunct company from Orlando, Florida.
The small box was illustrated with the drawing of a haunted house, with little ghost figures appearing in some of the windows. The tag-line on the top of the box stated “ABRA-CA-DABRA Now you can be the greatest magician of them all. With your Pet Ghost. He will obey your every command!” We had no idea what contents were to be found within the box as no where did it show you what was inside. My brother and I each got one and were eager to get home and see what a Pet Ghost really was!
So…was the thirty minute drive home full of excited anticipation worth it? Probably not, but it still was a fun toy that held my interest much longer than it did for my brother. The contents of the box featured a small, perhaps three-inch in length, “ghost” made of a small styrofoam ball covered in a piece of white, translucent fabric. There was a sheet of four stickers so that you could add eyes and hair to your ghost, making it either a boy or a girl, as well as a sticker of a collar that would go around the neck of the ghost, to hide the elastic band keeping the material around the foam head. There was also a spool of thread, a thin cardboard stage that your ghost could perform on and of course, directions on how to fool your friends.
Personally I did not have the patience to learn and practice the magic trick…yes, this was actually a magic trick that had been used countless times by magicians. Instead, I would have my ghost “float” next to me as I would walk around. It wasn’t a perfect illusion but, as long as someone was not super close, it actually looked pretty good! Unfortunately though, with time, the sticker eyes, hair and collar would start to become unstuck, as they were not really meant to stick to such a surface. Then, as they became unstuck, dirt would attach to the sticky side and in time, they just fell off all-together. I remember eventually using a black magic marker to draw in some eyes to replace the sticker ones that fell off.
Though this may not have been the coolest toy I ever had as a child, it is one that I remembered well into adulthood. One day I even looked on eBay for one and found a seller with a brand new, still sealed in box, Pet Ghost for $10 and I immediately clicked on the Buy It Now button. Now, my Pet Ghost sits proudly on my book shelf still unwrapped, bringing back memories of my childhood whenever I look at it. It’s very interesting that such a simple toy, not having to do with any Saturday morning cartoons or extensive toy lines, can leave such a lasting impression, forty-five years later.