The little toys with a mind of their own…

What is it about children’s toys and their association with weird events? In The Poltergeist Hiding in Gordon House I touched on the fact that a few of my daughters’ electric playthings had a tendency to spring to life of their own accord. Since that post, nothing notable has happened. It’s like my blog put a stop to their shenanigans.

Until recently.

Around eleven o’clock the other night, as my Better Half switched off the living room lights, a hissing noise sounded through the darkness. Puzzled, he flicked on the lights and saw nothing untoward. As he switched them off, the hissing noise erupted again, sounding like a deranged person uttering a message in Parseltongue. This time, it lasted longer, as if whatever it was, was trying its utmost to be heard. My Better Half tiptoed across the room, but before he could locate where it was coming from, the sound cut out. So he turned on the kitchen light. Again he could see nothing unusual. Off went the light and …

“Hiiiissssssssssssssss!” On and on it went. It was so loud that I could hear it from the bedroom. Just as I was about to investigate, my Better Half came in, wearing an expression equal to Downton Abbey’s Lady Violet’s special look of bemusement. I was confused too, for in my Better Half’s hand was our daughters’ toy iron.

“What are you doing?” I asked, eyeing him with the suspicion of an overly zealous member of the local neighbourhood watch.

“This thing is driving me nuts,” he said.  “Everytime I switch off the lights, it starts hissing.” He examined the iron, thoroughly stumped by the plaything’s unfathomable riddle. “I don’t understand it.”

“It’s the …”

“Yeah, right it’s your ghost. There has to be a reason,” he said, flicking off the bedroom light so I could see it in action.

“Hiiissssss!” said the iron, right on cue.


The innocence of the hissing iron...

The innocence of the hissing iron…

The following day, other things set off the plastic contraption.

“Hiiisssss!” it shrieked as my younger daughter and I circled around it.

“Hiiiissss! Hiiiissss!” it went as I closed the fridge door.

And as I very gingerly put the thing away: “Hisss! Hisss! Hisss!”

We can’t work out the reason why the blessed iron is playing up. The batteries are new and when our daughters operate it, the toy seems to work without a problem. It’s like it’s desperate to communicate. Maybe it feels it doesn’t get enough love, particularly from our eighteen month old who thinks it’s hysterical when she tosses it to the floor. So perhaps this is the iron’s little act of rebellion.

Having just seen the movie, Interstellar, another idea came to me.

“Perhaps,” I told my Better Half, “it’s a great grandchild or some future relative tucked away in the twentieth dimension communicating with us through the iron.”

“Shall we make a note every time it hisses?”

“Yeah, we can record the length of each sound – maybe it’s Morse code.”

I got a raised eyebrow in response.

“Oh, you were joking,” I said, disappointed.

If anyone can explain the reason behind the hissing iron, then please shout out.

It’s not only electric toys that seem to have a mind of their own. The toy of my childhood was the Cabbage Patch Kid. I had three in total – two ‘kids’ and a ‘pet’. My best friend, MC, had a few. She also had a soft spot for my second Cabbage Patch Kid, Maxine, though there was a time when their special relationship was, let’s just say, tested.

Quite often we would have sleepovers during which we would try to outdo each other by seeing who could tell the more frightening story. First, we’d get the atmosphere just right: we’d make a tent out of our quilts and create a goulish light with our torches. Then, one of us would begin our tale of choice. By the end of it, we’d both be clinging to each other, so afraid that we’d jump out of our skins at the slightest noise. Indeed I think our stories must have burrowed deep into our subconscious because on one such sleepover, MC witnessed something in the middle of the night which sent a chill straight through her.

“I promise you, Ams,” my friend whispered as we shovelled down Rice Krispies in the kitchen the following morning, “I wasn’t imagining it. Something woke me up. When I opened my eyes, I saw Maxine sitting on the chair in the room. As I was about to go back to sleep,  she suddenly twisted her head from side to side. And then her hands moved to her lips and it was like she was pretending to play the flute.”

“How could you see all that if it was dark?” I said, stifling my giggles.

“The light from the street lamps was shining through the gap in the curtains.”

As if, I thought. If my friend wasn’t so ashen faced, I would have burst out laughing.

“And then,” MC continued, “then, Maxine stopped. Just like that, before she looked to the left and then the right -” My friend went onto to demonstrate the move, and so resembled the possessed girl out of the Exorcist that I almost screamed.  “And then she saw me staring at her. She looked so …so …so evil. I was scared, Ams. I thought I was going to die.”

Such was my friend’s melodramatic retelling of the story that I did laugh out loud, but then I saw she was close to tears and my laughter fizzled out.

“We need to do something, Ams,” she said, stirring the remains of her Rice Krispies around her cereal bowl.

“Like what?” I asked, wondering what on earth she planned.

“Like an exorcism type thing.” She was deadly serious.

“But she’s just a doll,” I said, wide eyed.

“We need to do it, Ams. If we don’t, I’m never going anywhere near her ever again.” The situation was very grave.

So what did we do? We went to my mum’s room, found a shawl that my mum used for praying as well as a prayer mat and proceeded to wrap up Maxine in both of them. The poor doll looked like a super-sized kebab.

“Now what?” I asked. “Should we say a prayer?”

“Yes, that’s what they do in the movies,” said MC, but what with my friend being Hindu, and me a Muslim, neither of us could think of something suitable.

“The Lord’s Prayer!” we both exclaimed. The prayer had been hammered into our brains thanks to our school’s daily assemblies. And so we mumbled those biblical words in a bid to ward off the demon inside Maxine.

Not so disarming ...Or are they?

Cabbage Patch Kids: not so disarming – or are they?

With trembling hands we unwrapped her.

Maxine looked exactly the same, with her comical eyes, squashy nose and tiny mouth that I had once loved to bits.

But not anymore. There was something holding me back from taking her in my arms. Even though I told myself she was just a doll, I never felt the same way about her. In the end, I’m ashamed to say, I neglected her and it was my friend, MC, who took her under her wing whenever she came round my house. Many years later, she actually adopted her and took her home. Was it a ploy of hers to get the doll? Or did she genuinely see something strange take hold of Maxine? Of course not. Although to this day, my friend vehemently claims to have seen something possess Maxine the Cabbage Patch Kid.

As children we think that our toys are such innocent things, objects that we love unconditionally and passionately, that they can be used to such dramatic effect when turned into something menacing in ghost (and horror) stories. My older daughter would be traumatised if she ever imagined her beloved sheep, Dolly, transformed into a demonic toy with ideas of its own. Thinking about it, I would be too. In The Silent Children childhood mementos of some shape or form play a role in the plot. Most of them are ignored by Max, my protagonist; but there’s one in particular which takes a hold over him…

Until next time!


The Silent Children  - Amna K. Boheim