Haunted Sunnyvale Toys ‘R’ Us
Thirty miles south of San Francisco, on the site of what was once a beautiful apple orchard and immense ranch owned by Martin Murphy Jr. in the late 1800's, setting amidst concrete and asphalt, is a haunted Toys ‘R’ Us store.
Martin Murphy Jr. and his family were Irish immigrants, and quite possibly the first family to settle in the Santa Clara Valley who could speak English. Murphy had several children, including a daughter, Elizabeth, the first white child born in California. She was named Elizabeth Yuba because several people from their wagon train west were snowed in near the Yuba River when she was born.
The Murphys had actually built the cabin in the Sierra Nevadas where the Donner Party stayed during their tragic circumstances.
In 1849, Murphy, Jr. purchased a 5,000 acre Spanish land grant and built Bay View Ranch. A founder of Sunnyvale, Murphy established the first orchards in the area, introduced new farming equipment, and helped set up the first schools.
Through the following years, the Murphy family did very well for themselves and for their community. In 1953, the Murphy family sold the Ranch to the city of Sunnyvale.
The present store was built in 1970 and, according to past and present employees, it has been haunted since it opened.
Tales of toys flying off their shelves, bathroom faucets turning themselves on and off, and being touched or having long hair stroked when there wasn’t anyone around, are repeated by many former employees.
Workers would stock all the toys, leaving nothing in the aisles when they went home for the night. Upon their arrival the next morning, they would find bicycles, books, and dolls strewn all over. The employers took it for granted that the ghosts had been active during the night, and the employees didn’t get blamed nor reprimanded for not doing their work.
In 1978, Psychic Sylvia Brown, Writer Antoinette May, and a photographer spent the night in the store.
Brown saw a tall, thin man with a Swedish accent. He claimed his name was Johnny or Yonny Johnson. He said he was from Pennsylvania (originally Scandinavia), and had traveled west in the 1800's working as a circuit preacher until a bout with encephalitis left him mentally handicapped.
He then went to work as a hired hand on the Murphy Ranch. The townsfolk called him “Crazy Johnny” because of his odd behavior. He developed a crush on Elizabeth Yuba Murphy, and his heart was broken when she married a lawyer named William Taaffe from Boston and moved away. He said he was waiting for Beth.
Elizabeth died before Johnny in 1875 at the age of 31. She was separated from her husband, William, and living with her parents at the time. William died nine months before Elizabeth, and her parents raised their four children.
Johnny Johnson died as an old man in 1884 when he wounded his leg with an axe while chopping wood, and bled to death near a well. The store is built over the location of the old well. Interestingly, when his ghost is seen, he appears as a much younger man.
Hauck, Dennis W., Haunted Places: The National Directory. NY: Penguin Books. 1996.
www.recordnet.com “Murphy descendant leads the way for town’s festival” March 10,2006 by
Dana M. Nichols
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