One of the craziest holiday shopping frenzies ever was in 1996 with Tickle Me Elmo.
The previous year, Beanie Babies caused a similar epidemic of insanity but they were nothing compared to the one month break from reality we all got when faced with the possibility of purchasing a giggling red monster.
Tickle Me Elmo was first released in July of 1996 and sold moderately well until Rosie O’Donnell featured it on her multi-Emmy Award winning talk show in October. The original run of 400,000 toys ran out by Thanksgiving and with the approaching holiday season, the company released another 600,000 units and those quickly sold out as well.
To say people lost their freaking minds is an understatement.
There were fist fights, people stalked delivery trucks, and scalpers sold the toys for thousands of dollars apiece.
My husband even told me a story of when he went with his dad to buy this coveted toy for his little sister. The employee had to give my father-in-law the Tickle Me Elmo in a nondescript black trash bag because people were out of their fucking heads and might have mugged a man and his nine-year-old son to steal a gift meant for a three-year-old.
We actually still have this particular toy and a couple months ago, my mother-in-law uncovered it and we gave it to my almost two-year-old son. He adores Elmo and we thought for sure he’d love this toy. Turns out, it scared the shit out of him.
To be fair, that commercial creeps me out a little. It reminds me of that episode of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”, “The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner”, when the comic book villain escapes into the real world and makes everyone laugh psychotically until they go insane.
Happy holiday shopping!