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5 Toys With Dark Histories

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You know the toys, but do you know about their dark sides?

1. Kites

Just how could something as delicate and serene as a kite turn into a harbinger of death, doom and destruction? Easy—turn it into a sport. An annual kite festival in Pakistan has become a regular safety hazard due to its highly competitive nature. Some contestants use a banned string with tiny metal serrations to cut their competitors out of the sky, and that has ended up harming and even killing people. Nine were killed and dozens were injured in a 2004 festival when the metal strings touched power lines and even cut a young girl on the throat. The Pakistan Supreme Court banned kite flying the following year, but lifted it for 15 days in 2007 after the local government promised tougher safety measures. Another 10 people died in the 2007 festival and over 700 were arrested for using the sharpened twine.

2. The View-Master

view-masterThis magic virtual transporter took children to all sorts of exotic and breathtaking locales, from the Black Hills of South Dakota to Barbie's tenure as the island princess. The factory in Beaverton, Oregon, where the View-Master was made, also took their workers to some far off places—mainly the hospital. The state's Department of Human Services found in 1998 that a drinking well used by workers at the plant contained an industrial solvent called "tricholoroethylene" at concentrations of up to 1,670 parts per billion, a solvent that had been in the well for more than 20 years. A study conducted by the agency found "higher than expected percentages of deaths from pancreatic and kidney cancers" among the plant's former workers.

3. Stuffed animals

The toy manufacturing industry has the unfortunate honor of having the largest and most destructive industrial fire on record. The Kader Toy Company hired sweatshop labor in Thailand to manufacture their stuffed toys. On May 10, 1993, a fire engulfed and destroyed three of the factory's buildings and killed 188 people. An International Labour Organization investigation found the building had an alarm system, but it did not sound when the fire started. The buildings also did not have a sprinkler system, fireproofed steel or an emergency plan in place, even after a labour officer requested the company submit one after an earlier fire.

4. Bratz

Some once thought this popular line of tween dolls would dethrone the reign of Barbie. But Mattel quelled that rebellion when the company sued the doll's "creators," MGA Entertainment, and won a whopping $100 million for copyright infringement. A federal jury ruled that the doll's creator, Carter Bryant, created and designed the concept while he worked for Mattel. The toy giant originally asked for $1.8 billion, so Barbie could start her own space program. Speak of the devil who wears Prada...

5. Barbie

The toy icon is far from controversy as well. A number of controversial dolls were unleashed on the public, like the "Teen Talk Barbie" that exclaimed "Math class is tough." But the funniest of the crowd goes not to Barbie, but her cute dog Tanner, the first dog that shows children the joys of caring for a dog down to the creepiest detail. Tanner poops! It gets worse. The "pellets" Tanner leaves behind have to be fed back to him as food. The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall of the toy because of some loose (ahem) magnets. I guess the CPSC can't recall something based on its lack of taste.

Danny Gallagher is a writer living in Texas. He can be found on the web at and on Twitter.

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]


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