You’ve all heard of Count Chocula, Franken Berry and Boo Berry. The “Monster Cereals.” Many of us grew up on them. Those who didn’t can at least count on ‘em to turn up every Halloween season, in progressively smaller boxes at progressively higher prices.
But among the trio’s fans are a more dedicated group of super fans. People who don’t just “like” Count Chocula, but need to buy several Count Chocula bobbleheads. I’m one of those people. People like us enjoy the cereals much like anyone else would, but we’re even bigger on the lore. The history.
For starters, there’s a pair of extinct monster cereals.
Fruit Brute debuted in 1974. It was a colorful blend of fruit-flavored cereal, fronted by a werewolf who wore rainbow-striped overalls. I guess there was too much competition from Trix and Froot Loops, because the cereal lasted less than a decade.
But General Mills is a stubborn beast. By 1988, they were ready for Round 2. Fruity Yummy Mummy was basically the same as Fruit Brute, except for the mascot: A mummy wrapped in multicolored bandages. Fruity Yummy Mummy was not a major success, and by 1993, General Mills finally gave up on a “generically fruity” Monster Cereal.
Empty boxes of Fruit Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy cost small fortunes on the collectors’ market, which drives me nuts, as I distinctly remember a shady local deli selling Fruity Yummy Mummy well into the late ‘90s. (Shady delis do not always abide by expiration dates. I found cans of early ‘80s Pac-Man Pasta at one, and that was in May of 2000.)
I should’ve stockpiled some of that cereal. Damn.
Now, nothing I’ve written so far will come as a surprise if you know anything about Monster Cereals. For uncommon people, this is common knowledge. But what if I told you that there was actually a SIXTH Monster Cereal, so rare that I could only find one single photo of it online?
Our story starts with a site called Monster For Rent, where people can book a living, breathing, NINE FOOT FRANKENSTEIN to appear at parties and events. That’s officially the best thing I’ve ever heard. I strongly suggest that you pay them a visit, because the sight of Frankenstein on the job (e.g., promoting a supermarket by shaking hands with children in its produce section) is something that can warm the blackest heart and free the most burdened mind.
But Monster For Rent also doubles as a normal monster/horror blog, with random articles that aren’t worlds apart from the kind of stuff I do in October.
Which leads me to this:
A few years ago, they ran an article about the Monster Cereals, covering the same ground that everyone who writes about Monster Cereals covers. Except for this one part:
Fruit Brute (a werewolf) was released in 1974 and actually ran until 1983. Yummy Mummy took over for the fruity version of the cereal in 1987 but was also discontinued in the early 1990s. It appears (though I have no recollection myself) that General Mills even tried to pair these two with an “Invisible Man” character and called it “Fruity Freaks” at one point.
My friend Jason shot me the link to this, pleased with his discovery. For a moment, I was elated. Then I realized that there was no freakin’ way I wouldn’t have known about this. I’ve been studying Monster Cereal history for like twenty goddamned years. Not once had I ever heard of Fruity Freaks.
But it was hard to deny, since Monster For Rent had a photo of the box. It was very small and very low-res — clearly a relic from the internet of the early 2000s. The problem was that I could find no other photos of Fruity Freaks anywhere online, save for a few Tumblr accounts that stole it from Frankenstein. More or less, Monster For Rent was the only resource for Fruity Freaks info.
My instincts told me that this was a Photoshop job. (More likely a Jasc Paint Shop job.) This theory was only bolstered by making the image bigger:
I wasn’t buying it, but believe me, I WANTED TO. The idea of Fruit Brute, Fruity Yummy Mummy and THE INVISIBLE MAN working as a team to gain General Mills the fruity success they’d sought for so long is simply incredible.
But the more I looked at this, the clearer the truth became. Someone swiped a photo of Fruity Yummy Mummy and dicked around with it for ten minutes. Ugh.
(Keep in mind, I’m not blaming Monster For Rent. #1, they kept their wording neutral and were merely repeating what they’d heard. #2, I’ll never blame Monster For Rent for anything, because they send Frankenstein to greet people at furniture stores.)
To be safe, I contacted General Mills about it. Here’s their response:
Case closed, I guess?
I’d love to be wrong about this. Getting egg on my face is a fair trade for proof of Fruity Freaks’ existence. But now, not only would *I* need to be wrong, but some lady from General Mills would, too.
So no, Fruity Freaks isn’t real. It never was.
But for those glorious five minutes when I was on the fence, the journey was so worth it.