Longtime readers should remember my obsession with old cereal prizes. If you’re not a longtime reader: I’m obsessed with old cereal prizes.
You’ll still find free toys in certain boxes, but it isn’t like it used to be. Growing up, the competition between breakfast cereals seemed as much about the premiums as the flavors and mascots. If a kid loved Frosted Flakes and Trix equally, the freebie was always the deciding factor. We were even willing to give terrible cereals a try, so long as they had some quirky chunk of plastic hidden inside.
These were the quiet blips of instant pleasure that made getting up in the morning just a tiny bit easier.
Looking over my collection, I noticed that I had a fair amount of spooky-themed cereal prizes. Just enough to eke out a groggy Monday review.
Below are six ancient freebies totally suited to the Halloween season. I wrote about a couple of these years ago, but I’ve never taken photos of them over a cheap orange tablecloth made from the same material as lobster bibs. There’s more than one way to stay fresh.
Remember Fortune Teller Fish? Those fish-shaped pieces of red plastic that erratically curled in the palm of your hand, which somehow indicated if you were going to have a good life or a bad one? Well, the Ghost Detector worked on the same principles, but instead of predicting your future, it confirmed the presence of malevolent spirits.
You stick the orange ghost on your hand, and if the paper flips around under its own power, the instructions state that you’re NOT in the presence of any ghosts. Of course, the paper will ALWAYS flip around, because it was specifically crafted to do so. (The heat and moisture on your palm causes the paper to dance.)
By guaranteeing negative results, it seems Kellogg’s felt that the mere suggestion of nearby ghosts was too much for kids to handle. I take issue with this, because any kid using something called a “Ghost Detector” probably WANTS to find ghosts. Nobody asks the Ouija board to do nothing.
Glow in the Dark Creeping Monster
Post Honeycomb Cereal, 1980s
This one is terrific. When people like me give presentations about how cereal prizes aren’t what they used to be, Creeping Monsters make excellent visual aids.
A random monster figure sits atop a little disc, while an “unseen” string lets you slide it across the table. Since the disc is unbalanced and shakes violently, your monster will appear to be dancing even if you’re only pulling him in a straight line. Emotions can be difficult to ascertain via text, so I will state outright that this is a POSITIVE.
Creeping Monsters came in a few styles. I don’t think I need to look up the others to know that I have the best of them.
Go on, look at him. If I polled three of you about who he’s supposed to represent, I’d hear Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster. In truth, he’s all three at once, which is one of those impossibly great situations that could only have come by way of a genie lamp. And then Post used their second wish to make the things glow in the dark.
Boglins Stamp Sheet
Boglins had a couple of cereal promotions during their all-too-brief stint as our go-to monster puppets, but I think this is my favorite of ‘em all. It’s just so bizarre. A huge (seriously HUGE) sheet of Boglins stamps, perfect without purpose.
The sheet contains more than double the stamps pictured. A totally acceptable cereal prize would’ve included one-tenth the stamps. With a single set, I could saturate my entire face in Boglins stamps. If I felt like shaving, I’d prove it.
Oh, I just remembered. Some of you are too young to remember Boglins. They were rubber monster puppets with bright eyes and sloppy mouths, and for a time, there was nowhere my hands would’ve rather been.
I don’t know if Kellogg’s ever indicated what one was to do with these stamps, but I’m sure that every recipient came up with something quick. I mean, you do remember how the backs of these things tasted, right? Not “good,” per se, but still strangely addictive. Tobacco for the pre-tween set.
Mad Scientist Monster Lab Sticker Set
From the same era as Boglins and in a roughly similar vein, Mad Scientist toys let you create and dissolve a series of goo-covered monsters. (Think Creepy Crawlers, but more macabre and twice as awesome.) Since it would take eighty paragraphs to explain in detail, I’ll just point you to this commercial, and remind you that that was only one of the many Mad Scientist kits that let you frick around with fleshy demons.
This sticker set really kept with the theme of the toys. You got several sheets of monster stickers, each with the body parts neatly separated. Thus, you could mix and match them into twisted new creations, forced to live out their lives in constant screaming agony. It was exactly what a Mad Scientist cereal premium should’ve been.
A cereal prize felt extra special when it had a clear link to a big brand toy series. In this case, the prize was honestly good enough to have been sold separately, at some overblown MSRP. It reeks of something that would’ve been in the impulse section at KB Toys, and since I’m talking about a freebie thrown into boxes of Corn Pops, that’s a major compliment.
Glow in the Dark Monster Heads
I wish I knew more about these. I’ll fill in the blanks as best I can. They’re glow-in-the-dark monster heads that were to be worn as magical pendants. I may have made that last part up, but there is evidence in my favor.
They came in several styles, and just judging by the two that I have, it must’ve been really hard for kids to pick a favorite. Would it be Skeletor, or the Generic Demon Ape? One is more famous, but the other gives you the excuse to say “Generic Demon Ape” as often as you’d like. Then, after you wear everyone down, you can shorten it to “GDA, GDA.” Don’t act like life wouldn’t be improved through this. All of this.
Monster Footprints Sticker Sets
Last but not least is this series of “Monster Footprint” stickers. Another glowing thing. I’ve covered six premiums in this post, and four of them glow in the dark. It’s only the barest stretch to say that 66.6% of these prizes glow, and when math leads to the Number of the Beast, it has to be an omen.
The footprints betray a series of large, violent monsters, including a sasquatch, a yeti, and what could be a bear, but fuck that, it’s a dinosaur. The idea was that you’d line your walls with them, giving the impression that four inch monsters had defied gravity to wander around your bedroom. When I put it that way, maybe that wasn’t the idea. Probably not. I guess these were made more for decorating notebooks.
To end this retrospective, I’ll note that I used Trix cereal as background noise for some of the above photos. The box made a huge thing over the return of “Wildberry Red Swirls.” Since I’m way out of the loop, I’ll take General Mills for their word about people pleading for that particular revival.