Spooky Old Cereal Prizes!

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.

Ghost Detector
Kellogg’s, 1989

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
Kellogg’s, 1988

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
Kellogg’s 1987

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
Kellogg’s, 1989

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
Kellogg’s, 1988

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.

53 Responses to Spooky Old Cereal Prizes!

  1. Those boglins stamps look like LSD blotters!

  2. Boglins had a cereal promotion? 6 year-old me would have done a milk spit-take across the kitchen table had I stumbled upon that some Saturday morning.

  3. I don’t remember any of these but the footprints. I LOVED those footprints a lot. I had a both of the sheets you have there and used my little feet sparingly to decorate things. I was not one to go wild with stickers as a kid and stick them on everything. I was too busy drawing to ruin my art with stickers.

    That is what becoming an adult and having a car is for! I swear I was delayed in the sticker sticking category and my car is better for it! I have some random crap stuck on that car and I love it that way.

  4. Wow, is that what those footprint stickers are from? I bought a case of them from AmSci when I was in High School.

  5. I might, indeed, be needing some Wildberry Red Swirls. This could be dinner. It says Berry in it. That’s legit fruit.

  6. Boglins and Mad Scientist were two of my favorite toys, would have been great to get these in my Cereal.

  7. “Glow-in-the-dark” is tied with “battle-damaged” as the greatest group of words in the English language.

  8. Boglins were the greatest things ever. I was obsessed with the two big ones I had. They were the first two on that stamp sheet, Vlob & Dwork. I still have them in their box/cages. I don’t think I was more attached to any other toys I owned.

  9. I remember those footprint stickers.

    Mad Scientist kinda looks like Dr. Wiley. Of course, all mad scientists have a similar look.

  10. I’d completely forgotten about those glow-in-the-dark monster heads. I had the skull as a kid. It was, of course, used as one of Skeletor’s supernatural minions. (So what if he never summoned ghostly giant skulls in the cartoon?)

  11. Oh man, the memories! I remember the ghost detector one so well. I was so let down to not have nay ghost in my house.

    My old toy chest still has Boglins stamps stuck to the lid of it.

    I had the actual Mad Scientist play set , putting that green dough shit on a skeleton , pretending it had life only to dissolve it in a vat of acid ( water but that shit was acid for that moment I tell you! ). I had a couple of things from that toy line. I swear there was a bouncing ice ball thing in the line up and a few random bendy figures as well.

  12. boglins. were. awesome.

  13. I loved those damn footprint stickers too. I had completely forgotten about them until I saw the glorious pic. I remember the glow in the dark skull as well, it being in a box of Rice Krispies. I remember finding it and being blown away, and my brother’s birthday was coming up, so I put it back in the box and made sure he was the one who found it “first”. ;)

  14. The boglins stamp sheet looks like fun.

  15. The drawn Boglins look like they could have been background ghosts for the Real Ghostbusters cartoon.

  16. Wow, the memories…I had those Boglins stamps, the Mad Scientist sticker set, and the footprint stickers. Man, Boglins creeped me out, for some reason. I remember seeing them in Kay Bee Toys in their little cages and I would always stick my hand in and move their eyes around and creep myself out…*shudder*

    Man, between the great cereal prizes and the Saturday morning cartoons, things really were SO much better when we were kids. These damn kids today don’t know what they’re missing…all they care about it their iPhones, their baggy pants, and their MC Hammer. Damn kids.

  17. @David: Haha, I used to buy them from AmSci, too. <3 that store.

  18. I totally had those “Monster Footprints Sticker Sets”. I believe there are still a few residual feet stuck on a bookshelf in my parents house.

  19. I think I remember owning the monster prints set. So bad ass.

  20. I had that Mad Scientist set you linked to…I bought it from a big yard sale/”bazaar” at my elementary school many moons ago.

    With no flesh or powder left, of course…just a “tank” and neat bones…

  21. I can certainly remember having the Boglins stickers, as well as the foot print decals. I’m surprised to see the glow in the dark monster heads. Ironically, a memory of these popped in my head a few weeks back, but I couldn’t place where I got them from. I was almost certain they were egg machine prizes. Thanks for the new information Matt!

  22. Almost all of the prizes here but the Bogglins stamps and the monster heads ring bells. We definitely had the foot stickers – they were all over our old house for years.

  23. I can’t understand how you have come by all this excellent shit over the years. It really is mind blowing. Jesus, my dream is to find your long forgotten and abandoned storage unit. It would be a trip.

  24. Teddy Ray: I hear ya Teddy, I hear ya. There was NOTHING like saturday morning in the 80s and 90s as a kid. lol We sound like a couple of old geezers, but it’s the truth regardless.

  25. I remember the Mad Scientist monster skin smelling particularly intriguing. However, I preferred the Dissect-An-Alien, a toy that ultimately caused me to get a Visible Man and Woman and then go to college for biology. Thank you, Mad Scientist! Also, my brother convinced me that Living Ice was in fact…alive…

  26. For some reason that cereal looks incredibly good right now even though I don’t normally like sweet cereal like that. You always want what you can’t have.

  27. I always really loved the Big Foot footprint stickers. In my parents basement, there’s the old dresser I used as a kid, covered in stickers, including a shit load of them, along with garbage pail kids, a buncha those ailver refractor stickers from those weird red machines, topps baseball card stickers, etc

  28. so. should Generic Demon Ape, be the new Giant Ape Juice ? GDA’s inbibe Giant Ape Juice, like it’s their only purpose in life…let me know if Generic Demon Ape is gonna become a “thing” because I have to do an artists rendering of it sometime this season. Hmmm Generic Demon Ape, would have like, non pointy horns(kinda like baby goats with those horn like bumps) red pupils and green eyes.

    Also Generic Demon Ape is the name of my Monkees tribute band

  29. I distinctly remember those glowing monster heads being given out by Rice Krispies. I remember a commercial for them, featuring Snap, Crackle and Pop, and wondering as a kid why they were peddling luminous, severed skulls.

    It wasn’t even close to Halloween at the time.

  30. I miss cereal prizes, especially around Halloween. What’s the reason for their absence? At first they were inside the bag, then they were pushed between the bag and the box, and then they were replaced with a crummy web code. Nowadays it seems like fiber is the prize. Fiber. What happened?

  31. I’m one of those folks you mentioned as being too young to remember boglins but I eventually had a strange introduction to them through a psychology class.
    The teacher was this odd woman who sorta floated about the room, and one day she brought out a boglin that she used in therapy sessions with small kids so they could dump all their awful crap on the poor thing. I tell ya, that was the saddest, most unloved toy I’ve seen to this day.

  32. As a kid, I was unnaturally into cereal toys. Cereal toys were cool. If it was a MONSTER cereal toy, then it was essential. If it was a GLOWING MONSTER cereal toy, then I would love it as my own child.

    I remember the Creeping Monster as one of the coolest cereal toys ever.

    Another great one I got in a box of Cap’n Crunch in the 80s, it was a glow-in-the-dark plastic ball – BUT, it was weighted on one side, so you could never roll it in a straight line, and it was easy to imagine ghostly forces were at work. Hours of good clean fun!

    My favorite spooky cereal prizes were more popular in the 70s: the record that was printed on the back of the cereal box that you had to cut out, then play on your turntable. A lot of these were spooky (short) stories about haunted houses or the Headless Horseman or whatever. I would work myself into a frenzy over those things!

  33. @Horseflesh – Oh yeah, I loved those Spooky Stories records! You can hear the first two, The Headless Horseman and The Lonely Road, here on YouTube:
    The third one, The Mysterious Trailer From Space, is here:
    If you’ve got a few hours to kill, it’s a real blast looking up “flexi record” and sifting through whatever comes up. My elementary school music teacher had a stack of those Wade Denning Halloween albums she used to play for us, and I’ve never felt like the season was officially underway until I’ve heard The Halloween Song or The Pumpkin Tells at least once. There’s some serious retro cheese brillance in those records that’s never been matched!

    So what’s the last cool cereal prize anyone got? The best I came across were the light-up pirate skulls that Rice Krispies gave out to promote the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Those things were pretty big for cereal premiums, more on the level of a Happy Meal toy.

  34. BTW.. speaking of the Halloween song, check out this video someone created for it. I think I’ve just witnessed what Matt sees whenever he closes his eyes this time of year.

  35. I swear I head a bendy figure of that Mad Scientist when I was a kid. Same hair, same tiny glasses on his nose. I don’t remember any of the creatures, but the scientist jumps into my mind no problem.

  36. The taste of those stamps were kind of addictive. They had a sweet taste to them. Those foot prints are the prize I remember best. I would use them to make a (little)track going up the wall. Of course it didn’t fool anyone, but I was sure proud of the fact that I could believe something actuall walked up my wall and left glow-in-the-dark tracks behind.

  37. That’s some great collection! I actually have about five of those glow in the dark monster heads (three different varieties). I wish I had more of these things. One cereal prize (albeit, not Halloween related) that I loved were the glow in the dark “soggies” from Captain Crunch. Wish I still had those suckers.

  38. It makes my day when you feature an item I actually experienced as a child. I definitely had personal contact with Boglin stamps, which makes sense since I did have a small Boglin to call my own. I am almost certain I stretched one of his arms too far resulting in a one-armed Boglin who may or may not have killed the wife of my Han Solo action figure causing Han to go on the run as a “fugitive” from my Batman Forever Two-Face figure.

    OK, I know Batman Forever and the Boglins heyday were separated by about a decade, but how else was I going to make a severely dated Reference to an old Harrison Ford film that never got an action figure line? Han and the Boglin did co-exist in my room along with my Teddy Ruxpin though. Just sayin’.

  39. I am sad I never knew what Boglins were! I may have been too old (I was 13 in ’88). They would have been DIRECTLY up my alley!

    I still remember my 2 most favorite prizes were the Garfield reflector for your bike (which I believe you had in a pack for sale) and any kind of spoons. I saw them as useful that I could use for a very long time rather than getting lost in the deep recesses of my room.

  40. I miss these and Cracker Jack prizes. They both will have gone the way of the Dodo bird in the near future.

  41. Watching the Friday the 13th bonus disc on the bluray set, so many features I haven’t seen, this is great!

  42. I remember the Monster Footprints Sticker Sets.

  43. Man, I miss decent premiums in cereal. I practically never see anything good anymore. It’s always collect points and buy online or something.

    Cracker Jack toys are even more disappointing.

  44. I used to have a Drool Boglin when I was little, my dad got it from a garbage pick up day, it was still in the box, but knowing me I took that thing out of the box and used it as a Jabba The Hutt stand in. I played with that thing until it started to rip, then I tore that thing apart haha. Ahhh good memories.

  45. I must have the creeping monster! Name your price, money is no object ( as long as you take monopoly bills)!

  46. I totally had those footprint stickers,and maybe the Boglin stamps too, but I’m not sure. I just get that weird nostalgia hit when I look at them, but maybe it’s because I had/have an actual Boglin!

  47. Well! I found my Boglin today actually! His eyes glow in the dark! It’s so awesome! I actually never damaged him :P

  48. This was the main monster themed prize I remember from when I was growing up:


    I still run across one of these occasionally when I’m going through old stuff.

  49. Fantastic! I especially loved the footprint stickers. I vividly remember getting the Yeti one.

  50. As I read this, I could almost taste the bitter, sour sting of the Boglin stamps on the back of my tongue. Thanks Matt!

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