This takes me back. I know the actual origins of the story. It involves a toy store and a circuit overseer I used to know when I was still associated with the Witnesses (I show my age on this one). It involves a toy store once featured on the ABC television program That’s Incredible! and an unfortunate coincidence that, in connection with JW fears and superstitions, got blown out of proportion.
The Smurfs are actually very old cartoon creations from France, and figurines and toys have been produced based on these characters since their introduction in the late 1950s. They only came to the attention of the “out-of-touch” American with the Saturday morning cartoon that premiered in the 1980s. If you were hip to, and especially educated in world affairs, politics, even modern art and the latest in humor, the name “Peyo” was a household word, the pseudonym of famous Belgian comic-artist Pierre Culliford. His signature alone is one of the most famous and identifiable next to the likes of John Hancock and Walt Disney.
In the late 1970s there were published reports that a Toys-R-Us toys store in Sunnyvale, California was haunted. While I personally don’t hold to the particulars and theories of paranormal investigation and parapsychology, apparently some very hard-to-explain photographs and eyewitness testimonies drew public attention to the extent of attracting the eye of the producers of a pseudo-news/entertainment program called That’s Incredible. It was a series like the many Ripley’s Believe It or Not programs that have existed throughout the decades, highlighting mysterious and fascinating stories like paranormal phenomenon. Back then they “tested” the haunting by means of a psychic and seance (I can't help but snicker at this type of “testing”), and they got back their own intersting (if not creepy, regardless of your take on these things) results. See more here.
Again, as a man given to the scientific method I don’t subscribe to psychic claims nor can I endorse the findings of any type of paranormal investigation past or present. While the phenomenon of “hauntings” or sightings of “ghosts” are as old as history, I’m leaving that in the field of anyone reading this to decide whatever about that story and the connection it has to the following.
Now, it turns out that a JW family with children purchased a few toys from this same Toys-R-Us. Shortly thereafter they themselves were involved in a series of events that paranormal investigators today refer to as a “poltergeist attack,” a short-lived series of phenomena that usually involve the movement of objects, strange sounds, and the like without any discernable apparition or connection to previous or subsequent events. They generally occur in a home with a child entering puberty and last for six to nine months, according to the paranormal and parapsychology theories regarding poltergeists.
According to the circuit overseer who was involved in the investigation of the events, one child in particular in the home suffered a “beating” from flying toys purchased at this same Toys-R-Us. While it could not be confirmed that there was any connection with the actual haunting of the Sunnyvale store, the elders advised the family to dispose of all items purchased there, one of which was a stuffed Smurf which happened to be one of the actual items involved. And that is the end of the actual story.
The details were never supposed to be released or spoken about. But about the same time NBC began to broadcast the Smurf animated cartoon. Obviously someone involved leaked out just enough details as to create a flood of fascination with the occult that always exists among the Witnesses. A vacuum had recently been left by the snuffing out the Procter and Gamble/Satanist connections that so many of the Witnesses had been circulating during the 1970s (which had replaced Satanic Nabsico putting blood in Oreos, so I am told), and being what vacuums are, they abhor being empty.
Being that most Witnesses are not well-educated in political matters (Peyo and the Smurfs had a strong connection with world intrigue) or the latest in artistic culture for that matter, it was easy for them to invent a totally different history connecting Peyo’s creations to pagan demonic types.
By the late 1980s the story had developed that The Watchtower itself had published a series of articles banning the Smurfs (no such articles ever appeared, let alone an actual series of three studies, which is the worst of the stories I can recall). When the Society did away with formal “marking” of fellow Witnesses, those who liked this way of separating themselves for other JWs they didn’t like used the Smurfs as a means of what in some places became like localized witch-hunts, disciplining and “marking” individuals as “bad association” because they were of households that watched the Smurfs.
I even remember hearing a conversation between two JW wives about how grateful they were that the Watchtower had published “those study articles” connecting Smurfs to demons. “I used to watch that show and loved it, but now I realize how there was a bewitching quality to that theme song that they used to just draw me in, so I was powerless to fight it off.”
I was in Texas at the time this got out of hand, with some elders even claiming they had read these actual Watchtower articles about the Smurfs and were only acting on the best of their memories about them to keep the “flock” in line with the F & D Slave’s “latest meat” from above. This overseer had to privately give instruction to several groups of elders, apparently, though this last point I can only say I gathered from our conversations.
I also only know this much I am sharing because I was being hounded by a sister who was one of these Anti-Smurfs-I-read-it-in-the-Watchtower-itself individuals who was misleading members of my congregation who were members of family’s who enjoyed the program. I approached the overseer who was a friend at the time and discussed the details with me.
It just so happened that I knew of the Sunnyvale haunting even before this as I worked in television for years, and was aware of the reports of this highly publicized event.
Final note, the overseer and I agreed that if the toy involved had been a Snoopy, you would have seen Witnesses go after the Peanuts gang in the same manner. (And funny, I had no idea the Smurf legends had left Texas.)