Endless Thread gets to the bottom of 'creepy' Glo Worm lullabyPlay
Our intrepid sound designer, Matt Reed — musician/composer extraordinaire — recently became a dad. He picked up a Glo Worm for his baby son, Sam. It's a plush musical baby toy made by Hasbro that's been around for decades. It plays standard, well-known lullabies like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," "Frère Jacques," etc. "Straight hits," as host Ben Brock Johnson says in this episode. "Straight hits."
But there's one melody on the toy that was a complete unknown to Matt. It's in a minor key, it's slow. Is it creepy? "Yeah, it's definitely got that vibe," Matt says. "Like funeral zone."
So, he brought this idea to Endless Thread's pitch meetings where we throw around episode ideas.
"I turn to the internet like most weirdos do, I guess, when they're obsessing over their child's toy to figure out what song it is," Matt says. "And there's other people on the internet who are also... curious? Confused?"
There are two Reddit posts about this "creepy" music, a YouTube video, several unhelpful emails from Hasbro to concerned parents, and numerous guesses and theories.
"We were concerned by the addition of an unlisted song, too," writes YouTuber deefrontier5798. "It's creepy and sad, and the fact that the creators withheld information puts up a red flag."
In this episode, we ask Hasbro directly and seek alternate routes. Sometimes Endless Thread doesn't get to the complete bottom of internet mysteries. But this isn't one of those times.
We hope you like nursery rhymes.
- From r/CreepyToys 3 years ago [TOMT] What is This Creepy-Ass Glow Worm Song?!
- From r/tipofmytongue 1 year ago [TOMT]Name of this creepy glow worm song
- YouTube video Unknown Creepy Glow Worm Song
- Chris "The Toy Guy" Byrne
- 'Infants’ discrimination of happy and sad music' research by Douglas Gentile, Ross Flom and Anne D. Pick
- Musician Baxter Robertson and his band The Tiger Club
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This content was originally created for audio. The transcript has been edited from our original script for clarity. Heads up that some elements (i.e. music, sound effects, tone) are harder to translate to text.
Amory: [sung] Benjamin, Benjamin, Benjamin, Ben Brock Johnson!
Ben: [sung] Amory, Amory, Amory, Amory Sivertson!
Amory: [laughs] Just trying out something a little new.
Ben: It's out of my range.
Ben: It's a little out of my range.
Amory: That's okay, any key that you picked would be out of mine, so...
Amory: At a certain point one of us just has to try for that key.
Ben: You ready to get wormy again? We've been wormy a couple times in the past few months.
Amory: We're getting wormy, but we're getting musically wormy this time.
Amory: Which means nothing to anyone currently, but I'll start by saying that one of our sound designers, Matt Reed, he's a musician — like many sound designers and audio people, you might be surprised to find — and he also recently became a dad.
Ben: Mmm, so now he's a dad musician, which is the best kind.
Amory: The best kind. And fatherhood is pretty much what led Matt to a particular unsolved internet mystery that he recently told us about on a video call.
Matt: Yeah, so it definitely looks sorta like a Teletubby. It’s got like a hoodie on with ears and a very kinda creepy face.
Amory: Like a human-looking face, almost.
Ben: If you haven’t guessed by now, we are not describing Matt’s baby son, Sam. But rather a toy that belongs to his baby son.
Matt: And it’s a Glo Worm from the Hasbro toy company. When you turn it on, the face lights up if you can see that.
Amory: Yes, I can. It’s like red-ish.
Matt: Yeah, it’s pretty freaky, actually.
Amory: This toy that came out in the '70s.
Ben: Which is part of why it’s freaky.
Amory: [laughs] Some freaky toys of the '70s.
Amory: But maybe you saw the commercials as a kid in the 80s.
Glo Worm Commercial: Play our song, musical glo worm! [Sung] I sing you lullabies, I make your days bright. I bring you sweet dreams, I help you sleep tight. We’re all your goodnight friends!
Ben: And for what it's worth, like, when I was a kid, this was was huge. Like, these were everywhere. You could get Glo Worm, child-sized Glow Worm sleeping bags so that you could become a Glo Worm by getting into your own Glow Worm sleeping bag.
Matt: that's Pretty sick. Yeah sure. My son is certainly very captivated by its light-up face and the music that it plays, which, I guess brings me to the sort of mystery here.
Ben: There are lullabies on here that are easily recognizable.
Amory: Can you walk us through the worm playlist?
[Various, known lullabies on the Glo Worm]
Matt: So, there’s Chopin, there’s "Frère Jacques," "Hush Little Baby," "Twinkle Twinkle," kinda the classic kids stuff. Pachelbel's “Canon," Brahms “Lullaby”
Ben: Straight hits. Straight hits.
Amory: Also Haydn’s "Surprise Symphony."
Ben: And then...
Matt: And then there’s one other song and it’s a total mystery to me what it is.
[Mysterious music from Glo Worm]
Ben: Hm. Happy part, okay.
Ben: Getting a little weird.
Amory: Didn’t last long.
[Music from Glo Worm ends]
Ben, Amory, Matt: [simultaneously laugh]
Matt: Yeah. It’s kinda creepy, huh? It's like, I mean it jumped out to me --
Amory: This worm is like "It was a long dark winter, children."
Matt: Yeah. It’s definitely got that vibe. Like funeral zone.
Amory: The music is a bit of an ear worm.
Ben: Ohhhh! Nice one. Glo Worm, ear worm, nice. And so Matt, who is a composer …
Amory: And is hypnotized by this melody, sort of exorcized his fascination by arranging his own version.
[Matt's version of mysterious Glo Worm music]
Matt: I turn to the internet like most weirdos do, I guess, when they're obsessing over their child's toy to figure out what song it is. And there's other people on the internet who are also curious, confused?
Amory: So today, we’re going down the wormhole.
Ben: That Glo Worm hole.
Amory: What is this music? Who composed it?
Ben: And is it incepting my baby with dark magic? Our producer Quincy Walters did some digging.
Amory: Into the worm hole!
Ben: And he’s got a story to tell.
Quincy: That’s right Ben and Amory.
I went on an adventure to see
How deep we can go
Into this unsolved internet mystery.
You’re probably wondering “does he have what it takes?
Can he get to the bottom of this before the baby wakes?"
Ben: I’m Ben Brock Johnson
Amory: I’m Amory Sivertson
Quincy: And I’m Quincy Walters and you’re listening to Endless Thread.
Amory: We’re coming to you from WBUR. Boston’s NPR wormhole.
Ben: Where our motto is Glo Big or Glo Home, baby!
Amory: Today’s episode: The Lullaby
Ben: So, we started off with a few theories of what this music could be, right Amory?
Amory: Yeah, I thought it sounded immediately like Bach's “Minuet in G.”
[Minuet in G]
Amory: But in a minor key.
[Minuet in G in minor key]
Ben: But that wasn’t it.
Quincy: No, not one bit.
We went to YouTube and some Reddit threads
where people were throwing around guesses
and banging their heads.
Redditor Comment: Bach’s Prelude in D Minor?
Redditor Comment: Sounds like that Luigi’s Mansion game.
Redditor Comment: This sounds like music from the dark Roblox game
Quincy: People thought of many things
Like “Adagio for Strings”
["Adagio For Strings" by Samuel Barber]
Amory: What about Shazam?
Quincy: When you Shazam it, you could get this...
[Back To These Days (Johan Ekman Rework) by Dreamy]
Quincy: Or this...
[Sonata per organo pieno in Re minore : Allegro risoluto]
Quincy: But most commonly, this...
[Siri voice: "Sorry, I didn't quite get that."]
Quincy: One Redditor says it sounds like it comes from Schindler’s List.
[Excerpt from "Schindlers List" theme]
Ben: But one thing’s for certain: the music makes people, including myself, feel uneasy.
Here are some online comments if no one believes me
Redditor Comment: This creepy-ass song is taunting me through the baby monitor.
Redditor Comment: I’m pretty sure this song gets played on American Horror Story S3, by the creepy butler, but this is my 3 year old’s favorite song.
Redditor Comment: This reminds me of an old black and white film with an old grandmother singing “little one go to sleep”
Quincy: A Redditor named SchrodingersMinou messaged Hasbro
Minou is French for cat. And it refers to an impossible physics question.
YouTube video, explaining Schrodinger's Cat: This collapsing to one reality problem is one of the biggest unanswered questions in quantum physics. So for kitty's sake, can I haz answer, please?
Quincy: Schrodinger Emailed Hasbro in December of 2021.
They dreamed to tell Reddit of the quandary they’d unspun.
They'd soon get an email from a rep named Rochanda,
who was cryptic and brief in how she'd respond-a
It’s a random, made up lullaby, I’d say.
Kind regards. Have a good day!
Schrodinger says TBH cop-out, sounds like they don't want to admit it’s possessed.
We agree and this is a mystery with which we are obsessed.
Amory: Well, it's seems like we — we’ve got to follow up with Hasbro. They have some answers!
Ben: It goes all the way to the top!
Quincy: I reached out to Hasbro’s public relations firm.
They said this question is neat, we too, are eager to learn.
I hope they’ll get back to me in a matter of days.
I’m sure they have their magical Hasbro ways.
Ben: So while we awaited the toy wizards conclusion,
we phoned up someone else who might clear the confusion
Chris, The Toy Guy: I’m an independent toy consultant known as the Toy Guy. I’ve been in the toy industry for almost 40 years.
Ben: His real name is Chris Byrne. But he goes by Chris: The Toy Guy
Chris: I’m only Christopher if you're mad at me or you're my mom.
Ben: We ain’t mad atcha Chris.
Quincy: He works with toys, doing that and this.
Chris: I had all kinds of jobs, from naming toys when I was right out of college to introducing Hello Kitty to the United States; to launching the game Pictionary; to all kinds of different that different fun things; I've been slimed live on TV.
Quincy: He’s a frequent guest on Kelly Rippa and Ryan Seacrest’s daytime show.
He likes to bring odd toys and the hosts already know.
Chris: So, this is called Sticky Lickits and these are actually stickers that you put on food.
Kelly: That’s so funny cuz that’s what we call you behind your back — Sticky Lickits
Quincy: So I feel like his insight could be our ticket.
This stanza is just an excuse to say Sticky Lickits.
Ben: What did you think when you first saw our question?
Chris: Ha ha! I thought, well, here we go again.
Chris: It made me think of Shout Elmo, right? From the late eighties, early nineties.
Quincy: Back then there was a toy that said "Be Like Elmo and shout,"
but people heard something less wholesome.
Can you figure it out?
Elmo Toy: You make Elmo wanna shout! Be like Elmo! Shout! Throw your hands up! Shout!
Ben: A lot of people heard "Beat Up Elmo."
Amo: No, no don’t beat up Elmo.
Ben: Sometimes you want to though, let’s be honest.
Chris: People tend to project onto toys their own issues, unresolved issues...
Quincy: Strangely enough, I happened to find
a video of the red monstah being blown up online.
Elmo Toy: HAHAHA! Guess who’s behind the blanket. It’s El- *EXPLOSION*
Quincy: Anyway. Back to the Glo Worm lullaby. Since we still haven’t heard back from the toy’s corporate creators, The Toy Guy said he’ll reach out to some friends at Hasbro.
He’ll give us an answer by the end of this show.
Ben: And also Amory may have someone she may know who knows someone who may know. Can you tell us, oh! illustrious co-host, about your Facebook post ?
Amory: I wrote something along the lines of:
This might be weird, this might be random.
It’s for work, it’s not for fandom
I’m wondering if there’s a person anyone knows
who works or has worked
at a place called Hasbro.
Ben: Will that lead to answers? It's anyone's guess.
Quincy: But let's make like a baby and have a quick rest.
Quincy: Wake up, sleepyheads! All ears at attention!
We have to uncover this lullaby's intention.
Ben: Is it incepting my baby with dark magic?
Amory: A lullaby that's purposely creepy?
Quincy: Naur. Chris the Toy Guy says, "You're thinking too deeply."
Chris: Honestly, I think somebody along the line thought ‘This is just for a baby. You know, they don't have that sophisticated hearing that an adult does.’ So, you have to remember that as well. So, they probably are not hearing it exactly the same way that we are as adults.
Quincy: And science shows that adults do hear music in a different way than beebies.
What lulls them to sleep, may give us the heebie-jeebies.
Douglas Gentile: Except, Iif you think about lullabies, they’re often in minor keys, they’re often slower. That’s also true about creepy music, though [laughs].
Quincy: This is Douglas Gentile
Douglas Gentile: Distinguished professor of psychology at Iowa State University, and I study media's influences on children and adolescents. . . In our work with infants and sad music — which tends also to be more minor key and slower — they didn't get sad, really, or scared. They just got restless or they went to sleep.
Quincy: You see, the minds of babies have not yet been acculturated.
The process of assigning nuanced emotions to music
has not yet been cultivated.
Douglas: So I'm not sure they would experience it the same way that an adult does.
Quincy: Before all this baby research gets ho hum,
I play our lullaby to Doug and his colleague Ross Flom.
[Ending phrase of Random Lullabye from Glo Worm]
Quincy: [laughs] I guess, what're your thoughts on that?
Douglas: It's got a tempo of about the same as an infant heartbeat. Maybe even a little slower.
Ross Flom: Slower, yeah.
Douglas: So, it seems lullaby-ish to me rather than creepy. Although, I know some people think that's creepy.
Ross: Yeah it is in a minor [key] – but I'd be curious to see how an infant reacted with that kind of music. Wouldn't be my first choice.
Quincy: This is the part where I look at the camera and raise an eyebrow and say “I’m curious to see how an infant would react to this music too.”
[Baby Sam crying]
Quincy : It’s bedtime at awesome sound engineer Matt Reed’s place.
[Glo Worm's random lullaby]
And the glo worm’s random lullaby
turns a baby’s crying to a smiling face.
Ben: Quincy, this is great. But do you know one thing I hate?
Not knowing whose work we’ve all come to appreciate.
Q, what happened next? Can you elaborate?
Quincy: A few weeks ago, I called the PR firm that represents Hasbro.
It had been over five months since we last spoke.
Dearest Quincy, we’re sorry to say:
We’re no longer associated with Hasbro that way.
We’ll pass along your question to the right person to see
"what could that creepy Glow worm music be?"
Amory: And did they do that? Did they pass it to someone who got back to you?
Ben: In rhyme, no less?
Amory: With our answer?
Quincy: Yeah, almost immediately, like 10 minutes later, Hasbro HQ sent a response. And they basically said "Quincy, let’s make something very clear:
we found out nothing and stopped looking by the new year."
Ben: Aww! Come on, Hasbro.
Amory: Let's be very clear, we know nothing [laughs].
Quincy: [laughs] Oh gee, oh shucks, or fiddlesticks I say.
Can there be any other way?
No Quincy, this will not be a mystery you slay.
We’re telling you scram! Life is mostly dismay.
Ben & Amory: [simultaneous laughter]
Amory: Oh, don't tell Sam, the baby that.
Ben: Yeah, don't tell Sam that. He's got his whole life ahead of him.
Quincy: He's not been acculturated to that yet.
Amory: It's gonna be fine, Sam.
Ben: It'll be okay, Sam.
Ben: Do Hasbro employees take any vows of secrecy? I mean, is it a secretive company and is it a secretive industry?
Chris: It is the most secretive industry.
Ben: Again. Chris, the Toy Guy
Chris: I reached out to my friends at Hasbro, who, by the way, didn't respond to see, you know, what did they think and --
Ben: What kinda friends are those?
Chris: Well, you know, I think they’re PR friends who are saying 'You know, this is one we don't want to handle' and you got to respect them for that. 'This is one we're just going to let it play out, you know, on podcasts and in rumors and whatever. We're we're not going to jump into this one.'
Quincy: Chris’ Hasbro friends ghosted him, which actually isn’t rare.
If they were to talk to us, it’d have to be under a nom de guerre.
Ben: Is it often that the toy company might want people to sort of keep guessing? What is the benefit of that?
Toy Guy: Well, how many times in the last 20 years have people been talking about Glo Worm? I mean, let’s get real. Right? We're suddenly here-- we are talking about Glo Worm.
Chris says “you should reach out to a guy—get this twist– also named Chris– at the Toy Hall of Fame.
He knows a lot about toys
And, Hey! We have the same name.
So then I rang the Toy Hall of Fame
[Sound through phone “Hello is this the Toy Hall of Fame?"]
They have Rubik’s Cubes, Barbies
Slinkies! Many gizmos and games.
They looked into it and their experts didn’t have any luck
They said "We can talk about other toys.
Maybe a rubber duck?"
[Ending musical phrase of CREEPY GLOW WORM MUSIC]
Could it be this is where our internet mystery ends?
Amory: No, wait! I heard from one of my Facebook friends!
Ben & Quincy: [GASP]
Amory: He said “I know someone! And you need not go far —
Talk to Leah Davis, who works at WBUR!
Ben: No way! Leah, you used to work with Hasbro?
Leah: I did! Not on Glo Worm, but I think I might know
the person who knows the person who knows
the one that composed…
Quincy: The anticipation grows!
Amory: So Leah’s former colleague went down the wormhole,
And came up with an answer, really twofold.
Was it Randy Laskowski, a jingle writer, I think?
Or was it a firm called Creativity, Inc?
Ben: Oh man, she’s gettin’ way too rhymey here, Quincy.
Quincy: It's really good!
Amory: I looked up Randy, shot him a note.
He responded so quickly, and here’s what he wrote:
A Glo Worm composer? Indeed, I am!
But not of the one that soothes baby Sam.
Ben: Oh man!
Amory: Yeah. But I wasn’t quite at the end of my rope.
Creativity Inc would be our last hope.
I left them a message, expectations were low
But within mere minutes, my phone was aglow
With a text from Mr. Creativity Inc himself,
who is not the composer, but knows him quite well.
He said, “He’s not in today, but give him a call.
He’ll explain Random Lullaby once and for all.”
Quincy: So, Baxter, you're the guy. You're the guy who wrote this music?
Baxter: Yeah, I am.
Amory: Baxter Robertson'sthe name. He’s in his early 70s, he’s been a musician in the bay area for a long time, and in the late 90s, a friend of his, Charles Albert — the CEO of Creativity Inc and the guy who texted me back right away about Random Lullaby — he asked Baxter…
Baxter: Could I do arrangements that would go into toys? And that's been 25 years.
Ben: But in all those 25 years, never has anyone wanted to talk to Baxter about a particular song in one of the many, many toys he’s worked on.
Baxter: I’ve done a lot of Elmos, a lot of other Sesame Street stuff. But I've also done a lot of Barbie products. . . I've done all the Furbys too.
Baxter: And shoot, it is just goes on and on.
Amory: So, if we hadn't reached out to you about Random Lullaby, you probably never would have thought about it ever again?
Baxter: I haven't thought about it since I wrote it.
Q: But he knows he wrote it because it contains some classic Baxter compositional components. He walked over to the keyboard he had in the room with him to retrace the steps of Random Lullaby for us.
Baxter: The reason I know that I wrote it is because a lot of times, I'll use the rule of a descending bassline.
[Plays descending bassline on keyboard]
Baxter: Which is, you know, just one of the oldest sort of techniques. And then, you know...
[plays Random Lullaby]
Baxter: And so forth and so on.
Amory: Oh, I love it.
Baxter: So that's how it would have begun like a simple little piano piece.
Quincy: And how long did it take you to compose it?
Baxter: I'd say about 20 minutes.
Amory: Baxter also let us in on the parameters he gets from Hasbro for an assignment like this.
Baxter: So, they would say, 'You know, we're doing another Glow Worm and we need X amount of songs.' They are this length, because of the constraints of the chip and the memory, they, you know, have X amount of memory so that the lullabies in this case would have to take up X amount of time and no longer.
Ben: The amount of memory on the chip that goes into the Glo Worm is also responsible for the audio quality. Baxter sent Random Lullaby off to Hasbro sounding like this…
[Random Lullaby in hi-fi]
Quincy: And it came out of the Glo Worm sounding like this...
[Random Lullaby in lo-fi]
Baxter: It's a little-- That's an extended phrase at the end. That definitely means that I wrote it. I was I was being clever by putting that little extended phrase at the end, probably to make up — make it so that it was long enough.
Quincy: So where did this eerie lullaby come from? And what does Baxter make of people calling it such?
Baxter: I would say to those specific people that think it's weird 'No, it's not. You're wrong. And it's just — it's just a nice little piece that went in the toy.'
Amory: Baxter is kidding here, but only sort of. He acknowledges that in Western cultures, we tend to hear songs in minor keys a certain way.
Baxter: Perhaps more haunting, perhaps sad, perhaps negative. But in other cultures, minor keys are perceived as happy. That would certainly be the case with all Balkan music, all Persian music and most Asian music too, which uses minor pentatonic. So, actually, we're in the minority when it comes to minor keys.
Ben: By writing some of the very first music that some children will hear, Baxter knows he’s a curator and a tastemaker for his young, impressionable audience. And he takes that seriously. He tries to expose kids to all kinds of music while giving his toy clients the musical variety they want in their toys.
Amory: Take the toy saxophone Baxter worked on for Sesame Street…
Baxter: I took Hey diddle diddle which is a in a major key and I did a Latin version of it in a minor key for the saxophone and they liked it and, you know, any time we can sneak one in a minor key by the client, it's a good day. [laughs]
Quincy: Baxter loved this rendition so much that he actually wrote an arrangement for his band, The Tiger Club.
[Music from The Tiger Club]
Ben: But no band arrangement for Random Lullaby? Come on!
Amory: No band arrangement, but we did find out the piece’s actual name, which is only slightly less random.
Baxter: I called it Norwegian Lullaby.
Amory: Norwegian because he thinks he was channeling the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg when he wrote it back in 2015.
Ben: Evard Grieg!
Quincy: Baxter what would you say to people of the Internet who have been wondering about this for a couple of years? What do you want them to know or what do you want to say to them?
Baxter: Well, it's — I don't know, It's a point of pride that anybody would care, you know? Even the people who would have pejorative comments about it took notice of it.
Amory: We took notice as babies grew sleepy. And Baxter says…
Baxter: If it's creepy, then I'm creepy.
Ben: But we don’t think that. Nah, Baxter’s fun!
Quincy: And minor keys are for everyone.
Amory: So the mystery has been solved, it seems.
Ben: Fire up your Glo Worms, friends.
Quincy: Sweet dreams! [maniacal laughter]
[Baby Sam crying and being soothed by Norwegian Lullaby]
Amory: Endless Thread is a production of WBUR in Boston.
Quincy: This episode was written and produced by AI if you didn't like it. But if you did enjoy it, it was written and produced by me, Quincy Walters...
Amory: And me, Amory Sivertson. It was co-hosted by us and Ben Brock Johnson. Mix, sound design, Glo Worm ownership and fathering of baby Sam by Matt Reed.
Quincy: The rest of our team is Dean Russell, Nora Saks, Grace Tatter, Emily Jankowski and Paul Vaitkus. Special thanks to Amy Gorel for her editing help with this episode, and to our colleague Leah Davis for workin’ those Hasbro connections.
Amory: And we have even more thanks to give because we had some guest voices in this episode. Including: Darryl C. Murphy, Katelyn Harrop, Grace Tatter, Claire Kaiser, Mike Moschetto. Oh and hey, if you want to hear more of Baxter "Random Lullaby"Robertson’s music, check out his band The Tiger Club, or keep a sharp ear out in season 3 of M. Night Shyamalan’s Apple TV series “Servant,” or in the original “Karate Kid,” or in the more recent series “Cobra Kai.” He’s everywhere!
Quincy: Endless Thread is a show about the blurred lines between creepy minor-key songs and the ones that lull you to sleep. If you have an unsolved mystery, and untold history or a wild story from the internet that you want us to tell, hit us up. Email EndlessThread@WBUR.ORG.
A: Nite nite! [laughs]