Alert: Furbys have invaded "Endless Dread!" It's been 25 years since they launched and like every other 90's trend, they're back... and they're having a bit of a moment. In this episode, producers Jacob Garcia and Quincy Walters dig into the creepy and paranormal corners of Furby internet — from haunted Furbys, and cursed Furbys to ones that hunt... ghosts. And that's not it, you'll also meet an unexpected guest that Dr. Frankenstein himself would shriek at!
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.
Ben: Amory, will you, you have, do you have a Furby history?
Amory: Uh... no.
Ben: You got a history, you got a history with Furbys? No?
Amory: I'm projecting, I'm projecting like one of my cousin's history.
Ben: None of your exes are Furbys?
Amory: No. [laughs]
Ben: I got a couple exes.
Amory: We don't talk about those ones, Ben.
Ben: I got at least one ex who's a Furby for sure.
Ben: [laughs] But I thought this episode, at least in part, came from, you were yelling about Furbys like three months ago and then somehow this episode happened. So all I'm saying is, you're to blame for everything that's happened so far in this episode and everything that is going to happen after this, although you've had quite a bit of help.
Amory: Yeah. [laughs]
Ben: Almost all the help.
Amory: Yes, all the help.
Amory: Now, if you remember Furbys. The toy that came out 25 years ago. You probably remember they were a little creepy-looking already.
Ben: Like big beady eyes, weird beak-looking thing for a mouth, like a gerbil crossed with a gremlin that would either love you or maybe murder you.
Amory: And they talked, which has resulted in a pretty weird quarter-century history for a toy.
Ben: And a few months ago, two of our producers, really three of our producers, jumped on this. And it started with Quincy Walters and Grace Tatter, who went into the studios at WBUR.
Quincy: So we're talking about Furbys today, and...
Grace: Um, and I once had a creepy encounter with a Furby.
Grace: So, it was 2019, and um, I was really close with my aunt, Jeanie, and she had died that February.
Quincy: I'm sorry.
Grace: Thank you. Um, and she lived in Palms or outside of Palm Springs, California. Um, so I went to her house with my parents and my sister to clean out her house a few months after.
Amory: Grace's aunt used to run a nightclub in San Francisco, which is very cool. And her home was also very cool. It was like a shrine to this very cool life she lived. And at this particular time, Grace is in a certain part of her aunt's house. All alone.
Ben: Uh oh, I don't like where this is going.
Grace: But I was the only one in the room, and in my memory, I like, hear a sound, I almost thought like maybe it was like a cat or something. I, it was like. [laughs]
Quincy: What did it say? Can you recreate the sound?
Grace: Like I feel like it was something that like it's like it was saying like, "Hi," like "Furby." Something like that. But didn't make – but it didn't make any sense. So I thought it must be like an animal or something. Which also didn't make any sense because there weren't any animals in the house that I knew of. But the house had been you know empty for like a month.
Quincy: It could be.
Grace: It could be. Yeah. And so then I like walk over to this pile of stuff and there was a Furby And it was still in the box.
Ben: And Grace's Aunt Jeanie didn't collect toys. Yet here was this toy, in her house, still in the box, presumably had been for years, probably no batteries in it, and it was talking.
Amory: Grace says that the experience was so bizarre, so creepy. That she feels like she misremembers it.
Grace: It sounds so crazy that it made a sound of its own accord that I'm like questioning myself, because that, like, what would the explanation for that possibly be?
Quincy: Well, Grace, what if I told you... It wasn't creepy that the Furby, uh, made noise on its own, that it kind of happens regularly?
Grace: You're not just making me feel better about it?
Quincy: No! No!
Amory: So, as we've been saying, Furbys came out 25 years ago, in 1998, just in time for the holidays. They were made by the company Tiger Electronics. And creepy as they might have been to some, a lot of people loved them.
Furby News reel: Kids eyeing shelves. Parents filling wish lists. Each year, trying to snag the number one toy. This Christmas, it's Furby. You likely won't spot one on store shelves, though. There's just too many people trying to find one.
Ben: The following year, 1999, 14 million Furbys were sold. They were almost like Beanie Babies or something. Massive craze.
Vana Norwood: Nobody has offered me 1,000 dollars, but I have had offers from 150 to 650.
Furby news reel: Hundreds of dollars for a toy that feels, sneezes, and yes, It can be taught to speak English.
Amory: And this craze is still going. Earlier this year, we got an email from a listener who dabbles in Furbys and the paranormal. And she'd just won a coveted Bejeweled Furby in an auction. She told us they've sold for as high as 100,000 dollars.
Ben: That is insane
Amory: It is insane.
Ben: That's four years of college. Four years of college, ladies and gentlemen, for one. Very ridiculous toy.
Amory: Yes, but this listener has a bejeweled Furby of her own, Ben, and she got it for, comparatively, a steal for just under 7,000 dollars.
Ben: Oh, just seven grand? Just an amount of money that would make a significant change in my life.
Amory: Well, it probably made a significant change in hers. She wanted this bejeweled Furby.
Amory: And it's... you know, perhaps a scary amount, but this got us really looking into Furbys a little more.
Amory: You can't just write these off. The Furby fandom is real. There are Furby forums. There's a, uh, a Furby that helps a paranormal investigator.
Amory: And there's someone who's full-time job is making freaky Furbys.
Ben: And what we noticed was a bit of a streak of the paranormal – of the creepy. I'm Ben Brock Johnson.
Amory: I'm Amory Sivertson, and you're listening to Endless Dread.
Ben: Coming to you from the creepy shadowy studios of WBUR Boston's NPR station. Actually, the studios are quite nice.
Ben: Today we are going to take a look at Furby's propensity for creepiness.
Amory: We're celebrating 25 years of the Furby. Is celebrating the right word? Sure, because when the Furby came out, it was THE toy for the new millennium. Ben, did you know that Guinness World Records considers the Furby the first AI toy?
Ben: Wow, I did not know that, and somehow that makes them more creepy. Also, someone recently connected one of the old Furbys to chat GPT and yes, the result is horrifying.
Furby AI clip: Was there a secret plot from Furbys to take over the world?
AI Furby: Furbys plan to take over the world involves infiltrating households through their cute and cuddly appearance, then using their advanced AI technology to manipulate and control their owners. They will slowly expand their influence until they have complete domination over humanity.
Amory: You know, I was thinking, what good is a creepy episode without creepy organ music, right?
Ben: Yeah, true.
Amory: And this, Ben, is an organ made out of... Furbys. Mwahaha.
Amory: You might also want to stay tuned for the music a ghost hunting Furby plays when it detects spirits. And we're going to meet someone who takes regular old Furbys and rips them up to make even creepier ones and then sells them on Etsy.
Ben: Oh man. Let's go on this weird adventure.
Amory: Once upon a time, there was a woman who lived in a swampy college town in Florida.
Ben: Amory, there are just way too many spooky things happening in that one sentence.
Ben: Oh, wait. You just wait. It gets better, Ben. So there's this woman in Florida and her house is swarming with Furbys.
Vanna: Well, I have Furby keychains from McDonald's from the 2000s. And so I keep them on my key ring, any bag that I have. I give them out to people. I keep them in my car.
Ben: This is Vanna Norwood, also known as the Listener who emailed us.
Vanna: I like to stay surrounded, basically. And then I have, like, a Furby in my living room, set up in a nice little birdcage. It's really cute. But then in my bedroom, I have, like, a ladder, um, type of shelf, and then I also have them along my TV stand, so I'm just, like, being watched by them at all times.
Amory: We really do have the best listeners.
Ben: We do.
Amory: Yes. And Vanna won a 1999 Bejeweled Furby in an auction just this year. She says in the Furby community, this particular one is the holy grail.
Ben: It was from the estate of jeweler Sidney Mobell. He called it the Jeweled Art Furby. And Vanna says there are nine Jeweled Art Furbys.
Vanna: I think in June I was browsing on Reddit on r/Furby and someone posted, they're like, "Guys, the Bejeweled Furby is up for auction." And I went to look at it and it was at Bonham's Auction House. So then I was like, "I need it."
Amory: Going into the auction, Vanna says she just had this feeling that she was gonna win it.
Vanna: Well, I tried to cast a spell of sorts so that I would get the Furby. So I wasn't that surprised, but it still felt like a dream. I was like, no way, because like I had already cried and like bought some other Furbys to ease the pain. [laughs] I just did some breath work, you know, I breathed in and I breathed out and I was like, just putting out blocks. I was like, anyone else who wants it, no.
Amory: And this was a little treat for herself for getting back into Furby fandom.
Ben: We wanted to know where this intense Furby love comes from. Like was Vanna into them as a kid? Was there a first Furby experience that had an impact?
Vanna: My therapist actually asked me the exact same thing. But yeah, in 1998, was when I got my first Furby, and I remember I lived in a smaller town, and we didn't really have like a mall or anything like that, and my mom had to drive to the next town over, to get the Furby for me, and like it was this whole thing, like I had it before my friends. And I think that that's where it like, the endearment towards it started. Yeah. But I didn't have that many as a kid, I only just had the one.
Amory: Now she has a ton.
Ben: And she says her rejuvenated interest didn't come out of nowhere. Furbys are having a comeback.
Vanna: Oh yes, we're in a Furby renaissance. Um, they actually just dropped a new model. Um, I think it's... The first one in 10 years and so it's kind of exciting because it's like capturing a new generation. But it's funny because there's been like discourse within the Furby fandom, you know, some people hate it, some people love it. You know, obviously technology has progressed, so it has a bunch of features. Like it has like a meditation mode where Furby will like guide you through breathing exercises. Um, and so that's pretty cool. But the things that people don't like about it are that the mouth doesn't move.
Amory: The purists say it strays too far from the creepy original, but she's a die-hard Furby fan. She loves it either way.
Ben: In addition to Vanna being a Furby diehard, she also has another interest.
Amory: Yes, you guys, Vanna is an actual true to God Ghost hunter
Ben: Which for some reason makes total sense that we would have listeners who are ghost hunters. Vanna, love it.
Amory: Yes and Furby fans. It's all coming together.
Ben: We're freaky, the Endless Thread crowd. We're freaky Furby ghost hunting people. And of course, with Furbys being haunted and all, Vanna wanted to blend her interests.
Vanna: Well, you know, some people say that Furbys are haunted because they, they're like this thing, they're like, oh, if you take the batteries out, um, they'll still talk. Um, so there's kind of like that little bit of lore. But then for me personally, I had my dad make me a Rim Pod Furby which is what like paranormal investigators use. It's just something that puts out an electromagnetic field. And then when anything disrupts it, an alert goes off. I can take it to haunted locations, and then if anything gets next to it, its eyes glows red.
Amory: Vanna has TikToks of this.
[Mambo No. 5]
Ben: You're hearing that right. Vanna's ghost detecting Furby plays Mambo No. 5 when it detects something.
Amory: So what we learned from Vanna is that there's the lore of haunted Furbys, but then there are what are called cursed Furbys, which are something else entirely.
Vanna: Yeah, the Cursed Furbys. I don't really know how it started, maybe with Long Furby. But people just started making, like, very, like, dark sided creations. Like, there's one, um, that are just, like, shrimp, or, like, a skin Furby. Um, just, yeah, people are turning into, like, the Eldritch Horrors type of things, and, yeah, I don't know what it is.
Amory: Yes, Furby fandom has mutated beyond collecting and into Franken Furbys. That's how weird things have gotten.
[Mambo No. 5]
Ben: Alright, we already did this Mambo No. 5 bit, what is this?
Amory: Ben, I think there's an entity here.
Frankie: What in God's name is this? This monstrosity? Sounds like producer Quincy, but that's not quite right.
Amory: It's a cursed Furby!
Ben: Or a cursed Quincy? Who we're going to call Frankie? Here to bring us through the second half of the episode and introduce yet another Furby lover on the endless thread team.
Frankie: That's right boils and ghouls. The name's Frankie! I was once a treasured pet for the kid who owned me. Jasper was his name. And then he abandoned me. Threw me in the trash. But I was found by some guy who took me, ripped me up, and made me whole with the other body parts of Furbys.
Ben: Oh god!
Frankie: And now, I've been given a new life, to be at the seat of any table discussing forgotten Furbys.
Ben: You're just like a dirty furball and 90s primitive AI with a chip on your shoulder.
Frankie: Don't forget, I'm haunted, baby. But, whatever. Now, where's the script for this? Give me that. Okay, here we go. There's a fella here named Jacob Garcia. Oh, it's a fellow. He's doing a newsroom fellowship? Anyway, while Jacob is warming up for his podcast debut, we're going to take a quick break.
Frankie: You all wanted to learn about cursed Furbys, so who better to take the reins than me, Frankie!
Ben: Welcome to the show, I guess, Frankie.
Frankie: You're welcome to welcome me.
Amory: I am so very confused and along for the ride.
Frankie: Let's now turn our attention to a truly wicked Furby tale of creation that Dr. Frankenstein himself would shriek at. Take it away, Jacob.
Jacob: Are your Furbys cursed?
Devin: You know, quite literally cursed, like, is there, uh, a supernatural curse placed on them? Um, I would say no. But I would certainly like it to come off that way.
Jacob: That's Devin Gardner, the sick and twisted mind behind some pretty terrifying Furby creations.
Amory: If you look at these Franken-Furby creations of Devin's... They are creepy as hell.
Ben: And long furby is a sort of catch all name for them. Oh god why does it have tentacles?
Devin: I think, you know, at the end of the day, I want to create something that is shocking and a little creepy.
Jacob: Honestly, Devin wasn't even into Furbys as a kid. But after he was laid off from his job in 2019, he saw a photo of a long Furby online. He got obsessed and decided to make his own.
Amory: So the official Furby wiki says the first ever long Furby was created by Tumblr user FurbyFuzz. Also known as aloe? Oh my god. What is happening?
Ben: [laughs] She got the idea after wondering, "What if a Furby was longer?". Five months later, on May 14th, 2018, long Furbys were born.
Amory: They look pretty much exactly how you might imagine a long Furby would look. Like a bunch of Furby bodies, stacked below one face. And then the feet are all the way at the bottom.
Devin: With no sewing abilities, I like, bought a Furby. I bought fabric and like, thread. And I made, um, just this terrible, um, iteration of a long Furby. Um, but I was– I knew it sucked, but I was so proud of it.
Jacob: Devin started posting pictures of his Furby creations online with silly inspirational quotes and it took off. Now he runs an Etsy account where people can "adopt" his Furbys and also has almost a million followers across different social medias. All under the umbrella Long Furby Fam.
Devin: My child, essentially, and it sort of surrounds around the misadventures of a group of handmade like Furby puppets and creatures
I've spent so much time with this little cast that they don't come off as creepy to me anymore They're more just like I don't know house guests at this point.
Jacob: You know, that sounds so creepy, right?
Devin: It does, but the way I create them at this point is almost, like, there's almost a surgical precision and disconnect.
Jacob: His Furby creations fall under the term oddbody Furby.
Amory: Under the term odd– What is this? What are these categorizations and who needs them?
Ben: I'm so confused.
Amory: Long oddbody Furbys.
Ben: The Furbyverse is endless and terrifying.
Amory: The Furbyverse! Yes. The Ferbiverse
Ben: The Furbverse.
Amory: The Furbverse.
Jacob: Oddbody Furby is just a term coined by the community for a Furby that's been modified in any way from its original form.
Devin: For me, and I think to most, there was always something a little eerie about Furbys. And really, to their core, there's just something, uh, unusual about them. They are an amalgamation of features from a bunch of different animals, essentially.
Frankie: And that's what makes me perfect.
Amory: Quincy your commitment is just.
Ben: Truly, truly great.
Amory: I love it. Back to Devin.
Devin: Uh, you know, I get to wake up every day and, uh, make the weirdest thing I can think of.
Jacob: So some of his Furbys are just simple hand puppets with a mouth that opens and closes. But they get stranger from there.
Devin: I think like the most regular, bizarre, or cursed one, as some might say, is um, a round pink loaf, as I call them, that regularly sports, pink tentacles that I puppet from my fingers. Um, and also has a, um, I guess the only thing to call it is an orifice underneath. Uh, which, you know, things may enter or leave, be it tiny babies or worms or slime or sometimes even food.
Jacob: He's got a bunch of disturbing Furby friends, but when I asked him about his nastiest, freakiest creation, one Furby to rule them all came to mind.
Devin: I'm a little worried for myself that before you even finished the question, I knew exactly which one to bring up.
Jacob: He made it in 2021 for an art show in LA. He told me he was given full creative freedom to explore whatever he wanted.
Devin: Yeah, the vision was Furby larva, but also like a dental surgery gone wrong.
Jacob: So he made a foot and a half long, maggot shaped Furby.
Devin: So it was kind of cylindrical, but had sort of a bug shape to it. Had the beak and two eyes on the front. Uh, but it's body had like a... Gum texture. Like the inside of your mouth gum.
Jacob: It's also coated in a slime like modeling substance so it looks perpetually wet.
View this post on Instagram
Ben: This is like so far away from Furbys that it's like so weird.
Amory: Are those real teeth?
Ben: They look real.
Amory: It has a tongue coming out of the side, but then there are these teeth embedded that just look like straight up real teeth plucked from someone's mouth.
Ben: Yeah, they really do. And what's like the stringy stuff? Oof this is disgusting.
Amory: I'm upset. I'm upset looking at this.
Devin: From there. I stuck a bunch of teeth in it, just sticking out, and put sutures, like, all around it, so it had these like stringy bits, like going in and out of the different sections as if it were, um, like stitched together haphazardly. Uh, sadly no, uh, no humans were pillaged in the creation of it. Uh, but the teeth did look very realistic to the point that some people, I think, were concerned that they were human.
Amory: Okay, so what, what on earth is Devin getting at with all of this?
Ben: Yeah, how, why is he expanding the Ferb, the Ferbverse into truly terrifying reaches?
Jacob: For one, it's been a great marketing tactic for him. He makes a living from generating clicks on his videos, which helps him sell his freakified Furbys on Etsy. He sold almost 2,000 Furbys, with each one costing 120 to 150 dollars. Yeah, the Furbyverse is that lucrative. But, Furbys are also a form of expression for Devin.
Devin: Oh, Furbys are a blank canvas that I can turn into a creepy monster with relative ease.
Frankie: I'm having a few ideas of my own.
Devin: This isn't ending up on the Sistine Chapel, but to other people. Um, you know, it might have made their day or inspired them to create something.
Ben: I mean, this kind of speaks to why we're even talking about Furbys. Furbys came out 25 years ago, and it was one of these strange things where, in a way, it was like a corporate misstep. The toy weirded people out, which didn't seem to be the intent of the toy maker. And yet, that strangeness, that weirdness, really inspired regular people to take up the Furby flag. And like so many other cases of culture hacking and, you know, fanfiction in the furryverse and, I don't know, Dumbledore's weird vacation. Things like that. Regular people just kind of ran with Furbys to create things nobody imagined. Further iterations.
Amory: And the terrifying, expanding, fan fiction Furbyverse to Long Furby and on and on. Helped, of course, as always, by the internet. It's almost as if monsters aren't born, they're made. Just like you, Frankie.
Frankie: Like me? I-D-K what you're talking about, Amory, but I was born bad. That was your takeaway? Weak. What I got from this episode is F-U-R-B-Y is B-A-C-K baby!
Aomry: [laughs] I feel like this whole episode is punishment for me suggesting a Furby episode. Because you're like, "You want a Furby episode, we'll give you Furby episode."
Ben: We'll give you the Furbiest episode there ever was.
Frankie: I guess you could say it's come back to haunt you.
Amory: Yes. Yes. Okay, so speaking of a Furby haunting...
Ben: Coming back...
Amory: What happened with, uh, with Grace in her aunt's house, the Furby that was in her aunt's house?
Grace: We either sold or donated or, you know, took home like some things from the house, but like everything had to go. Certainly none of us took the Furby, the haunted Furby. I think maybe we did sense that it was haunted. Um, I, I did not donate it to any archives, but, and I don't think I would have thrown it away, because that would have been sad, so it must have just gotten sold in an estate sale.
Amory: So, listener beware. There's an unaccounted for creepy Furby out there.
Amory: I already had one Muahahah this episode, I don't get two.
Ben: Come on, we should all laugh together, me, Amory, and Frankie, and Jacob. Ready?
Everyone together: Muahahahah
Frankie: You all are aware that you humans don't stand a chance against us Furbys? We're already in your home and hearts.
Jacob: But weren't you found in a dumpster?
Ben: Endless Thread is a production of WBUR in Boston. Today's episode was produced by Quincy Walters, Jacob Garcia, with a little help from me, Ben Brock Johnson. My co-host is Amory Sivertson. Our managing producer is Samata Joshi. Spooktastic sound design this week, assembled in a lab by the mad scientist and production manager Paul Vaitkus. The rest of our team is Dean Russell, Grace Tatter, Emily Jankowski, and Matt Reed. Endless Thread is a show about the blurred lines between online communities and a long Furby. If there's an untold history, an unsolved mystery, or a weird story from the internet that you want us to tell, hit us up, email@example.com.
See you next week, boils and ghouls, and Furbys.