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The Flub That Was the Flubber Fad

As kids, we all loved the Disney film, The Absent-Minded Professor (1961). What you may not remember was that Hasbro introduced a toy in 1962 called “Flubber” based on the miraculous compound invented by Fred MacMurray in that film.

It was made from synthetic rubber & mineral oil and had all of the qualities one would want from a toy. It bounced like crazy, could be molded into a wide variety of shapes, you could stretch it or break it into pieces, and it was inexpensive, usually within the reach of our allowances.

Just one problem. Hasbro forgot to actually test it with kids over a long period of time. Turns out, Flubber made kids sick. Its toxic substances caused sore throats, rashes, and other nasty reactions. It also picked up dirt and heaven-knows-what-else from the surfaces it was applied to.

Hasbro was forced to pull Flubber off toy shelves quickly and the fad was over as fast as it had begun. Fortunately for the company, those times were far less litigious and there weren’t a lot of lawsuits that could have put the company out of business.

They just had one final problem. What to do with tons of this toxic toy that came back to the factory? You couldn’t bury the stuff at sea. It was lighter than water and would float to the surface. You couldn’t burn it because that would cause huge clouds of toxic smoke.

So, the company buried it beneath a building on Delta Drive in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. More than 50 years later, residents claim that on hot summer days, the smell of Flubber still fills the air, and the stuff can still be seen oozing through the cracks in the pavement.

Parents of millennials will get a sense of déjà vu because Nickelodeon experienced somewhat similar problems when they tried to market Gak as a kid’s toy in the '90s.

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