I’m legendary in the world of Claw Machines. I came up on grocery store claw machines, and I earned my kid gloves in the arcades. I’ve won the Regional Claw Machine Championship twice. Next I’m going for the National Championship, training with fistfuls of quarters, assessing the weight of the item, guaging the probability of the claw picking it up, and timing the precision-level grabbing. Crowds gather round and high five me, and they even beg to hold my winnings for me. I donate all my winnings to the children’s hospital, and I’m a regular hero to kids with cancer.
Of course, I made that all up. The only legendary thing about me and claw machines is this story my mother likes to tell when she wants to embarass me–that when I was a kid, the first time I ever won a claw machine prize, I was so excited that my hands were shaking. It was no stupid plush banana either. It was a Simpsons water bottle. The claw grasped it, lifted it, and I held my breath. I was still on my first quarter too. The claw dropped it in the prize chute. My adrenaline surged. I was hooked. It’s a sickness.
These days, I don’t care for the prizes too much; I hand ’em off to the girlfriend and tell her I won it for her. She has accumulated a large pile of these little animals, because I am just so awesome at winning them. We name them all by adding a Y onto whatever the animal is, like Owly, Sealy, or Doggy.
Sometimes, she tries to sneak a few of them into the Goodwill pile, claiming something ridiculous like not having room for 50 stuffed animals, and something about the place looking like a kid’s bedroom. But the bomb dropped the day I went over, and Sealy and Owly were in the Goodwill trashbag. I fought for Sealy, because he’s just a humble blue seal in a bowtie, and besides, he really liked living with her. So Sealy was saved. But Owly is a dead man. Miss him. Miss him.
I peer into every claw machine that I pass, and I usually stick a buck in if there’s anything good sitting on top. That’s the secret, kids–only go for it if it’s on top. The other items are packed in there and unbudgeable. And steer clear anything with big, shiny prizes–like Spongebobs the size of a Great Dane–those claw machines are computerized and have a payout limit. So just stick to the crap you wouldn’t want anyway. Remember, it’s not about winning–it’s about wasting your money successfully.
But at the grocery store where I shop, there’s this one claw machine that even I never try to play. There are always these strange prizes inside, and they kind of make me uncomfortable. You might even say they’re kinda freaky. Freaky Deaks. A few weeks ago, I began documenting them and saving them for a post. In a new level to the sickness, I’ve been taking pictures of the things inside claw machines.
Let’s have a look:
Obviously, something smiling like this will kill you. Everytime someone sees a freaky clown doll or Pillow Person or Shoney’s Bear, they always make the nervous joke that they would be afraid it would kill them in their sleep. Not this thing. This thing would attack while you were fully conscious, lying in wait for just the right moment to strike. You would hear it laugh manically as it strangled you.
A few days later, I was looking to see what was new in the machine, when I saw another smiler:
This guy is some sort of Hallmark Store reject from the Valentine’s Day selection. So you buy her some slurpees at the 7-11, stroll over to the grocery store, and then taking a shot at winning her this monkey. It would be a great way to show her how you feel.
Of course, this bear would work too:
This one’s damn depressing. If a teddy bear’s knit face and marble eyes could pefectly capture abandonment and loneliness, this bear has it. I’m trying to imagine the even more depressing state that the person trying to win it must be in. Imagine not being near the person you love, and at your lowest moment, going to the grocery store for some Hot Pockets. Then upon leaving, you see this depressed bear in the claw machine, and then you try to win it.
And apparently, these depressed message-bearing bears must be a Thing, because I found another one:
This one says It’s So Blue Without You. And actually, there was another one of these bears that was partially obstructed, so I couldn’t get a good picture, but it said I Plan On Tattooing The Lyrics of Sara McLachlan’s Angel Into My Chest Line By Line Until You Come Back To Me.
This next beast is a…
Choc-o-Holic. This is exactly what a Choc-a-Holic looks like. Chocoholism is an insidious illness that often has a stronghold on those who suffer from it. What many people fail to realize is that chocoholism is not just an addiction; it’s a material disease that cause physiological symptoms in those who suffer from it.
Here’s a bunny with whiplash–
This one’s not actually freaky. It’s just funny how unnatural the neck is bent and smushed against the glass. I find plush animals with spinal deformities amusing; it’s part of the sickness. This is also a prime example of the sort of sneaky packing the game operators engage in.
I’m onto all the tricks–the way they rotate out the animals to make you think people actually do win these games; loosening pins in the claws; trick mirrors; and the machine shutting itself down when the game pays out too many prizes. Claw Machines are a dirty game. And beware the ones on the Atlantic City Boardwalk–they’re the biggest scams of all.
Finally, we have the biggest freak of all… Gingerbread Bear:
A freak by definition. Part Bear, Part Gingerbread Man. Part Mammal, Part Cookie. Partly whispering help me through the glass. Seriously though, this one bothers me the most.
A couple days later, Gingerbread Bear was surprisingly still in the machine…
But he had been forcibly shoved over by Evil Purple Pig. Oh man, I gotta try for that pig. It’s right on top too.
The sickness and saga continues.