I was in college when the whole “Tickle Me Elmo” craze happened. I remember it being sold out everywhere and almost impossible to get. Why I had to have one I don’t quite remember but I do remember Santa managing to find one for me for Christmas.
It was my freshman year at the University of Montana in Missoula and my whole floor and all my friends knew about my new present. They also knew about how insistent I was about finding one. It was kind of silly really but I was so happy I got him! He was so cute! And the laughing was actually pretty funny.
One day I couldn’t find Elmo anywhere. I spent hours asking everyone I knew if they had seen him. No one seemed to know anything about it. I received “the letter” the next day.
Elmo had been taken hostage. It was a ransom letter with red fur taped to it and magazine letters cut out to make up the words “bring me 20 black ball point pens and a 5 packs of Juicy Fruit gum or the doll dies.” I received a few letters just like this but with different demands. Mostly demands for various office supplies like pens, pencils, paper clips, and some gum. Not only did I receive the letters but I also received phone calls from Elmo laughing which always made me cry a little. This went on for weeks with the letters and phone calls.
I finally gave in to the demands and decided to bring the box of pens and pack of gum to an undisclosed area to do a hand off. My roommate told me she would drive me there and stand guard in case anything went wrong. I had no idea who took Elmo and apparently nobody else did either.
I have to admit I was a little nervous pulling up to this strange house and still not knowing who took him. I thought that maybe someone would have confessed by now but I guess they really needed the pens and gum. We pulled up to the house and knocked on the door and a large Native American woman answered and asked if I had the pens and gum. I said I did and she closed the door and we waited outside for her. She opened the door again and grabbed the stuff from me and handed me Elmo and slammed the door again. I looked over at my roommate and she was rolling on the ground laughing. I can just imagine the look of terror on my face after the exchange and not knowing who the hell this woman was.
My roommate finally stopped laughing and knocked on the door again and the woman came out laughing. It was her sister! AND it turned out my roommate didn’t even know she had done it until the day before. I guess her sister had come to see our dorm when we moved in (I was not there to meet her but remember her telling me she had come). How she managed to come up with a plan to steal Elmo and send me ransom demands without even knowing me was pretty awesome.
When I started writing this post I had to email my friend Melanie from college to ask her if she had any other memories of Elmo’s disappearance. She told me she actually just did a podcast about the incident (\”When Pranks Go Waaay to Far by Melanie Hamlet\” Hilarious). She lived in the dorms with me and also lived with me and three other girls in a house the year after. She reminded me that on occasion, after I got Elmo back, I would come home to find him handcuffed to the stove and in all sorts of different, dangerous and hurtful situations. Poor Elmo. He didn’t have a very long life but I would say the short time he was here on Earth with us he definitely lived life dangerously.