I was reading the obituary of Harold von Braunhut, the man who sold the world Sea Monkeys, and the more I read, the more his life was like something out of a comic book, albeit probably written by Alan Moore.
He sold X-Ray Specs, Sea Monkeys and more on the back pages of comic books, he was a salesman, daredevil and member of the KKK and Aryan Nations. Plus he was Jewish. Bizarre.
Harold von Braunhut, who used comic book advertisements to
sell whimsical mail-order inventions like Amazing Sea
Monkeys, tiny shrimp that pop to life when water is added,
died on Nov. 28 at his home in Indian Head, Md. He was 77.
His wife, Yolanda, said that he died after a fall but that
the exact cause was not known.
Mr. von Braunhut was to quirky inventions what Barnum was
to circuses. His X-Ray Specs, which advertisements said
allowed wearers to see through flesh and clothing, are
still selling after 50 years of guffaws. Hermit crabs as a
pet? Thank Mr. von Braunhut for Crazy Crabs.
And yes, perhaps only this verbally snappy holder of 195
patents could have realized that what the world needed was
Amazing Hair-Raising Monsters, which allow a child to add
water to a card and watch hair grow on the previously bald
pate of the monster depicted there.
Mr. von Braunhut gravitated toward life's crazier edge,
racing motorcycles as the Green Hornet and managing the
career of a man who dived from 40 feet into a kiddie pool
filled with 12 inches of water. He sold invisible goldfish
by guaranteeing that owners would never see them.
In a radically different sphere, Mr. von Braunhut's hard
right-wing beliefs drew notice. According to a 1996
Anti-Defamation League report, he belonged to the Ku Klux
Klan and the Aryan Nations.
The Washington Post in 1988 published an article on him and
his affiliations, adding that his relatives said he was
Jewish. He himself repeatedly refused to discuss his
beliefs on race or his own religious background with
journalists, and in an interview on Thursday his wife
declined to comment on the subject.