Cereal Killer.

monstercerealsThe truth is I get excited about Halloween because it’s the only time of year I can get the monster cereals. When I was a kid Count Chocula, Frankenberry, and Boo Berry were available year-round, and for a while there was even Yummy Mummy. For my own particular reasons I’d also welcome the return of Fruit Brute, but that’s another story.

Even though they were available I couldn’t have monster cereals when I was a kid. This was mainly because my mother had read Why Your Child Is Hyperactive by Benjamin Feingold and concluded that sugar was making me not only hyperactive but also frequently moody. And to her credit I did seem to feel a lot better when I was switched to shredded wheat—although for some reason she didn’t buy the regular shredded wheat cereal that came in little tiny squares but a mutant shredded wheat that came in huge biscuits and had the same texture and taste as steel wool. Two were enough to fill a bowl and I could rarely finish one, so maybe things changed because I didn’t have the energy to be hyperactive.

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Hey, they’re actually healthy!

It’s also probably a good thing I never had monster cereals when I was a kid because one of the commercials—I swear this is true—gave me nightmares. Or at least a nightmare. At the end of a commercial Boo Berry, who’s switched off the lights, says, “I’m in the dark!” Frankenberry says, “Me too!” An unseen three-eyed monster adds, “Me three!” The other two run off in terror.

Shortly afterward I had a nightmare that a man came into my room and hypnotized me so I could be eaten by a giant three-eyed monster.

Shredded wheat did nothing to diminish my hyperactive imagination.

I didn’t really miss the monster cereals having never had them, but at times it did feel like they were taunting me. For a brief monstercereals1time General Mills had some kind of commercial agreement with the now-defunct theme park Opryland and you could occasionally see Frankenberry or Count Chocula strolling among the rides. I never did see Boo Berry but I guess he was floating around somewhere. Boo Berry was the one I always wanted to try, partly because it was blue and therefore the most clearly unnatural of the monster cereals, but also because he sounded like Peter Lorre. As a short overweight kid with a funny voice I always felt a kinship with Lorre.

Now that I’m an adult I can enjoy the monster cereals and if I get hyperactive or moody I can go for a run or do something to clear my head. Admittedly even at this time of year the cereals still aren’t exactly easy to find. My regular grocery store doesn’t carry them. The only place I found that does is a big box store that shall remain nameless because I’ve given out enough free advertising as it is. Last year the monster cereals were in with the Halloween costumes because they’re basically made from the same material. This year they weren’t so I tried looking—strange as it may seem—in the food section. No luck. Finally a helpful employee directed me to a temporary stand in the middle of the baby clothes—again, basically the same material.

Eating the monster cereals has even been an educational experience. Here are some things I’ve learned:

booberry2014

2014’s well-drawn Boo Berry.

booberry2015

2015’s mutant mouth Boo Berry.

-Last year Boo Berry looked a lot cooler because he was drawn by DC Comics artist Jim Lee. Frankenberry and Count Chocula were also reinterpreted by other DC Comics artists. This year they’ve reverted to the version of Boo Berry with a weird internal mouth flap which had some people scratching their heads back in 2010.

-In milk Count Chocula will quickly go from dark brown to light brown and tastes a lot like shredded wheat. The other two don’t taste like any berry I’ve ever tried, but are pretty sweet. And fortunately Frankenberry’s head has been redrawn so it looks less like an ass.

frankenberry

From the back of the box: a series of pictures showing how his ass-head has evolved.

-One of the advantages of being a grownup is I can eat a bowl of each one right after the other.

-One of the disadvantages of being a grownup is if I eat a bowl of each one right after the other I get sick.

-All three use the same design. I guess really they’re all ghosts.

monstercereals3

Also the marshmallows have been replaced by 100% recyclable packing material.

The most annoying thing is the cereals only come in mutant “family size” boxes. Who am I going to get to help me eat all this cereal?

Yeah, I admit it, I’ll eat it all myself. And then I’ll be hyperactive and moody and need shredded wheat or maybe just eat some steel wool to detox.

Here’s a collection of monster cereal commercials. The one that gave me a nightmare starts at around the 9 minute mark.

22 Comments

  1. Ann Koplow

    This is a killer post, Chris. It’s amazing what you can do with any material, including cereal.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I so often feel the same way about your posts. You seem to find something new and extraordinary every day, even when you retrace your steps from the day before.

      Reply
  2. Chuck Baudelaire

    As much as I would enjoy watching 28 minutes of monster cereal commercials, I’ll have to defer that particular gratification until non-working hours. My mom also yanked sugary cereals from the breakfast lineup when I was a kid. I love shredded wheat but didn’t actually discover the giant ones until I traveled to England as an adult. Weetabix for the win!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      The whole time I was in England I never once tried Weetabix. It seems really strange that at school especially the cafeteria staff always made a full breakfast every morning. But I was gone most weekends so maybe that’s when they took a break and just set out boxes of Weetabix and jugs of milk. I feel like I missed something.

      Reply
  3. Shawna

    I’m a fan of the mouth flap. It looks adorable! I loved these cereals as a kid, too. I now know why my mom refused to buy them for us, though. It was just the refined sugar. Kids go through cereal so damn quick. It is such a money pit!! I will probably splurge and buy these around Halloween for the kids but I will hate every second of it.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      You really prefer weird mouth-flap Boo Berry to 2014’s well-drawn Boo Berry?
      The good news is when you splurge and buy a box for your kids the family size boxes are just the right size for your family. There’s just enough for everybody to get about one bowl.
      I recommend Count Chocula. At least it’s a flavor that occurs in nature.

      Reply
  4. kdcol

    I saw these cereals recently at Kroger. They weren’t in the cereal aisle though, more a separate display close to the cheese. Anyway, I THINK I remember eating this cereal once or twice when I was a kid. It definitely wasn’t a regular thing though. I don’t recall especially liking the actual cereal/packing materials, but I liked the funny characters. And yes, isn’t THAT what the marketers use on the kids? 🙂

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Near the cheese makes sense in a weird way. Cheese is made from milk and milk is what you put on cereal. Actually I’m not sure why they put them in weird places. It’s like they’re trying to discourage people from buying them.
      And the funny characters were definitely the big selling point. It was all about marketing. The only reason we drank Tang was because it was the drink the astronauts took to the moon.

      Reply
  5. Spoken Like A True Nut

    I actually enjoyed those giant steel wool shredded wheats as a kid. I was a strange child.

    But I must admit, I do still have a special place in my heart for unnaturally blue foods.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Once I finished my sugar-detox I found I liked shredded wheat. But there is definitely something about unnaturally blue foods–except when they get confused with antifreeze.

      Reply
  6. Gina W.

    Yeah, my Mom was like so many others. No junky cereals for most of the part. Except she sometimes did buy Sugar Corn Pops. Maybe because corn is in the name, therefore it sounds healthy? They’re just called Corn Pops now. But the second ingredient after corn is sugar. Anyway, I remember only having the Monster cereals a few times as a kid. I’ve got to make a note to buy a box for my son to try. You mention having too much cereal to eat. It sounds like you need to have a Halloween Party and invite all your regulars to come to your house to eat cereal.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That reminds me of Sugar Smacks which I had most mornings until sugar became crystalla non grata. They were renamed Honey Smacks because no one thinks about the fact that honey is just a different kind of sugar mixed with bee spit.
      The Halloween party is a great idea ’cause ain’t no party like a monster party. Costumes required.

      Reply
  7. Margot

    Yes, I like Gina’s idea of a cereal party!

    We never had surgery cereals in our house when I was a kid, either. My mother was very anti-sugar as she feared it would rot our teeth. So it was always a treat to spend the night at a friend’s house and get to have sweet cereal in the morning. (We also had to eat wheat bread before it was fashionable, so I’d get pretty excited about toast made from white bread, too.) My mother was so hardcore about sugar that she made my brother, sister and me throw away all but eight pieces of Halloween candy every year. We almost hid some in the attic one year, but then chickened out at the last moment.

    When my kids were little and I had more control over what they ate, I’d buy one box of surgery cereal and let them eat it for dessert. Oh my god—I turned into my mother for a while! Now they eat it a lot.

    I *think* that Shredded Wheat used to only come in the giant size. I might actually remember when the Mini Wheat size appeared—I’m a little older than you—it was so much easier to eat.

    Do you know this much about everything or are you obsessed with monster cereal in particular? You sure have a ton of info. Where did you find the video of monster cereal commercials?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      The cereal party really is a great idea. It’s like there’s a party in my mouth and everyone’s invited!
      It sounds like you’re doing a really good job of teaching your children to enjoy things in moderation. Or were. I guess if they’re now eating sugary cereals a lot that’s not moderation, but having it as an occasional treat is a good thing. Everything taken to excess is bad for you, and that includes moderation.
      I’m pretty sure I remember Mini Wheats too, but I think my mother thought the big mutant biscuits were more fun. Sometimes she poured hot water over them to make a kind of porridge.
      I’m not obsessed with the monster cereals but any time I sit down to write about something I like to do some research to see if there are any interesting tidbits I can add. And my mind just tends to hold onto obscure and weird trivia. The internet is a wonderful or terrible thing in that regard depending on how you look at it. And finding the video of the monster cereal commercials was just a matter of plugging in the right search terms. Years of working in a library have taught me that everything can be found if you know how to phrase your search.

      Reply
      1. Margot

        I just noticed I wrote surgery instead of sugary several times. How embarrassing! Although surgery cereal would certainly be scarier, it also taste really bad.

        Yeah, I tried to teach my kids moderation when they were little and hoped that it would stick. No such luck. And they were pretty pissed when they found out that there’s no such thing as “dessert cereal.” It’s really hard to get your kids to eat mostly healthy things when other parents think nothing of allowing unlimited junk. It makes you the mean parent and I guess it’s not too fun for the kids to stand out that way either. I remember feeling embarrassed during lunchtime in elementary school because my sandwiches were on whole wheat bread and dessert was a piece of fruit and one small homemade oatmeal cookie or a couple of fig newtons. Other kids would have chips and Ho Hos (the west coast version of Yodels) with their white bread sandwiches. Oh well. Hopefully my kids will eat better when they’re adults.

        You are very good at research and I don’t think I’d ever want to play Trivial Pursuit with you. 🙂

        Reply
        1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

          I understood your meaning but also found “surgery cereal” kind of funny. Yes that would be scary, but it would be a great marketing gimmick too. New Surgery Cereal for kids! Comes with marshmallow scalpels and forceps. Cut out and send in five proofs of purchase and $6.95 shipping and handling and get your very own anesthesia mask.
          Contains three vitamins and minerals, some of which are good for you.

          Reply
  8. Sandra

    Oh my goodness I laughed my way through this because I could relate to every single point right down to the monster (pardon the pun) sized shredded wheat. Not to mention your clever comparison of the fabric used to make Halloween costumes to the product used to make the cereal. Although I thought the shredded wheat looked like a big bail of Haye but yeah, tasted like steel wool…Although if you let it soak long enough and put on heaps of brown sugar, white sugar, and the contents of a small beehive, it is really quite delicious. But then again if you’re going to go through the trouble of looking for a beehive, you might as well just go to Walmart and get the Count Chocolat et al. from the Halloween costume department. But thank you for this. I needed the laugh.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It makes my day that I could make you laugh. The advantage of having the giant shredded wheat and heaping it with brown sugar, white sugar, and a bucket of honey is you at least know what you’re eating. Of the three monster cereals Count Chocula seems to be the least artificial, but who knows what those marshmallows are really made of?

      Reply
  9. Matt

    Okay, how have I not heard of these cereals? The only one I know is Count Chocula! Great post.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      The other two may have been relegated to more seasonal status. I think for a while Count Chocula was available year-round even after the other two disappeared, and neither Fruit Brute nor Yummy Mummy lasted very long. But now they’re all back for a limited time. Get ’em while you can.

      Reply
  10. Todd Loyd

    I grew up loving these….and I also grew up going to Opryland. I believe that Boo Berry had stopped production by the time the walk around likenesses started patrolling Opryland.

    They had a whole playground area sponsored by General Mills, Trix Rabbit, Lucky and others were there but no Boo Berry. He was always my favorite.

    I had forgotten about Frute Brute till I saw a box in “Pulp Fiction.”

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      For some reason I don’t remember Frute Brute–but I remember Yummy Mummy which came out after the likenesses stopped patrolling Opryland. I’d forgotten about the playground area there–thanks for taking me down memory lane.

      Reply

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