This popular Sixties toy gave every kid a chance to pull off Uncle Fester's most famous prank

Did you ever play with "Uncle Fester's Mystery Bulb"? The simple novelty toy shockingly became a collectors' item!

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The fun uncle in the family is usually a pushover, someone the kids count on to join in their games rather than put a stop to tomfoolery.

When Jackie Coogan was charged with bringing Uncle Fester to life for The Addams Family, he loved stepping into his "fun uncle" shoes. His only wish was that he was allowed to get involved in even darker high jinx on the show.

"For me, as an Addams fan, I'd love to see the series more macabre," Coogan told the Democrat and Chronicle in 1965.

If you've seen any of the "Uncle Fester" character in comics (he was not named originally), then you understand what Coogan means.

In one of Addams' single-panel cartoons, Fester sits cheerfully reading about toxicology in a room decorated with the heads of lovable animals like a puppy, cat, and bunny on the wall. In another, Fester surveys "cold dishes," like shrimp salad or mincemeat pie, staring enticingly at a man's head served on a platter.

Coogan wished he could take the "ookiness" of the character just as far on TV, and even suggested doing a late-night version of the sitcom so that audience could see the real Addams Family.

"I'd like to do the real Addams, say at two in the morning," Coogan said. "Otherwise, there's no possible way to really do Addams on television."

The sitcom we saw was, in Coogan' view, watered down by the dulcet tones of the traditional family sitcom.

He still said that playing this version of Fester was his favorite role in his career.

"The series has to be written the way it is," Coogan explained. "I hope rabid enthusiasts forgive us our sweetness, but that's censorship."

What Coogan saw as censorship, the audience perceived as pure magic, especially when it came to what became everyone's favorite Uncle Fester bit.

As Uncle Fester, Coogan often literally lit up the sitcom by placing a bulb between his lips and amusing all the kids watching when it glowed from his internal electric current.

This oft-repeated bit even inspired a popular toy, first distributed in 1967, which, over time, became a collector's item worth more than 30 times what it originally sold for in comic books.

"Uncle Fester's Mystery Light Bulb," The News Journal reported in 2003, "piqued our interest" like no other Addams Family toy, even though it looked just like an ordinary light bulb.

Kids who ordered the toy knew the trick was a hidden flashlight fueled by a AA battery.

To pull off the Uncle Fester effect, all kids had to do was stick a piece of tinfoil in their mouths to form a connection between two points on the mystery bulb’s base that lit up the flashlight.

A simple trick, the effect was just as shocking to any suspecting onlookers as Uncle Fester's trick looked on TV.

The mystery bulb originally sold for just $2.00, but in 2003, some collectors were reportedly paying more than $75 for working bulbs.

Today, it's still rare to find the item listed, but you might be able to get yourself a working mystery bulb for about $20 on eBay.

In a way, these last remaining mystery bulbs form the last remaining afterglow of Coogan's legendary performance as Uncle Fester.

Coogan was proud that even though The Addams Family couldn't be as dark as his tastes would prefer as a fan of Charles Addams' work, the TV show at least did stand out among other sitcoms that you could say paled by comparison to The Addams Family.

"Allowing that we can't do what should be done [with the TV show], what is done is beautiful," Coogan said. "Our series is the only one on television in which the husband and wife are idyllically happy. And our family trusts its butler."

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SheriHeffner 20 months ago
Uncle Fester was and still is my favorite person next to Wednesday. I wish I could have gotten a Magic Light Bulb. I was just four when the toy was sold. I actually used to try to imitate him by blowing on the end of a Light bulb until I felt like I would pass out. I was around eight then.
practicaljokerfan 36 months ago
Uncle Fester from the Addams Family and
Grandpa from the Munsters were my
Favorite characters on those 2 TV shows.
Sam Hillyer played by Allyn Joslyn
Was a funny guy also on The Addams Family.
harlow1313 36 months ago
I stuck an ordinary 100 watt bulb in my mouth and inserted my fingers into the electrical socket. I did not do this trick twice!
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 36 months ago
Lol, Well at least it was an ordinary bulb.💡💡
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 36 months ago
I found a post which was humorous and obviously just humor: LoL
You can, however, make a light bulb glow without screwing it into a socket. Here’s how:

Get a fluorescent light bulb any kind will work, but the more surface area, the better the results. Put on a nice, fluffy wool sweater, or find an incredibly good-natured cat.

Quickly and forcefully rub the fluorescent bulb all over the wool sweater, or cat. The small amount of static electricity generated is enough to excite some of the gas molecules on the inside of the bulb.
justjeff 36 months ago
I had one of those bulbs as a kid... and it had been around a few years earlier as simply a novelty toy (before being branded "Uncle Fester's"). The down side to it was when the flashlight bulb or battery burned out, the toy was dead in the water... neither part could be replaced.

The 'bulb' was actually plastic - not glass - and when mine finally quit on me, I wrestled it apart to find a AA battery with the bulb soldered to the top of it. The foil (actually aluminum, not tin) formed the same kind of connection as the little rod in the switch of a flashlight in order to get the bulb to light up...
CaptainDunsel justjeff 36 months ago
I had one also. As I recall, I got it in the magic shop at Disneyland.
LoveMETV22 justjeff 36 months ago
That doesn't sound quite fair. Brilliant or maybe not so brilliant from a marketing point. so you had to buy a new one when it went kaput lol.....
MrsPhilHarris 36 months ago
How I would have loved to have had that lightbulb! 💡

It would have been interesting to see a dark The Addams Family rather than the comedy version.
LoveMETV22 MrsPhilHarris 36 months ago
Lol . Believe it or not they sell them through Walmart $34.83- and of course - Out of stock- Claims they're "The Official Licensed Uncle Fester Mystery Light Bulb". 💡
MrsPhilHarris LoveMETV22 36 months ago
No way! How fun is that?
denny MrsPhilHarris 36 months ago
Ebay has it $12,95 free shipping. Magic Light up Bulb, LED should last awhile.
MrsPhilHarris denny 36 months ago
It would be great for Hallowe’een. 💡🎃
JeffPaul76 MrsPhilHarris 36 months ago
You have one too many e's in Hallowe'en, or Halloween. There's two, not three.
MrsPhilHarris JeffPaul76 36 months ago
Whoops! I wish this site had an edit option. Sometimes it’s just too much effort to retype the whole comment.

Are you one of the spelling / grammar police?
LoveMETV22 36 months ago
Interesting story. Not sure about the safety of putting tinfoil in your mouth though. There should be or maybe is now a way to make the light bulb light up.
LoveMETV22 36 months ago
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Pacificsun 36 months ago
Well written! Thanks!
Pacificsun 36 months ago
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Pacificsun 36 months ago
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LoveMETV22 stephaniestavr5 36 months ago
Lol. I thought it was for the story.
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