The Etsy Blog

Noted: The Business of Fake Vomit

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

chaps676

If you had older siblings growing up — or at least mean-spirited friends — you probably have some sort of neurosis as a result of a prank. For me, it was the old snap gum gag — when my brother offered me a piece of gum, I’d pull at the tin foil-wrapped piece dangling from the package in his hand, only to have a spring-loaded trap snap down on my index finger (to this day, I can’t look at Doublemint gum without my finger tingling). The innate desire to play practical jokes on our fellow man should never be underestimated, as evidenced by H. Fishlove & Co., the novelty company where fake vomit still reigns supreme.

When Irving Fishlove, the Chicago-based head honcho of novelty gifts, was first presented with a fake vomit prototype in 1950s, he instantly loved it. He purchased the idea, then spent weeks perfecting the recipe through experimentation with dyes and latex. His son even recounts coming home from school to a puke-covered kitchen counter. By the time Fishlove’s fake vomit debuted in 1959 as “Whoops,” it was an immediate success. “It’s very cheap to make, so you could make a decent profit on it,” says Stan Timm, husband to Mardi Timm and fellow novelty enthusiast. “[T]he numbers we hear tend to vary, but the story is it initially sold about 100,000 units a year, which, at the time, was a lot.” Stan and Mardi Timm are among the lucky few who’ve toured the Fun Inc. factory, the company that purchased H. Fishlove & Co in the 1980s. They found one room filled with trays full of fake vomit, stretching as far as the eye could see. As it turns out, the 500 pieces of barf were curing under the skylights. Like disgustingly repulsive snowflakes, each one is a little different.

With novelty companies still churning out classic gags, it seems we’ll never lose our desire to trick an unsuspecting friend. But we’re all adults here, so why do we continue to revel in childish pranks? In fact, the psychologist Freud once asserted that people resort to jokes as a means of expressing behavior that’s usually frowned upon by society. (In other words, as long as people revel in fart jokes, Whoopie Cushions will provide a socially accepted vehicle.) Though phony puke may not be what he imagined, Freud might be right — since “Whoops” hit the market, dozens of vomit imitators have followed, still meeting with success in today’s novelty market.

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Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.

  • TwinkleStarCrafts

    TwinkleStarCrafts says:

    Can you imagine their brainstorming sessions? 'I think it looks better with more solids.'

    3 years ago

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie says:

    Ewww....

    3 years ago

  • acuriousbrood

    acuriousbrood says:

    Oh my....my kids prefer the artful use of the Whoopee cushion.

    3 years ago

  • lulusnest

    lulusnest says:

    Love this article, perfect for keeping the creative types on their toes! Thanks for sharing this story Etsy!

    3 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush says:

    Um... they look like cookies on that sheet at first glance ..so wrong.

    3 years ago

  • decided

    decided says:

    Whatever that is on the table beside the trays (in the pic) looks more disgusting than the fake vomit! But I had some fake vomit when I was a kid. :)

    3 years ago

  • northbirdsong

    northbirdsong says:

    Goodness....I remember that type of "stuff" growing up and although I never received one of these "gifts", I saw friends who did! It was always a great gift for the stuffiest and most staid person you knew! I also remember going in to a novelty shop or 2 in my time and boy was there always SOMETHING neat, unusual, shocking or funny to buy for someone! I hope the old fashioned novelty shops should never disappear because we could all use a good laugh or 2 in these difficult times! LOL : o )

    3 years ago

  • scarletbegonia11

    scarletbegonia11 says:

    so funny!

    3 years ago

  • vdh162

    vdh162 says:

    a whoopie cushion is always a good laugh maybe once a year. and you cannot beat a hardy laugh. :)

    3 years ago

  • WashiLights

    WashiLights says:

    at first glance i looked at that photo and thought 'those cookies really need more flour ... and the butter shouldn't be at room temp.' but seriously, as i read the article one thought was preeminent : 'and exactly why do i think my ideas can't sell? ' if this guy can sell 100,000 unit of vomit in his first year, well then , i think the challenge has been laid down to all of us!

    3 years ago

  • mylenefoster

    mylenefoster says:

    Hilarious ! I want one or two ! This would make a good trick for Halloween or a gag for those birthday goodie bags.

    3 years ago

  • sparrowgrey

    sparrowgrey says:

    So funny! If only I could make my first million on fake vomit...

    3 years ago

  • TheVintageDaughter

    TheVintageDaughter says:

    LOL this is terrific! but, for a second, i thought i was reading a regretsy post...

    3 years ago

  • SalvageNation

    SalvageNation says:

    If anyone has a recipe even close to this, please send it to me. My students and I have been working on fake vomit for a week and we just can't get the "look" right. Oatmeal, peas, carrots and glue are just not working for us. Love this article and my students are all over it.

    3 years ago

  • zwzzy

    zwzzy says:

    I used to always get queasy when I walked past the fake vomit at those stores when I was a kid, hahaha. My roommates and I have a fake piece of poo we like to leave in funny places around our house. We like to blame the cat. ;P

    3 years ago

  • desertsoapstone

    desertsoapstone says:

    The ideas this will generate would be interesting to see.

    3 years ago

  • figurativepie

    figurativepie says:

    "Like disgustingly repulsive snowflakes" Haha!! Great article. =o)

    3 years ago

  • AliceCloset

    AliceCloset says:

    Ewww....

    3 years ago

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 says:

    fun times

    3 years ago

  • HelloShoes

    HelloShoes says:

    I love gags...fun stuff and great story...

    3 years ago

  • jacarandadesigns

    jacarandadesigns says:

    I thought at first glance they were florentine cookies!

    3 years ago

  • mamif

    mamif says:

    what a surprisingly fun(ny) post

    3 years ago

  • RareDesign

    RareDesign says:

    lol, and ewww . .

    3 years ago

  • CreationsbyJeanna

    CreationsbyJeanna says:

    I wish Etsy would add "Like" buttons to comments. I would "like" a lot of the comments made on this topic. :0)

    3 years ago

  • BlueRoseRetro

    BlueRoseRetro says:

    I LOVEd the fake poop; how it twisted and turned and glistened like the real thing.( I was like 8 years old... give me a break) Now days they could probably add a vulgar scent to it. Oh goody! "MOM... the dog pooped on the rug again." giggle, giggle

    3 years ago

  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection says:

    Ahhh the good ole days! I remember the fake poop and the whoopie cushion all too well - lol Monica TheIDConnection

    3 years ago

  • MyLittleCraftRoom

    MyLittleCraftRoom says:

    They brainstormed about making fake vomit in that movie with Robin Williams, "Toys". That was a strange movie.

    3 years ago

  • DanasaurDesigns

    DanasaurDesigns says:

    this is gross-tastic!

    3 years ago

  • GollyBard

    GollyBard says:

    That is so gross that I love it!

    3 years ago

  • Peachygirl

    Peachygirl says:

    All I can say is...BARF! :)

    3 years ago

  • friendlyfeathershop

    friendlyfeathershop says:

    You guys must like Mental Floss- they just posted about this.

    3 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    I think what I find more worrying is the plastics and resources used in making novelty items, shouldn't this be in keep it weird?

    3 years ago

  • handsonmyhead

    handsonmyhead says:

    years ago as a little girl and in a family of 5 more, my dad always had a ready audience for his wit and humor. perhaps he passed a gag gift store on the way home from work, because occasionally he would come home with some chocolate covered grasshoppers or other gruesome thing. but the best was the fake barf...he brought it to us with great sound effects and realistic acting skills..mom was the most offended, us girls thought he was a god.

    3 years ago

  • BlumesBlooms

    BlumesBlooms says:

    Hehe, great article. As a kid I had a good many laughs from the fake cigarettes that expelled smoke when you blew into them. Something about the thrill of pretending to do something naughty in front of someone who would severely punish you for it and then revealing the trick right before you're impaled on a stick. Awww, fun times. I even remember carefully unwrapping it when the "smoke" ran out to fill it with flour so it would still smoke.

    3 years ago

  • blessedvintage

    blessedvintage says:

    I would have loved that dad, could you imagine! blessings

    3 years ago

  • frenchdip

    frenchdip says:

    That is some serious business :)

    3 years ago

  • rozzie

    rozzie says:

    lol @ the snaping double mint gum trick... Where can i find me some fake vomit?

    3 years ago

  • VintageEyeFashion

    VintageEyeFashion says:

    Ooh! Do they make Whoopie Vomit!? You know...with the sound effects? ;)

    3 years ago

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree says:

    So funny and yes, look at the "jelly belly" beans with all their fake flavours (pencil shavings, rotten egg, barf, moldy cheese, baby wipes, canned dog food, booger, centipede and skunk spray)! I looked this up and discovered their new flavours that I must have missed! So disgusting, but I am sure they sell! Really funny!

    3 years ago

  • BannyStones

    BannyStones says:

    Wow! so funny! :)

    3 years ago

  • tararie

    tararie says:

    BlumesBlooms! I remember those cigs! I had to be in the single digits then it's such a vague memory...wouldn't it be great to have the photos? :) Fake vomit...ain't that America! Hehe!!

    3 years ago

  • miasole

    miasole says:

    Funny, who knew!

    3 years ago

  • paintoutside

    paintoutside says:

    I want to work at the prank dog-turd factory. Nice blog :)

    3 years ago

  • illadvised

    illadvised says:

    These would be great for saving seats...

    3 years ago

  • AmberGypsySky

    AmberGypsySky says:

    hehe gotta love the immature humor sometimes

    3 years ago

  • TheOldGlassChipper

    TheOldGlassChipper says:

    When we were kids my sister got some of out parents friends to quit smoking (at least at our house) She was the cigarette load princess from the time she was nine. The scritch of a match, the first inhale, then BOOM the front third of the cigarette was missing. The Johnson Smith Company in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. It's a toss up (no pun intended)(that is a lie)between the fake barf and the fake dog doo. Maybe the shocking lighter......takes me back.

    3 years ago

  • bedouin

    bedouin says:

    ewww.... I thought it was Candy Brittle. Once I clicked into the vomit zone I had to read the article. Gee thanks Mr. Fishlove

    3 years ago

  • TheVintageRoad2Retro

    TheVintageRoad2Retro says:

    Smiling the whole time I read this.... I remember it all too well. My brother did the same prank to me with the fake gum. He & his best friend also tried to grab me one day & push me into a puddle of fake vomit. Kicking & screaming....I got loose thank goodness. LOL! Thanks for the memories.

    3 years ago

  • 9design

    9design says:

    Is it wrong that I think the vomit in the picture looks pretty... Maybe it's the fact I know all the little puddles are fake.

    3 years ago

  • RCStudios

    RCStudios says:

    The one that always fooled me was the fake melting ice cream bar. It looked so real...

    3 years ago

  • fruitflypie

    fruitflypie says:

    Cool!

    3 years ago

  • withlovebunny

    withlovebunny says:

    i love that this was brought to attention; it made me giggle and ended my day with a silly thought. thanks! :)

    3 years ago

  • loda

    loda says:

    When I was a very young child. My much older cousin put fake vomit on my favorite Barbie. I cried and was scared for life. Ever since, I have been looking for some fake vomit to repay the favor....:)

    3 years ago

  • GardenAngels

    GardenAngels says:

    I've left it out for my kids too find!! Fun, fun, fun. We love April Fools Day!

    3 years ago

  • loda

    loda says:

    That's suppose to be.......... scarred

    3 years ago

  • rivahside

    rivahside says:

    Ha! I remember that stuff! A "friend" of the family put it on the couch and accused me of making the mess. It was the early 60's and I was a very upset 5-year-old. Some memories you just can't shake.

    3 years ago

  • ebozeman1

    ebozeman1 says:

    haaaaaaa

    3 years ago

  • twamies

    twamies says:

    i love that you covered this and i really love the idea of someone "perfecting" fake vomit!

    3 years ago

  • Schmutzerland

    Schmutzerland says:

    I really love this.

    3 years ago

  • HillcrestVisuals

    HillcrestVisuals says:

    "A visit to the fake vomit works" would have made a classic Monty Python sketch!!

    3 years ago

  • onionbagel

    onionbagel says:

    Looks like the sidewalks here on the Vegas Strip on Sunday morning.

    3 years ago

  • NotTheKitchenSink

    NotTheKitchenSink says:

    While my mom shopped at the department store when I was a kid, my dad and I would stand nonchalantly amongst the clothing racks and try to contain our giggles as the next victim discovered the fake vomit or fake poop we had left in the middle of the aisle. Good times!

    3 years ago

  • madefromstash

    madefromstash says:

    I like that they're all different, you wouldn't think a product like this would have that uniqueness to it.

    3 years ago

  • MishaGirl

    MishaGirl says:

    Looked tasty until I read the title.....too funny!

    3 years ago

  • MadeinMogotes

    MadeinMogotes says:

    Gross. But it brings back memories. When we were kids, my grandma would put one of those fake vomit things near the dog so my brother and I would think she was sick. She thought it was hilarious and we did have some good laughs over it...

    3 years ago

  • Iammie

    Iammie says:

    Weird.

    3 years ago

  • JulieMeyer

    JulieMeyer says:

    This reminded me of hanging out in Spencers at the mall with my brothers laughing and laughing at all the gag gift items.

    3 years ago

  • perkswife

    perkswife says:

    It looks like a puddle of Mexican food vomit...My brain tricked me and I actually just smelled it! Ewwww!

    3 years ago

  • violintide

    violintide says:

    The classics never die!

    3 years ago

  • JennasRedRhino

    JennasRedRhino says:

    Somewhere there is a DIY blog post with a recipe for making this stuff.....

    3 years ago

  • thepapercupcakeshop

    thepapercupcakeshop says:

    I can't tell you how to make fake vomit, but I can tell you that a chewy brownie(like Little Debbie type) can easily be molded in your hands to create extremely convincing dog poo. Plus, you can eat it, which may very well make someone puke for reals. Homemade edible playdough made of peanut butter, oatmeal, honey and dry milk, also makes super convincing dog poos...;)

    3 years ago

  • beesinmybonnet

    beesinmybonnet says:

    If I were a 12 year old boy I'd think this was hilarious! With all the WONDERFUL handmade and vintage items out there Etsy chooses to put an article about fake vomit on the front page?!?!?!? Disgusting in more ways than one!

    3 years ago

  • amth13

    amth13 says:

    Great, just need a scratch and sniff card for real authenticity......

    3 years ago

  • PeaceDogDesigns

    PeaceDogDesigns says:

    Ohhhhhh! Seriously, my stomach just turned!

    3 years ago

  • ChocolateRoseMint

    ChocolateRoseMint says:

    Heeeee, love it ! I too was 'traumatised' by the fake gum prank...OUCH !! How about the soap that turns your hands black, or the candy that tastes like hot onions :P I miss my squirting flower ring.....

    3 years ago

  • buttonaddict

    buttonaddict says:

    Hmmm....curiously grossed out and fascinated at the same time. And to think I thought they were cookies!

    3 years ago

  • zipit

    zipit says:

    Did you notice how each pile on that table is unique? Now that is some quality vomit!

    3 years ago

  • PaperPicker

    PaperPicker says:

    at first glance I thought they were oatmeal cookies that didn't bake right, but after reading the article, I don't think I'd want to eat them, or eat anything for a couple hours.

    3 years ago

  • btaylorquilts

    btaylorquilts says:

    fake vomit is awesome. Especially when you have cats :)

    3 years ago

  • seesong

    seesong says:

    I used to spend good portion of my mall time hanging out in novelty/gag gift shops. I still love looking at good gag gift stuff.

    3 years ago

  • AppleCharlotte

    AppleCharlotte says:

    Sprinkle a little water on them and they really look real.

    3 years ago

  • thestapeliacompany

    thestapeliacompany says:

    I used to love me some novelties growing up. I think the exploding cigarette was the best thing they ever made...

    3 years ago

  • theCottonwoodTree

    theCottonwoodTree says:

    what a coincidence! my mom made fake vomit the other day out of oatmeal and carrots and it looks.... like absolutely disgusting barf!! the worst part is, when my sister's boyfriend came over, my mom pulled out her fake vomit and asked him if it looked real enough!!

    3 years ago

  • handmadepretties

    handmadepretties says:

    We're more of a fake poop type of family...

    3 years ago

  • BanglewoodSupplies
  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat says:

    I loved the soap that made you black & the exploding things to put in the ends of cigarettes... until my cousin put almost a whole packet into an uncle's cigar & created an explosion almost large enough to do serious damage! Happy days...

    3 years ago

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy says:

    the puke look a little like florentines. eww.

    3 years ago

  • AntoinettesWhims

    AntoinettesWhims says:

    Oooh ~ That reminds me, somewhere around here I have a recipe for that and the spilled coffee gag and others. HaHaHaHa!!!! Watch out!

    3 years ago

  • redheart13

    redheart13 says:

    What a great story! Now and days I love the old fart machine, but that will never beat out the whoopie cushion.

    3 years ago

  • DorianD

    DorianD says:

    Just remember to spray a little water over the fake vomit for that freshly-made realistic appearance!!

    3 years ago

  • KatyScudieri

    KatyScudieri says:

    Ahh, my favorite. Or the fake turd.

    3 years ago

  • girliepains

    girliepains says:

    lol crunchee

    3 years ago

  • jewelkingthai

    jewelkingthai says:

    O my God, I first thought it is cookies

    3 years ago

  • EgyptianInspirations

    EgyptianInspirations says:

    Ewwwwww. not my cup of tea, but I know my kids would love it.

    3 years ago

  • wanderwitch

    wanderwitch says:

    I remember the fake dog poo and the soap. It must be strange to go for lunch after working all morning at a place like that.

    3 years ago

  • jodieflowers

    jodieflowers says:

    Gross, but oh so fun! :)

    3 years ago

  • WhenGuineaPigsFly

    WhenGuineaPigsFly says:

    I'm like, a class A emetophobe (fear of vomiting to the max) but manage to stomach (har har) the fake stuff when I see it. I used to work in a gift shop that sold really nice glasswear and napkins, candles, a really nice selection of things. A few steps up attached to the same store was a toy store, and we had fake spilled coffee and fake spilled ice cream. I can't tell you how many times a concerned tourist would come walking over to the counter and be like "um, excuse me... it looks like someone spilled their ice cream all over the table over there!" and we'd just laugh and say "yeah, I know. it's fake" ..."well someone should clean it u-...what?!" it never got old. Ever. hahah

    3 years ago

  • mamabearsincense

    mamabearsincense says:

    It looks like someone lost their fruity pebbles.

    3 years ago

  • time4jewelry

    time4jewelry says:

    And your mother said you'd never amount to anything....

    3 years ago

  • Dandybelle

    Dandybelle says:

    I'd like to believe that we are all still kids. Aside from all of the social stress-ors we deal with daily, self inflicted due to our desire to be adults and work up the social ladder, we indeed are still children at heart. Gag gifts and silly jokes for life! let's keep our chins up and put a smile on everyones face! Thank you for the article!

    3 years ago

  • diamondgracejewelry

    diamondgracejewelry says:

    this makes me geatful i was an only child...

    3 years ago

  • klballard30

    klballard30 says:

    My cousin gave me her fake vomit when I was a kid. Between myself and my 3 brothers, we had more fun with it. It ws the hit of the neighborhood. Everyone had to borrow it to fool their parents. Surprised that it was always returned and no one ever kept it. My mom sent it with me in a box of stuff when I got married and it somehow got shoved into storage. My son, who loves gross stuff, discovered it one day and it made the rounds of the neighborhood again. The joke never gets old and everyone laughs because kids just love to play jokes on other kids and love it when they can fool adults. Face it .......we just never grow up and everyone should have a fake vomit.

    3 years ago

  • allysrave2014

    David Jay from DeliriousDaves says:

    That is too cool!

    142 days ago