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Noted: The Business of Fake Vomit

Aug 31, 2011

by Chappell Ellison

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

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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103 comments

  • TwinkleStarCrafts

    TwinkleStarCrafts said 5 years ago

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

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 5 years ago

    Ewww....

  • acuriousbrood

    acuriousbrood said 5 years ago

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

  • lulusnest

    lulusnest said 5 years ago

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

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 5 years ago

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

  • decided

    decided said 5 years ago

    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. :)

  • northbirdsong

    northbirdsong said 5 years ago

    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 )

  • scarletbegonia11

    scarletbegonia11 said 5 years ago

    so funny!

  • vdh162

    vdh162 said 5 years ago

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

  • WashiLights

    WashiLights said 5 years ago

    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!

  • mylenefoster

    mylenefoster said 5 years ago

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

  • sparrowgrey

    sparrowgrey said 5 years ago

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

  • TheVintageDaughter

    TheVintageDaughter said 5 years ago

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

  • SalvageNation

    SalvageNation said 5 years ago

    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.

  • zwzzy

    zwzzy said 5 years ago

    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

  • desertsoapstone

    desertsoapstone said 5 years ago

    The ideas this will generate would be interesting to see.

  • figurativepie

    figurativepie said 5 years ago

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

  • AliceCloset

    AliceCloset said 5 years ago

    Ewww....

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 5 years ago

    fun times

  • HelloShoes

    HelloShoes said 5 years ago

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

  • jacarandadesigns

    jacarandadesigns said 5 years ago

    I thought at first glance they were florentine cookies!

  • mamif

    mamif said 5 years ago

    what a surprisingly fun(ny) post

  • RareDesign

    RareDesign said 5 years ago

    lol, and ewww . .

  • CreationsbyJeanna

    CreationsbyJeanna said 5 years ago

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

  • BlueRoseRetro

    BlueRoseRetro said 5 years ago

    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

  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection said 5 years ago

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

  • MyLittleCraftRoom

    MyLittleCraftRoom said 5 years ago

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

  • DanasaurDesigns

    DanasaurDesigns said 5 years ago

    this is gross-tastic!

  • GollyBard

    GollyBard said 5 years ago

    That is so gross that I love it!

  • Peachygirl

    Peachygirl said 5 years ago

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

  • friendlyfeathershop

    friendlyfeathershop said 5 years ago

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

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 5 years ago

    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?

  • handsonmyhead

    handsonmyhead said 5 years ago

    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.

  • BlumesBlooms

    BlumesBlooms said 5 years ago

    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.

  • blessedvintage

    blessedvintage said 5 years ago

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

  • frenchdip

    frenchdip said 5 years ago

    That is some serious business :)

  • rozzie

    rozzie said 5 years ago

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

  • VintageEyeFashion

    VintageEyeFashion said 5 years ago

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

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree said 5 years ago

    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!

  • BannyStones

    BannyStones said 5 years ago

    Wow! so funny! :)

  • tararie

    tararie said 5 years ago

    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!!

  • miasole

    miasole said 5 years ago

    Funny, who knew!

  • paintoutside

    paintoutside said 5 years ago

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

  • illadvised

    illadvised said 5 years ago

    These would be great for saving seats...

  • AmberGypsySky

    AmberGypsySky said 5 years ago

    hehe gotta love the immature humor sometimes

  • TheOldGlassChipper

    TheOldGlassChipper said 5 years ago

    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.

  • bedouin

    bedouin said 5 years ago

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

  • TheVintageRoad2Retro

    TheVintageRoad2Retro said 5 years ago

    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.

  • 9design

    9design said 5 years ago

    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.

  • RCStudios

    RCStudios said 5 years ago

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

  • fruitflypie

    fruitflypie said 5 years ago

    Cool!

  • withlovebunny

    withlovebunny said 5 years ago

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

  • loda

    loda said 5 years ago

    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....:)

  • GardenAngels

    GardenAngels said 5 years ago

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

  • loda

    loda said 5 years ago

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

  • rivahside

    rivahside said 5 years ago

    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.

  • ebozeman1

    ebozeman1 said 5 years ago

    haaaaaaa

  • twamies

    twamies said 5 years ago

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

  • Schmutzerland

    Schmutzerland said 5 years ago

    I really love this.

  • HillcrestVisuals

    HillcrestVisuals said 5 years ago

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

  • onionbagel

    onionbagel said 5 years ago

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

  • NotTheKitchenSink

    NotTheKitchenSink said 5 years ago

    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!

  • madefromstash

    madefromstash said 5 years ago

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

  • MishaGirl

    MishaGirl said 5 years ago

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

  • MadeinMogotes

    MadeinMogotes said 5 years ago

    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...

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 5 years ago

    Weird.

  • JulieMeyer

    JulieMeyer said 5 years ago

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

  • perkswife

    perkswife said 5 years ago

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

  • violintide

    violintide said 5 years ago

    The classics never die!

  • JennasRedRhino

    JennasRedRhino said 5 years ago

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

  • thepapercupcakeshop

    thepapercupcakeshop said 5 years ago

    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...;)

  • beesinmybonnet

    beesinmybonnet said 5 years ago

    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!

  • amth13

    amth13 said 5 years ago

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

  • PeaceDogDesigns

    PeaceDogDesigns said 5 years ago

    Ohhhhhh! Seriously, my stomach just turned!

  • ChocolateRoseMint

    ChocolateRoseMint said 5 years ago

    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.....

  • buttonaddict

    buttonaddict said 5 years ago

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

  • zipit

    zipit said 5 years ago

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

  • PaperPicker

    PaperPicker said 5 years ago

    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.

  • btaylorquilts

    btaylorquilts said 5 years ago

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

  • seesong

    seesong said 5 years ago

    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.

  • AppleCharlotte

    AppleCharlotte said 5 years ago

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

  • thestapeliacompany

    thestapeliacompany said 5 years ago

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

  • theCottonwoodTree

    theCottonwoodTree said 5 years ago

    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!!

  • handmadepretties

    handmadepretties said 5 years ago

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

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies said 5 years ago

    HILARO!!!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat said 5 years ago

    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...

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy said 5 years ago

    the puke look a little like florentines. eww.

  • AntoinettesWhims

    AntoinettesWhims said 5 years ago

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

  • redheart13

    redheart13 said 5 years ago

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

  • DorianD

    DorianD said 5 years ago

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

  • KatyScudieri

    KatyScudieri said 5 years ago

    Ahh, my favorite. Or the fake turd.

  • girliepains

    girliepains said 5 years ago

    lol crunchee

  • jewelkingthai

    jewelkingthai said 5 years ago

    O my God, I first thought it is cookies

  • EgyptianInspirations

    EgyptianInspirations said 5 years ago

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

  • wanderwitch

    wanderwitch said 5 years ago

    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.

  • jodieflowers

    jodieflowers said 5 years ago

    Gross, but oh so fun! :)

  • WhenGuineaPigsFly

    WhenGuineaPigsFly said 5 years ago

    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

  • mamabearsincense

    mamabearsincense said 5 years ago

    It looks like someone lost their fruity pebbles.

  • time4jewelry

    time4jewelry said 5 years ago

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

  • Dandybelle

    Dandybelle said 5 years ago

    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!

  • diamondgracejewelry

    diamondgracejewelry said 5 years ago

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

  • klballard30

    klballard30 said 5 years ago

    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.

  • allysrave2014

    David Jay from DeliriousDaves said 1 year ago

    That is too cool!

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