"MEXICAN JUMPING BEANS ARE REAL!"

200811101428

A few weeks ago I was at the Burbank airport. The gift store carried Mexican jumping beans. I bought a couple of boxes for my kids.

I was as delighted with the jittery beans as my daughters were, but I was even more charmed by the informational card that came with the beans. The irresistible, off-kilter writing style of card's author reminds of Dr. Bronner's, with the added bonus of making sense.

Excerpts:

IT IS IMPORTANT TO KEEP CHILDREN OUT OF HARMS WAY. IN THE LAST 10 YEARS, I HAVE ONLY HEARD OF TWO INSTANCES OF CHILDREN SWALLOWING A MEXICAN JUMPING BEAN. ONE LADY CALLED BACK TO LET ME KNOW THAT THEY FOUND THE MISSING BEAN. IT IS MY BELIEF THAT THE STRONG ACID CONTENT OF THE STOMACH WILL KILL THE GERMS AND LARVA IN SHORT ORDER.

...

THE MEXICAN JUMPING BEAN IS UNDOUBTEDLY AMONG ONE OF OUR CREATOR’S BEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS. IT UNDOUBTEDLY GIVES MORE PLEASURE AND INTRIGUE FOR THE MONEY THAN ANY OTHER CREATION.

...

REGRETTABLY, THEY ARE DOOMED WHEN THEY LEAVE THEIR NATURAL HABITAT IN MEXICO. THERE ARE NO HOST PLANTS THAT WILL PERMIT THEM TO CONTINUE THEIR LIFE CYCLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT WILL KILL THEM FROM HEAT, DEHYDRATION, FREEZING. THE MOTH SHOULD BE PERMITTED TO FLY FREE IF THEY EMERGE FROM THE BEAN. A SCENIC TRIP AS IT WERE.

...

[Instructions for playing the Mexican Jumping Bean Game include the following legal advice:] If you wager, make it small amounts. The Government doesn't like gambling unless they get a piece of the action.

MEXICAN JUMPING BEANS ARE REAL!

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  1. Not mentioned in the story, Mexican Jumping Beans are actually the larva of Spanish flies.

    I’ll be here all week.

  2. I had a couple boxes of these as a kid in upstate NY. They were all kinds of fun until one day I noticed they had stopped jumping and I found small round hatches on them all. I remember our house having a problem with small gray moths for the next 10 or so years after the beans hatched. I’m not sure if the latter is causally related to the former, but I sure don’t remember moths in my house before the beans.

  3. They are most definitely real. I remember getting some as a kid (maybe at a Wal-Mart?) They do jump around (not high) and jitter. And the moths do eventually come out. And then they die; my luck was such that they all came out and died in the little case where I kept my beans. I was a very unhappy second grader.

    /tear

  4. XYONZ,

    The small gray moths in your house were likely grain moths. They hitchhike a ride home from the grocery store in boxes of cereal and such. The culprit vector was Cap’t Crunch, not the jumping beans.

  5. Sebastiana pavoniana (the shrub that it lives on and with) is native to the desert Southwest of the U.S. and Northern Mexico. Road trip!

  6. the beans dont really jump much at all, they just ‘wiggle nervously’ they dont really live up to the hype as a kid you expect these things to leap out at you and stuff but alas, these beans belong in the same catolog as the x-ray glasses & remote control ghost that follows your every command… X(

    not to be a downer or anything…

    theres always Maru the entertainment cat/box contortionist…

  7. OLAF9000, you got bad beans, man. I had bad (barely mobile) beans as a kid, and also kick-ass, jump really high beans. I once had a box of beans so active I had to move them out of my room to get some sleep. They only last a few days, though, and one they’re gone, they’re gone, baby.

  8. Like the debilitating effects of Limberger cheese or the instant strength enhancement of spinach most information on Mexican jumping beans was all hype.
    You can not knock out your 6th grade teacher with a slice of cheese and you won’t jump higher if you make chili with these beans.
    As with Santa, the Easter Bunny or ‘work hard and you’ll get ahead’ the jumping beans were one more lie hoisted upon the youth of America by a cynical (yet gullible) adult population.
    Who knows how many ‘jumping bean’ disappointments led to juvenile suicides.
    The horror…

  9. We used to get these at “Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe” in Seattle (maybe circa 1980.) Some were good jumpers, others not so much. We used to have races where we would draw a 3″ diameter circle on a piece of paper and put the beans in the middle. The bean that got out of the circle first was the winner.

  10. I feel a bit like I was cheated out of something great in childhood… although JG (~#8) makes me wonder if I just dodged another cynicism inducing bullet.

  11. I bought some for a girlfriend who was in nursing school. We took her stethoscope to them and were both freaked out by the sound of the larvae in there.

  12. “Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe” in Seattle,maybe circa 1980.” Now that was a real, honest to Jah, Cabinet of Curiosities!
    Located near the ferry terminals back then, the place reeked of sensationalist flim-flam and many great freak show standards.
    Although it’s moved down the pier and has cleaned up it’s act(just a bit),Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe (along with Archie McPhees) is still a must-see spot to visit if you’re ever in Seattle ‘Gouge Town’ Washington.

  13. Ha, they used to sell these on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey. I used to buy a few every time I’d go down for the summer. :P

  14. The small gray moths in your house were likely grain moths.

    Ugh. I moved into a house that had those. I learned to buy more Tupperware, and to appreciate and encourage my house spiders.

  15. #7 & #8 you are unfortunately right i did indeed have bad beans! BUT! i must add that the non jumping musical kind of edible beans were more fun for me as a child and also favorites of my fellow neighborhood children, i must however digress for i do not know if any of these children did indeed depart the world of the living after receiving musical/edible “non” jumping or jump ‘impaired’* beans…

    *for those of you out there who are politically correct as regards the plight of underprivileged or developmentally impaired beans…

  16. THE MOTH SHOULD BE PERMITTED TO FLY FREE IF THEY EMERGE FROM THE BEAN. A SCENIC TRIP AS IT WERE.

    I would never have expected poetry from a box of mexican jumping beans.

  17. My dad bought me some of these when I was a kid. They weren’t jumping much, but the instructions mentioned that the beans would be more active when they were warm. So I put the plastic box on the bulb of an up-turned lamp, but quickly forgot about it and went to watch TV. About 30 minutes later my room was ripe with the smell of melted plastic and the the entombed, burnt beans.

  18. My parents bought jumping beans for me as a child. Mine never jumped and my parents said they must have purchased the “lazy” beans. I found out weeks later they were regular coffee beans from our kitchen. Now each year I buy them Starbucks coffee but replace the coffee grinds with jumping beans and the noise goes on for weeks. Who is getting the last laugh now???

  19. My grandfather bought these for me every year when I was a kid. He also ordered real, hand-made, Indian moccosins (which were much harder to come by in those days). The beans always jumped, the moccosins were always perfect. He also walked to the grocery store to pick up lemon chiffon ice cream when it was hot. Ah, those were the days.

  20. – Mexican Jumping Beans are real, and may do anything from wobble to outright jump. The shape of the bean probably has a lot to do with the physics of the motion they will make.

    – Ditto on the gray moths being some other pest. MJB moths can’t survive outside of their native habitat.

    – Regarding the knockout potential of cheese: Limburger is stinky, but it won’t knock you out. Other cheeses just might! I have experienced soft cheeses with nauseatingly foul odors. Forget stinky feet, we’re talking putrescent cadaver. I still sampled it, and it had a suprisingly mild yet complex taste. Any lingering breath odors were quickly washed away by wine.

    Another variety I tried, a Camembert I think, didn’t smell so pungent in open air… but once you took a bite the aroma was so overwhelming in your throat you literally could not breathe. Almost made a friend (a rather large guy) pass out.

    Now, I have heard rumors of cheeses so volatile they have been known to detonate if mishandled….

  21. SAMF – ah yes, the scared goat topple. Saw that on Mythbusters. I have never felt so bad an animal, yet laughed so hard at the same time.

    Execpt for maybe the fat cat getting himself stuck. Repeatedly. Genius kitty, we ain’t.

  22. I like these pets! You don’t have to change a cage, feed them or spend oodles of money to keep them, unlike our guinea pigs which the kids hardly look at now.

  23. I have some. They’re pretty cool. i have one that is the really fat. It will only move if you poke it. I t then jumps away, trying to escape

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