10 Most Dangerous Toys of All Time

The Gilbert’s U-238 Atomic Energy Lab comes in at number 2. I bet you are curious as to what toy could be more dangerous than one that comes with a geiger counter.

In 1951, A.C. Gilbert introduced his U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, a radioactive learning set we can only assume was fun for the whole math club. Gilbert, who Americanmemorabilia claims was “often compared to Walt Disney for his creative genius,” had a dream that nuclear power could capture the imaginations of children everywhere. For a mere $49.50, the kit came complete with three “very low-level” radioactive sources, a Geiger-Mueller radiation counter, a Wilson Cloud Chamber (to see paths of alpha particles), a Spinthariscope (to see “live” radioactive disintegration), four samples of Uranium-bearing ores, and an Electroscope to measure radioactivity.


  1. Heh. I had Creepy Crawlers. For some reason, my thingies always came out with a lot of embedded bubbles.

    I liked chem sets and would have loved the Atomic Energy kit!

  2. Dangerous? You call THAT dangerous? Ha! Try homemade slingshots (later graduating to airguns and rimfires), Van de Graaf generators (thanks, Dad!), all sorts of two-wheeled conveyances (from bicycles to mopeds to sneakily borrowed Dad’s motorcycle – no helmets, naturally) and assorted, ahem, chemical experiments (generally involving bright flashes and loud noises) I was futzing with since middle school. Sad to see this once-great nation getting pussified.

    And, yes, Gwenny, there ARE such things as safe radioactive materials, even though enviro-nuts have told you otherwise (and you believed them). All alpha-emitters are, as long as they are rendered chemically inert.

  3. 1) I wonder if my grandfather at some point had the atomic toy. He had a way of getting his hands on all sorts of cool stuff, including some cool (computer/mainframe?) equipment from Goddard that NASA for some reason let him have when they were done with it o_O

    2) Thank FSM the lawn darts never appeared in any of my cousins or households. My family would have found a way to kill and maim each other in an amazingly bizarre fashion :p

  4. Lordy but I loved lawn darts, if only for the brief thrill of realising that after having thrown it straight up into the air against a backdrop of blue sky and no landmarks, it is incredibly difficult to tell whether it is going to unseam you from crown to crotch or merely impale the ground three inches from your left foot.

    Essentially, it was a game of chicken in which the only participant who could lose was you.

    And kids today think they’re so hardcore with their guns and their meth.

  5. I don’t know, Brownian, there’s a good point made about the sky-flyer – I seem to recall my little sister having one just as they were dying out, and they were shit-your-pants scary.
    Especially indoors, but that was sort of asking for it.

  6. Lawndarts, the best in white trash fun! I think we still have ours in the shed. I didn’t even realise that they were banned…

  7. “Sky-flyer” is what I decided to call that funny spinning ballerina thing, the real name of which I forgot and couldn’t be bothered to look up again.

    I want some grub but all I have is alcohol, which doesn’t qualify.

    It sucks to be me :((((((

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