I Think I Accidentally Bought My Fiancée a Haunted Music Box for Christmas

There I was, casually scrolling eBay and Etsy in search of clown antiques, as one does…wait, you DON’T do that? Okay, my bad, I thought we were living in the Clown Era. I thought we were, as a community, ready to add a C to LGTBQIA for clown. Okay, fine, maybe I a little biased because I’m soon marrying a queer author whose next novel is going to be about a lesbian clown. And maybe I have been looking at clown antiques more than usual because of said impending nuptials with a clown-appreciating freak. And maybe JUST MAYBE I thought a vintage clown music box that inexplicably plays “Memories” from the musical Cats would be a very romantic gift to give said freak this holiday season.

You know, the thought did occur to me as I pressed purchase on the vintage clown music box that inexplicably plays “Memories” from the musical Cats that it could be a haunted artifact. It contained several potential haunted artifacts wrapped into one: a porcelain clown, a mirror, and a music box. I am no stranger to the dangers of haunted figures. But the potential for a haunting also promised a little bonus, a gift within a gift. Perhaps it would lead to wonderfully macabre stories my partner and I could share. Perhaps we’d strike up a friendly rapport with a ghost, as we briefly did when a decanter on our bar cart was seemingly haunted by an elderly couple who liked to announce happy hour every evening with the clink of their glasses (true story, btw).

Well, apparently the the vintage clown music box that inexplicably plays “Memories” from the musical Cats was so haunted that it never even made it under the tree. My sister texted me yesterday with a photo of a package delivered in my name, asking if it was indeed fragile like the label on it said, since it arrived looking like this:

a package that looks like it was run over by a truck

“Looks like it was chewed by a dog and then ran over,” my sister said. I asked her to open the package to see if it was at all salvageable, even though she warned me she could hear broken glass clattering inside. I thought perhaps a bit of superglue could repair it, add a bit of character. She opened it to find this:

a bunch of broken glass

Far past the point of repair and beyond recognition, the vintage clown music box that inexplicably plays “Memories” from the musical Cats was in no condition to gift to my beloved. It was supposed to look like this:

a porcelein harlequin clown head sitting atop a mirrored music box

“Literally looks like paranormal damage,” my sister texted. I wondered if perhaps a neighborhood dog could sense the horrors it contained and attacked the package or if the music box had started playing phantomly, spooking the mail person to the point they had to smash it repeatedly with a heavy boot. I suppose I should feel grateful, should assume someone or something else interfered so that my fiancée would not befall some horrible fate at the hands of the vintage clown music box that inexplicably plays “Memories” from the musical Cats. 

But I am sad, I’ll admit. A haunted gift is the gift that keeps on giving. And I fear I’ll never find a clown artifact as gloriously spooky and lovely as this one, certainly none that is a crossover between clowns and Cats, which felt exceptionally fitting as we adopted a cat together this fall. Ah, well, there’s always next Christmas.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 863 articles for us.


  1. Wait, why is playing Memories inexplicable? It’s because it doesn’t make any sense, right? Not because it was supposed to play something more clown themed and inexplicably choose Memories instead.

    Just trying to understand the level of spookiness here.

    And the photos of the flattened clown made me gasp. You definitely avoided something bad there.

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