STICKY, squelchy, stretchy aliens have landed in East Lancashire and are taking over homes, classrooms, microwaves and fridges everywhere as part of the latest toy craze.

But stories that the Aliens in Pods can mate and have babies or that they will open their eyes and come alive on the stroke of midnight on Millennium Eve are simply not true, importers and toy store owners warned today.

Clare Stone, manageress of Ajaks in Blackburn Shopping Centre, said the store had sold out of Aliens in Pods but rumours that they multiplied if kept in the fridge or a warm place were false. She said: "It doesn't say anywhere on the box that they mate or have babies or anything other than you can play with the alien and the goo - but children seem absolutely convinced.

"They think if they put them in the fridge or oven they will have babies, that two together will breed and that their eyes will open on Millennium Eve.

"I have told my own children until I'm blue in the face that they don't but they won't have it at all.

"The goo inside makes the egg steam up and they think they are breathing, while manufacturers are now making eggs with more than one alien inside so the children think they've given birth."

Toy importer Martin Grossman said he thought the stories were the result of children's over-active imaginations.

He went on: "Children have taken to aliens like there's no tomorrow and I cannot get enough.

"I'm scared to pick up the phone because it's always someone wanting more. "But no aliens on the market at the moment have the ability to reproduce, although there is one that is due out in November that will have babies but that's top secret and I can't tell you anything more.

"We do sell aliens that grow in water but none that will open their eyes on Millennium Eve."

Mr Grossman, who runs his business from Glasgow, imports the toys from Taiwan and has set up an Alien Invasion website as a result of the Aliens in Pods success.

He said: "We are very careful what we say these toys do because we do not want to mislead the children but they still believe they will do all these things no matter what we say. I have had more than 2,000 e-mails from children in the last month and they tell me some great stories about the fun they are having with these toys.

"At the end of the day it is fuelling their imaginations, getting them to write stories and getting them to take care of these aliens like they are alive.

"I don't know what other toy does that for a £1."

But schools have banned the rubbery creatures from classrooms across East Lancashire.

Helen Lesh, a teacher at Belthorn Primary School, said: "They're banned because we do not allow toys in class, as well as the fact they cannot be personally identified, which can lead to arguments over ownership.

"Personally they're not my favourite things but that's not why they are banned."

Ian Benn, of Burnley's Benn's Toy Centre, in St James Street, said he had already sold two nearly 300 toys called Baby Alien but had placed an order with Grossman's as a result of demand.

"We have had hundreds of people coming in asking for them and the children are convinced they have babies. The importer says they don't but it is difficult not to believe the kids because they're determined they are right."

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