The puppet-filled nightmare fuel of my childhood

Goddamn mother fucking puppets. There’s nothing worse than puppets and the media of my childhood was filled with them. Now they fuel my nightmares as I lie in bed waiting for the sun to rise.

Well, puppets don’t freak me out that much… but there are a few that still crop up in the dark corners of my brain. It doesn’t take much for me to have a flashback to the past and things like Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared DON’T HELP AT ALL!

*Breathes in*, but there’s a difference between something that is deliberately disturbing, like DHMIS, and something that manages somehow to tap into your subconscious. I can recall the faces of puppets as if they were real people (strange, I know). And now years later, they’re just sitting in some closet, box, or studio completely unused without a hint of the life that once inhabited them. It just takes a hand to bring them back… creepy.

These characters all still find ways to uncomfortably tickle at my brain even years after they stopped existing on television.

Stacks from Groundling Marsh

Uhhhhhhhhhhh

Uhhhhhhhhhhh

Of all the characters from Groundling Marsh, Stacks is always who I think of first. Stacks is a robot made out of junk and was created by Galileo, the show’s main character. In one of the first episodes, Stacks is brought to life by a lightening strike and becomes the cast’s resident expert on the marsh / the world around them.

Since when would some marsh-dwelling elf thing have the expertise to program a sentient computer? In all honesty, I don’t think if Stacks existed in the real world that he’d be so reasonable about his new-found consciousness. He’d be more like Frankenstein’s monster just a screaming, sizzling husk of unholy rage.

And when trying to gauge just how scary a puppet is on my patented Muppet Meter, I like to imagine what it would be like to have them chasing you down a hallway. In this case, Stacks can’t run because he doesn’t have legs, so he’d just be screaming wildly in the distance as you ran. Unfortunately, in one episode Galileo gives Stacks legs, so watch out he’s coming for you.

Sam Crenshaw from Today’s Special

Jesus...

Jesus… kill it with fire.

Sam Crenshaw is the nighttime security guard of a department store where every night Jeff, a mannequin with a magic hat, comes to life. Jodie, who is the display manager at the store, makes it her business to give Jeff a little knowledge of the world outside as he’s unable to leave.

Now Jodie is either insane or somehow in this freaky world puppets actually exist alongside humanity. What’s worse is that Jodie just sees Sam as another person like there’s not some weird puppet following her around everywhere. He always freaked me out as a kid. His bulbous nose, his ragged hair, and his puffy eyes just gave me this creepy crawly feeling I just couldn’t shrug off.

What worse is like most humanoid puppets at the time, Sam had human arms and fingers. I cannot describe to you how terrifying that is on a puppet. It means he has a circulatory system and muscles under that plush exterior. There’s blood circulating through his stitches. And what’s worse is that if you looked into the department store you’d see this terrifying abomination stalking the hallways shining his flashlight this way and that. Imagine being stuck in there with him. It’d be like a horror-filled version of Career Opportunities and instead of Jennifer Connelly riding that horse you’ve got Sam Crenshaw ripping off your arms.

The Head from Art Attack

Where's a hammer and chisel when you need it?

Where’s a hammer and chisel when you need it?

I have a lot of ticks as a person. I crack my knuckles all of the time, I also like to crack my elbows, and I am a serious casual yawner. I also try my best at all times during the day to not think about neck and my clavicle. Whenever I do, I get this weird twitch (that also just started as I typed this) that makes me flex those muscles. It’s like having my neck cemented in place for a few seconds.

Hence why I was absolutely terrified of The Head from Art Attack. A disembodied head trapped on a podium, The Head’s main job in the show was to bring some humour to the crafts made by Neil Buchanan (the Art Attack Guy). He also liked to laughed and when he did his head would just flop around.

I think it’s the immobility that creeps me out the most about The Head. He just sits there all day and yet somehow without arms is able to create works of art. Does anyone visit the gallery he sits in? Who created him? Why can he speak? Does the Art Attack Guy know he exists? So many questions and for some reason I don’t really want to know the answers.

Ryle from B.R.A.T.S. of the Lost Nebula

This guy.

This guy.

B.R.A.T.S. of the Lost Nebula exists in the same part of my brain as Farscape, mostly because they both had The Jim Henson Company behind their puppets. Ryle was always the guy who creeped me out most of the cast of characters. He was the trouble maker and there was something about the ring of skin around his horn that creeped me out too.

Of all the shows on the list here, B.R.A.T.S. probably has the shortest run with just 13 episodes. In honesty, I don’t remember too much about the show; however, I do remember all of the scenes where the characters would have closeup shot from inside of their respective vehicles. Ryle’s red eyes and the lighting used on him remains just the image I have of the show. His voice doesn’t help either sounding just like Harold from Hey Arnold.

Everyone from Lazy Town

The making of nightmares.

The making of nightmares.

Almost everything about the puppets in Lazy Town freaked me out and I was a bit older when that show started airing on television. And it wasn’t just the puppets either with characters like Robbie Rotten having a grotesque amount of makeup on to give his face this plastic, rubbery appearance.

In this clip on YouTube you can see the process behind making some of the puppets too and it doesn’t help seeing it grow from this phallic shape into a horrifying face. Ugh, anyway the worse of the puppets was Stingy. He was this little yellow puppet guy who really possessive and just weird all around. I’m struggling for things to say about him other than his incessant use of the word “Mine”.

I think with Lazy Town, the weird combination of human and puppets is what creeps me out the most. Do puppets have a separate society where they all live? Are they some kind of mutants? Why is Sportacus so hot? These are the questions I ask to this day, but still don’t have answers to.

***

That’s just five of the puppets that still haunt my nightmares to this day. There are so many more out there, but the more I write about them the greater the chance that they’ll be visiting me tonight, so I’ll stop here.

If I could boil down why these scare me it’s just how the humans around them simply accept their existence as normal. If I saw a puppet moving around today, I wouldn’t recoil like my younger self. I’m smart enough now to know that there’s a puppeteer somewhere behind the scenes controlling things. Yet I still wonder if I went behind the curtain and didn’t find anything what that would mean.

I’m not scared of puppets like Chucky or Slappy from Goosebumps. The television puppet that exists alongside of humanity gives me the true creeps. After we’re long gone as a species and so long as they patch themselves up or refresh the rubber that makes their skin… they’ll continue to saunter around on Earth. Now that’s the fuel of nightmares.

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