It’s something we do, as adults, to reminisce about our childhoods. How wonderful it was. How everything was better then; more innocent, the days longer, no responsibilities, no worries, no cares.
We tend to forget that childhood is a minefield full of terror and we’re lucky to get out alive.
There are a lot of terrifying things when you’re a child. Television shows that you don’t quite understand and therefore scare you, full of naked adults and people shouting and violence; the rumors of what happens once you get to high school, with the mean teachers and mean other kids and ALL THAT HOMEWORK; and then of course there are puppets.
When I was a kid, there were very few things that were more frightening than puppets. And they’re for children, you see. They’re supposed to entertain children. Some sadistic son-of-a-bitch created these things, labeled them “for children,” and then sat back and reveled in the fear they engendered in the youth of the world. Well, there’s not ALL for children, but adults think they’re ok for children, because they’re just PUPPETS, so they feel safe entrusting their children with them. BIG MISTAKE BUB.
I don’t know what’s so frightening about puppets. The same thing that’s so frightening about clowns, I guess. You can’t see the face of the person who’s running them so you don’t know their true intention. The scary ones look murderous and maniacal. They have voices full of lunacy that are just a touch too high. Their stubby little arms flail without rhyme or reason. And they seem like they would pop up alongside your bed in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep, saying, in their too-high voice, “Here I am, Amy! Want to give me a hug? How about a kiss? How about a nice kiss? WITH MY SHARP SHARP TEETH?”
Now, I don’t hate all puppets. I’m fine with marionettes. Of course, the Muppets are fine. As mentioned the other day, I didn’t mind most of the puppets on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I wasn’t scared of anything on Sesame Street. Shari Lewis and Lamp Chop were ok, but she was kind of weird. (That baby-voice was offputting.)
But then there were the other things.
Wayland Flowers and Madame. Do you remember this? If you’re young, you might have missed out on this wonder altogether. This was pretty popular when I was a little one, like in the 70s and 80s. Madame was TERRIFYING. sj and I were talking about this just the other day. Look at that FACE. Wayland Flowers was EVERYWHERE for a while. With this stupid, loud, bawdy puppet. Here, in case you were too young, you can see what I’m talking about, and why this would have been terrifying for a child.
(Yes, I know, this is awesome because Bea Arthur. But look at that terrifying puppet! With her clacky mouth and her feathery feathers and her stupid sex jokes! She made me VERY NERVOUS as a child. VERY VERY NERVOUS. And you never knew where she’d pop up! You’d be watching television and all would seem fine and BAM! THERE WOULD BE MADAM!)
Then there was this movie. Have you seen this movie?
Aw, look how young Anthony Hopkins was. That’s the only nice thing about this. I can guarantee you that.
This is a movie about a crazy person named Corky (Hopkins) whose insanity manifests through his terrifying ventriloquist dummy, “Fats” (who, as you can see, looks very much like Hopkins, which is SO WORRYING) and then Fats insists Corky start killing people, so he does. Or Fats does. Or they both do. Either way, there is a murderous ventriloquist dummy in this movie, and it is HORRIFYING. Oddly, it was written by William Goldman. Who wrote The Princess Bride. WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME GOLDMAN?
I’m sorry. It was mean of me to post that. But how would you believe me if I didn’t? I wanted to show you an actual scene from it but apparently it was TOO TERRIFYING FOR YOUTUBE and I couldn’t find anything appropriate. Or, inappropriate, I suppose.
But before I watched that, I saw THIS, which I think was even WORSE:
Most Twilight Zone episodes I just found awesome and intelligent and fun and cunning, but there were a couple that terrified me. This was one of them. You’ve seen this, right? This stupid dummy with its huge eyebrows and it ENDS UP TAKING THE MAN’S PLACE AND IT IS BLOOD-CHILLING.
I think I mentioned this before, but when my brother and I were little, a family member (I don’t remember who) bought my brother ventriloquist dummy for Christmas. Who thought this was a good idea? I have no idea. It was this doll:
My brother tried for about five minutes to learn ventriloquism – which is SUPER-HARD, you guys, especially the P’s and B’s and any letter you have to move your lips for, pretty much – and then gave up. That doll creeped us both right the hell out. So he put it under his bed. WAY under his bed. And then surrounded it by other things to keep it safe under there and not able to escape and eat his face while he was sleeping.
Seriously, who gave that to my brother? And thought that was a good idea? He didn’t ask for it, and didn’t want it. He wasn’t an indoorsy-toy kid, anyway. He liked outdoorsy toys, or things like Transformers or G.I. Joes. Who thought he would make a good ventriloquist?
Then there was this, which isn’t quite puppets, but still made me VERY NERVOUS when I was a kid:
Stupid Mummenschanz. They would pop up on The Electric Company and The Muppet Show and they’d have toilet-paper faces and be all silent and quick hands and I COULD NOT SEE THEIR FACES and I THEREFORE DID NOT KNOW THEIR INTENTIONS and you all KNOW that makes me super-nervous. I DON’T LIKE THAT, MUMMENSCHANZ. (SIDE NOTE! I have a sliiiiiiight less hate-on for them because their name is German and I’m a grown-up now, but even that pretty German can’t change the fact that it’s German for “mummery” and mimes are effing FREAKISH.)
All of this creepy puppet-talk leads up to this article that I was pointed in the direction of yesterday. I don’t look back on my childhood with nostalgia. I look back on it and I’m just pleased I survived it.
In case you didn’t see this the other day, and would like an Amy-recap, well, I can’t say I’m PLEASED to give you one, but I think it’s like a public service. You need to know. And you’re probably not going to click. It’s ok. You might have a happier, better life if you don’t.
In Florida (what the HELL is happening in Florida?) a man named Ronald William Brown has been a Christian puppeteer for a long time. People trust him with their children. He drives their children to and from church. He has a ventriloquist dummy named Marty. As you can see from this oddly-grainy video clip, he’s not very good at it. His mouth moves a lot.
That dummy (the doll, not the man) is creepy as hell, yo. But they all are. There’s never been a not-creepy ventriloquist’s dummy. sj informs me this is a real thing and that she actually saw this program on television before. Shudder. SHUDDER I SAID.
Anyway, apparently there’s been a huge multi-state child porn sting going on lately. Ol’ Ron Bill got caught up in it. WHAT? NO NO NOT A BELOVED VENTRILOQUIST! Heh, that was a trick AND an oxymoron.
Ron Bill (I’m pretty sure he just goes by Ron but I like that he has two first names so I’m-a gonna use ’em) made friends with a man in Kansas named Michael Arnett. Which reminds me of Will Arnett, so I’m going to call him Gob. Ron Bill and Gob found they were kindred spirits, just like characters out of Anne of Green Gables,
because they shared a love of the following:
- child porn;
- child murder;
- and cannibalism.
Ron Bill and Gob communicated back and forth about their love of the above, sending photos of dead and/or naked children, sharing their desire to kill and eat children, you know, like you do. Oh, wait, no, NO ONE DOES THIS. Ron Bill even had a certain young parishioner picked out that he wanted to make his victim (“I imagine him wiggling and then going still,” our ventriloquist friend said) and then Gob showed up one day so they could make their BFF-ship THE REAL DEAL, yo. But Ron Bill was scared of taking things to the next level so he avoided Gob while he was in town. I’m imagining he said things like “I’m totally busy with my dummy this weekend, Gob, you know how it is! Sorry, dude! It’s not ME, it’s YOU!”
(Ron Bill has dealt with the cops twice. He’s not lily-white. The cops found boys’ underwear in his car once, but he said he used them for his dummy – NOT A EUPHEMISM – and he didn’t get in trouble, and the neighbors reported him another time, I assume for being a Creepy McCreeperson, but again, nothing came of it. His neighbors all thought he was weird. You know, one of those.)
Ron Bill’s defense here is that it was just talk, he’d NEVER hurt anyone, and therefore he is INNOCENT. Well, he’s innocent of ACTUAL murder and cannibalism, maybe. He had child porn and child snuff photos and that’s a crime. Also, who’s to say that he wouldn’t have given into to these urges eventually? You don’t just talk about these things for fun. I mean, come on. It’s one thing to say, once and a while, you might want to burn down someone’s house in anger. It’s quite another to repeatedly discuss (and view photos of) child porn, cannibalism, and murder. You can say you were just foolin’, but there’s no take-backsies here, Ron Bill. We know you’re a creep and you got stopped (hopefully) just in time.
Also, listen, DON’T TRUST VENTRILOQUISTS. Look, this is another one of his “programs.” What kind of weirdo enjoys talking to little kids about porn using a ventriloquist’s dummy? This is just WEIRD.
So what have we learned today, my little tater tots?
Puppets are freakish and scary and NEVER EVER FUN. Ever.
Also, WHAT IS GOING ON, FLORIDA?????