There is a hell, and it is populated by puppets.

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.

So freeeeeeeee…

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.

What? Puppets?

Yes. 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.)

Also, she wore way too much eye makeup.

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.

Fats would totally eat your face, I’m not even kidding.

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:

Because there’s nothing a kid wants more than a Charlie McCarthy doll. Especially in the 80s, when he’d never heard of Charlie McCarthy.

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,

Kindred SPIRITS!!!

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.


About lucysfootball

I'm not the girl with the most cake. Someday. SOMEDAY. View all posts by lucysfootball

42 responses to “There is a hell, and it is populated by puppets.

  • sj

    1. Heh, in that second video of Ron Bill and Marty, Ron Bill said “I’m glad you remained firm…” #euphemism

    2. YES, I’VE TOTALLY SEEN THESE GUYS! That channel was 56 or 58 (one of the high band channels) for the people who don’t have cable in Southern California. The Praise Network, or something like that. It was FULL OF ALL KINDS OF CREEPY STUFF LIKE THAT! Things that were supposed to be entertaining and fill the little children with the Word, but all it ever did was creep me right the eff out. For realsies.

    I had more to say, but it all flew out of my head because all I can think of now is Anne and Diana. Did you read the Emily of New Moon books, too? I think I liked those even more.


  • zippy219

    I agree, Madame was scary. I never knew if she was supposed to be funny or scary because I was all about the Muppets. With the Muppets you totally knew where they stood; they were fun and funny. On a side note you totally forgot Chuck and Bob from Soap. Bob was my favorite non-Muppet puppet.


    • lucysfootball

      I never watched Soap! There was a puppet on Soap? That seems weird, wasn’t that like a sarcastic soap opera comedy show?

      I think Madame might have been scary because we were too little to get the jokes, too. Like, some adults that were all loud were scary when I was that age, too, because I didn’t understand what they were laughing about.


  • tnbbc

    Oh my fucking god, you are my scaredy-cat TWIN! I hate puppets with a fucking passion. They are creeptastic in ALL THE WAYS.

    When I was little I got a Groucho Marx dummy for christmas and it scared me sooooo badly that I ripped all his clothes off and stuffed in the closet at the bottom of the stairs to my bedroom, and LOCKED THAT SHIT UP TIGHT. I had nightmares that he’s climb the stairs and sit in the doorway STARING at me!

    Movies with dummies, sorry. no thank you. TV shows with dummies, uh uh, no way.

    Marionettes scare me just as much as the dummies do. Now, Jeff Dunham’s puppets are funny but still eek me out a bit and I would NEVER EVER want to be left alone in a room with Walter or Bubba J or the Pimp.

    And Im totally ok with Jim Henson puppets….but I still would not want to be face to face with one.

    Oh my god my heart is pounding just thinking about this shit. Dummies and ghosts and spiders. The trifecta of fear for me!

    I hate you for rekindling my fear but LOVE all the things about it! :)


    • lucysfootball

      Why do people think giving children Groucho Marx or Charlie McCarthy is a good idea? That’s never a good idea. Not ever. Ugh.

      I was kind of creeped out writing this, I’ll be honest. Stupid puppets.


  • A. Pope

    Oh. My. God. I never thought I would’ve rated puppets as scarier than clowns but now I’m not so sure. Ergh…clowns…(shudder)…


  • Charleen

    Yeah, some of those “traditional-looking” puppets, especially ventriloquist dummies, are pretty scary-looking.

    That said, though, I love Jeff Dunham. Who is also not the greatest ventriloquist in terms of technique (he seems to have gotten better over the years though) but even if you see his mouth moving a bit, it’s hard to care because he’s just so frickin’ hilarious, and is SO good with all his different personalities.


  • Kris Rudin (@krisrudin)

    I’ve never been really creeped out by puppets – but that preview for the Magic movie? CREEPED ME OUT!!!!!!!!!!!

    I hope you’re happy! >:-/


  • jbrown3079

    I remember seeing Magic in the theater. I am not a big fan of that kind of movie but it was really well done. Anthony Hopkins was exceptional in his role.
    As for Charlie McCarthy and his human buddy Edgar Bergen, the strangest part of their success is that it happened on radio. Gotta give them credit for pulling that off.


    • lucysfootball

      It was a well-done movie, I agree. Not even cheesy for when it was made. I watched it probably fifteen years ago and it was still pretty affecting.

      I didn’t even think of that – of course they would have been on the radio! Yeah, that is pretty impressive. And – less scary! If I don’t look at them, I’m not as freaked out.


  • thepunchdrunkplaywright

    I saw this story earlier, and Lord, just…Lord. Throw in an overly phallic weapon, like, say, some wood-carving tool (an awl? Is that a word? Awl?), and you’ve got yourself an awful grindhouse slasher movie. Yeesh. Just…sordid

    Ventriloquism is creepy, but puppets are not. There’s plenty of puppetry out there that would make you weep. I will find clips and show you.

    Also, as a budding gay, Madame was up there with Sixties Batman and Robin, Bewitched, and Match Game. But I do feel sorry for anybody who had to “act” with “her”. She’s not a terribly generous scene partner. Poor Bea Arthur. You can just hear her thinking, “I’m a fucking Tony winner. Why am I singing a duet with a bedazzled sock?”


    • lucysfootball

      Awl is totally both a word and a gougey weapon. This guy would totally have an awl.

      Weep in awe of how beautiful it is, or in fear? Or both? Probably both.

      Oh, I probably should have mentioned that the puppets in Avenue Q did not freak me out in the least. But they’re kind of Muppets, so I guess they’re covered.

      Bea Arthur really handled herself with a lot of aplomb there, didn’t she? She was fantastic.


  • lahikmajoe

    I like both clowns and puppets.

    And puppet clowns.

    And mustard.

    And whole milk at room temperature.

    And greasy cheese enchiladas.

    And Emmylou Harris.


    • lucysfootball

      How are we friends?

      I mean, other than the cheese enchiladas. There’s nothing wrong with those. NOTHING.

      And I have nothing against mustard. And if I’d ever heard anything by Emmylou Harris, maybe I’d like her, I don’t know.

      Otherwise, NO NO NO.

      It’s like you’re working down a list of things that either frighten or disgust me. ON PURPOSE. Gack.

      Psst: I adore mayonnaise.


  • Tony Bird

    Okay, I saw the title of this post and thought that I would need to freak out in the comments, because some time when I finally feel like it, I’m going to write a Man Crush blog about Jim Henson. I was relieved to see that you’re okay with Muppets. I love the Muppets! My wife got me one from FAO Schwartz when she went to NYC a few weeks ago.
    Of course, I love all of Jim Henson’s other puppets, too: Fraggles, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and all the others. He was a creative genius.
    That being said, ventriloquists and their dummies are creepy, and Jeff Dunham gets really old really fast. Jim Henson aside, other puppeteers can suck it.


    • lucysfootball

      Muppets (and all Jim Henson creations, and also the Muppet-like monsters in Avenue Q) are ok with me. Non-scary. Squishy. Lovable. I’m completely down with them.

      I have to research this Jeff Dunham person. I’ve never even heard of him! I’m really out of it, comedian-wise.


    • jennabenda

      Wait, wait, wait. Did you get a custom Muppet because that is my dream! I will have to be very jealous.

      I actually only saw The Dark Crystal recently and holy cow it sucked me in so quickly. I kept dreaming about all of the characters. They are incredibly “alive.” I’m glad I saw it as an adult because as a kid it would have effed me up.


  • Meg

    It was a bad bad BAD idea to read this on my phone in bed with the lights out. Bad bad. *squirms under covers*

    I went to journalism school and did a newspaper internship in Florida, and everyone says it’s the best place to be in the news business because Weirdest News Award, Florida wins it every time. And sometimes an alligator will eat a jogger. I guess I’m pretty glad I got out of there.


  • Meg

    P.S. (I hit the enter key before I meant to, and I had more to say, darn it.) I think we should all watch that one episode of Buffy from Season 1. Yes, the one with the dummy. It will be good for us I think.


    • sj

      NOOOOOOOOOOOO! I have a hard time watching that episode. A VERY HARD TIME.


      • @MegsGranger

        Hahahaha! I KNOW. I’m so sorry. But it’s the only thing I can think of where the puppet ends up being NOT evil. So it’s kind of like, a reversal?

        But it’s also a lie…because everyone knows puppets are ALWAYS evil. OK…let’s not watch that episode ever again.


        • sj

          I know, I know – but still.

          I thought ventriloquists and their dummies were creepy before that episode, and even though it’s not the same thing, it did nothing to change my mind.

          (I usually do skip that episode when we re-watch)


  • theunreadblogger

    I have vivid memories of that movie Magic scaring the piss out of me as a little kid. No I didn’t actually see it, but I remember the posters for it were everywhere, that little dummy laughing at me, tormenting me. And clowns, yep, didn’t like those weirdos either, so needless to say I never wanted to go to the circus. I think it was a childhood intuition that behind the face paint, or the wooden dummy was some creepy adult that was severely in need of a restraining order to stay away from all children.

    I do like the Muppets and I’m a big fan of mustard though. And for some reason Senor Wences drawing a mustache on his hand and saying “S’alright” is funny to me.


  • jennabenda

    Ok, look, I’m not usually into further traumatizing people, but there are things I can’t unsee so I feel the need to make others feel my pain. This is your warning to not click unless you want to be horrified by vintage dummies:

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Breathing, breathing, breathing.

    I missed growing up with Madame, thankfully. I don’t have a whole lot of awful puppet memories, other than Falcor from The Neverending Story. His proportions are so off that I just can’t take it. Creeeepy.


  • elaine4queen

    you’ve seen the creepy dolls from barbarella, right?


    • lucysfootball

      Ugh, yes, we talked about those once a while back. I hate dolls, too. Those are terrible, because of TEETH. I don’t like dolls or puppets with sharp teeth. Too terrifying.


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