Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Horror of Talking Wood Made Flesh - or - Confessions of a Partial Pediophobic

Much like unintentional humor is often funnier than an overly crafted joke, unintentional horror can often be the most terrifying.  Trees, people on stilts, clowns, puppets, marionettes, mannequins, dolls, dummies, aging chimpanzees...  Things not created for terror, but which strike fear faster and deeper than any masked serial killer or costumed haunted house employee.

Aside from clowns, who are obviously out to chew on my entrails, I've often been unsettled by inanimate things made to look like humans, large or small, kooky or straight.  Hence, I think I suffer from a varying case of pediophobia, described by the all-knowing floating brain named Wikipedia as:
Pediophobia is a fear of dolls, or, more generally, of "false representation of sentient beings" such as mannequins or robots. The word is derived from the Greek word paidion, meaning "little child".
I don't find Chucky scary.  Too obvious, and too easy to punt.  I don't find robots scary.  Even the "evil" ones.  Too unrealistic.  But unpuntable mannequins?  Check.  Add marionettes to that list.  The strings make a good drop kick nearly impossible.  And dolls.  Not all dolls, mind you, but the super realistic ones that look like tiny pageant queens, with the sparkling, dead eyes.  Yes, they, too, could easily be sent skyward at the end of my foot, but for some reason, those fragile looking damsels don't seem to be the type to bum rush a victim.  They're creepers, these.  They sneak up soundless when you're not looking, when your punt foot is safely wrapped under the covers.  "Paidion," indeed.  

Topping the list of this dainty horror show has always been ventriloquist dummies.  Puppets are often scary, but ventriloquist dummies are the king shit of horrortown.  There's something about the way they're constructed, the largeness of the eyes, the unruly shock of brillo hair, the gaping mouth silently pantomiming the speech of the slightly odd human underneath it.  The human pulls the strings, gets the smattering of laughter, but I know that the wooden dummy isn't one.  It's plotting a show of his own.  It has lots of time to scheme inside a dark, airless box.

I'm too young to have enjoyed the black and white freak show Howdy Doody, but I'm not too young for Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, where I first encountered the raspy voiced demon witch Lady Elaine Fairchilde, with her harshly cropped, boyish hairdo, reddened nose and cheeks, and wide-set, cast eyes.  And the fact that her mouth never moves, nor even opens, just adds to the terror.
But, Lady Elaine's yapper is frozen in a smug sneer of knowing malevolence, she doesn't qualify as a true ventriloquist dummy, many of which best her in the spooky department.

Witness this motley crew of smallish wooden monsters featured below, taken from this link:
Much like Babe Ruth pointing to the fence where he'd swat his homer on the next pitch, this dummy turned to the left and called his shot.
Ironically, the dummy has his wooden paw up this man's spine.  Coincidentally, the dummy's costume-specific nickname is "Lil' Butcher"
I know what you did, The Great Lester.  I know EXACTLY what you did.  And it wasn't Great at all.
This family portrait brought to you by rictus, freakishness, and the most evil use of wood since the invention of the siege engine

Horror.  Creeps.  Awkward, thudding crawlies.  Waiting barbarism in every carved notch, tiny shoe, and odd smelling swatch of fabric.

Sleep tight!  Don't let the dolls bite!

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