The DIA’s Creepiest Exhibit

Remember a few weeks ago I promised a creepy Halloween post? Let’s get right to it because I’ve been saving this picture on my phone for a few weeks and whenever I see it I get the heebie-jeebies. And worse than that, it makes me say things like “heebie-jeebies.”

Chucky’s got NOTHING on this trio!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!! How scared are you on a scale of 1-10? Ten? Me too. Happy Halloween!

These beastly puppets were on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Carla and I almost missed them, but they’re positioned next to the bathroom in the basement as not to scare the field trip kids, I’m sure. The proximity to the bathroom is handy in case you need to throw up after seeing them, or put a wet paper towel on your forehead lest you faint.

Punch and Judy have deep roots. The first Mr. Punch dates back to 1662! The marionettes’ show stuck around for years and even George Washington reportedly went to a show or two. Eventually the characters became hand puppets (less creepy than marionettes? Or more-so? Discuss.) Punch and Judy were the staple characters of course, but the supporting characters were quite diverse. There was a crocodile, clown, hangman, skeleton, and lawyer. (Insert lawyer joke of your choice here.) The Devil (seen above) was a popular character who often came to battle Mr. Punch and threaten the audience (in real life, and then I’m sure later, as they tried to sleep.)

As if this weren’t bizarre enough, common plotlines include the hangman showing up for Mr. Punch only to be tricked into putting his own head in a noose. Fun for the whole family, right? Apparently in the 21st century they finally did away with the hitting of the baby, but before that the DIA info board explains, “In one storyline, Punch accidentally kills his baby, then attempts to conceal the deed by killing Judy and others.” Are you also wondering how we moved from this kind of entertainment to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse?

As you can see, Punch often carried a stick for beating pretty much everyone, which is where the term “slapstick” comes from. The puppets’ features are bright and exaggerated so they can be seen on stage from far away. The DIA did not post the artist’s name who made these particular puppets. My guess is they simply rose from the ashes one Halloween night.

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