Are You Afraid of Puppets?

Are You Afraid of Puppets?

Are you afraid of puppets? Many people find puppets creepy and this post intends to delve into why.

are you afraid of puppets?

Fear of Puppets

If you are one of those truly frightened of puppets, you will be delighted to know there is a name for it: Pupaphobia. (Pupaphobia…really. Why not call it Puppetphobia, although it’s probably less weird than classifying the fear of clowns as “Coulrophobia.” Pupaphobia at least starts with the letters P-U-P.) Symptoms of Pupaphobia are: extreme anxiety, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, excessive sweating, nausea, dry mouth, confusion, lack of focus, irritability, shaking, feeling powerless, headaches, and avoidance. Most people do not fall into the category of this phobia, but rather just find puppets creepy.

are you afraid of puppets?

Reasons for Fearing Puppets

Interestingly, researching this subject, little information surfaces on possible reasons for fearing puppets. Some information exists on defining Pupaphobia, and some organizations on dealing with phobias, but a minimal amount published on why puppets are considered creepy by many humans. Ranging from extreme phobia to just uneasiness about puppets, these are some of the existing theories:

  • Childhood Trauma—Terrible nightmares involving puppets, encountering a frightening situation during a puppet performance, or seeing an intentionally scary puppet.

are you afraid of puppets?

  • Illusion of Life—No apparent human control of a puppet can scare people. An inanimate thing comes alive.
  • Uncanny and the Uncanny Valley—Psychologist Sigmund Freud and robotics professor Masahiro Mori hypothesize similar causes. Mori proposed, around 1970, when a robot or puppet becomes more and more human in appearance and mannerisms, it is perceived as barely human, arousing a feeling of uncanniness and revulsion. As the robot or puppet gets nearer perfect replication of being human, that uneasiness wanes, until acceptance is reached. Frankenstein is creepier than Godzilla.
  • Intentionally Creepy—Some memorable puppets were created to be scary or creepy for entertainment in movies and literature. Mission accomplished: they are terrifying.

are you afraid of puppets?

  • Supernatural—For thousands of years puppets have been utilized to mystify populations to believe in the presence of gods. Evidence exists suggesting prehistoric shamans used puppets for propaganda. Puppets were apparitions of the spirit world.

The Truth About Puppets

So why are some people afraid of puppets? Although I enjoy connecting human behavior to factors derived from human evolution, in this case I think we can rule that out. There just weren’t any tribes of prehistoric puppets that our early forebearers would have encountered. Archeologist have yet to uncover any. The truth concerning the creepiness of puppets lies in a combination of the theories listed above. The foundation for the fear is a mix of Professor Masahiro Mori’s “Uncanny Valley,” and “Intentionally Creepy.”

are you afraid of puppets?

For insight, I need to play the “Barbie” card. Imagine creating a puppet from a Barbie Doll. We’ll use the famous Barbie herself. Whether using the older curvy edition, or the newer trimer version, the results are the same…NOT CREEPY!!! Most puppets fashioned are made to look creepy, either intentionally or unintentionally. Maybe the creator or puppet customer is thinking “let’s make it look funny” but somehow the product ends up with a distorted facial features and/or body, the result looking hideous. Not funny to most people. It’s just plain creepy. Additionally, the multitude of puppets designed in the film industry for the horror genre and the images stuck in one’s brain concerning puppets is not pleasant…and expose a child to such a puppet at an early age and the emotion felt for puppets imprints on their brain for life…puppets are creepy. Be afraid of puppets. That can be fun for some who get kicks being frightened, but alternatively could lead to a phobia for a few.

are you afraid of puppets

Puppets Ranking in the Creepy Index

The following is a ranking for “creepiness.” The highest ranked three was obtained through my research. Those ranked below those were obtained intuitively:

  1. Clowns—No dispute with clowns in first place. They’re not funny and most are creepy.
  2. Dolls—I disagree with second place for dolls. Although some are ghoulish, most are not creepy. I’ll bring up the Barbie card again.

are you afraid of puppets?

  1. Puppets—I would put puppets in second place, but this is the official ranking by “them.”
  2. Robots—Only the deranged ones. Good robots are okay.
  3. Cats—There are so many cute kitties in the world, along with a multitude of cat lovers, but there are cats that hang with witches. Those cats possess supernatural capabilities. They are especially creepy on Halloween.
  4. Children—Perspective by a small portion of the world’s population so it must be mentioned.
  5. Giant Bunnies—There actually is at least one sci-fi movie with giant bunnies as the monsters. I watched it. Didn’t work for me. I laughed.

Notes:

For further reading:

Pupaphobia

Essay on why people fear puppets by Lucia Pete

Interview with Masahiro Mori on the Uncanny Valley

I am a fiction writer, but research topics and provide posts like the one above for enlightenment and entertainment. If you liked it, please take a look at some of my other posts and my home page, R. A. Andrade. This post was prompted by the following passage in my upcoming novel, Three Remain:

After a few moments, Glen prodded, “We’ll let’s hear it.”

“What do you want to hear?”

“Come on Sunshine! Stop playing games. What is your name? Where do you live? What color is your toothbrush? Do you have a dog? Do you like beets? Are you afraid of puppets?”

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