Pelham Puppet Machine

My nightmarish memories of the Pelham Puppet Machine!

Last week I shared a video featuring an Aladdin’s Castle arcade as well as the memories of a local arcade of my youth called Land of Oz. In that post I mentioned there was a puppet machine in the back of the arcade, big enough that it took up the back wall. I have since learned this was a Pelham Puppet Machine. To be honest I hadn’t ever tried to find any information about it even though my introduction to it is appropriate enough for the Retroist’s month-long celebration of Halloween.

I was probably six years old when I first entered the arcade known as Land of Oz, drawn in the by the wonderful neon lights that resembled a rainbow and lead to a neon lit pot of gold. There was an elderly man sitting on a stool by the entrance and I’m not sure but it might have been the same guy up to the day that the place closed in the later part of the 80s.

So I walk into the arcade and at that time, the machine was in fact in the front of the arcade, next to some shooting mechanical games and racing offerings. This elderly man sees me looking at the Pelham Puppet machine and smiles at me, leaning down and saying “If you don’t feed ’em a quarter, they’ll eat you up!”.

Suddenly the puppets started to look a little more frightening.
Pelham Puppets - Frog

Pinocchio says: "I've got strings to hold you down...and swallow your soul!"

Pinocchio says: “I’ve got strings to hold you down…and swallow your soul!”

Pelham Puppets - Professor

Watch the Pelham Puppet Machine in Action

I did indeed take my precious quarter and feed the puppets and I would continue to do so every single time I went into Land of Oz. When you dropped your quarter the group of marionettes would begin to move to a song, sometimes it sounded like an ancient tune and other times I swear it was something by Alvin and the Chipmunks. Even with that rather frightening introduction to the Land of Oz I still had so many great memories of the place…just not the Pelham Puppet Machine.


Editor at Retroist
Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

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3 thoughts on “My nightmarish memories of the Pelham Puppet Machine!

  1. Lance says:

    It is even more spooky/creepy when you look closely in the video and realize that Pinocchio has danced so long and hard over that spot that the texture has been rubbed off. What kicks up a notch or three is that he is dancing with only one leg. What a cruel puppetmaster to make him sacrifice his body for your measly quarter. If any of those are going to come to life, my money is on Pinocchio. He’s going to leave a trail of one legged corpses behind…

  2. Lance…I hadn’t noticed that in the video and thanks to your wonderful descriptions I’m going to have nightmare tonight of that Pinocchio, not mad that someone didn’t feed their machines, angry that he had to dance until his leg fell off. He’s wandering the halls of that Mall right this second searching for my scent. ;)

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