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.
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.