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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Welcome to Uncanny Valley

Pretty creepy, eh?  The young lady above is a perfect example in what is known as "The Uncanny Valley".  The Uncanny Valley is a scientific theory that states we become more uncomfortable the more human-like something appears.  The more human something appears the more horrified we are by things that are "off" or unhuman.

See it all makes perfect sense.  But simply put: facsimiles of of people always seem to possess a creepiness that we don't understand.

I remember feeling this uneasiness as a child.  My father used to take me to the Milwaukee Public Museum.  There is a fantastic section known as "Old Milwaukee" where the streets of turn of the century Milwaukee are recreated.  I still love to visit this place, but as a child it filled me with a certain feeling of dread.  The scariest part was the grandma.  There was a mannequin of an old lady sitting on porch.  For some reason I was terrified of her.  I would hid behind my dad and clung to him for dear life, afraid to look her in the eye.  She's still there, and still just a little bit creepy. 

As an adult who is obsessed with taking pictures, one of my fascinations was capturing this idea of the Uncanny Valley.  I love taking pictures of creepy mannequins, wax figures and dolls.  The creepier the better.  Here is a small introduction to my collection.

This photo was taken at the Scottish Tartan Museum in Franklin, NC.  Now the Scottish Tartan museum is an excellent historical museum, full of great information on Scottish heritage.  It is however, also a bomb shelter full of creepy mannequins.

Sometimes even well done wax figures can give use the creeps.

That's actually a fairly lifelike rendition of Barbara Walters, but there is still something about it that makes us uneasy.  The blank look in her eye, the odd shiny skin.  The parts of her that look human make the parts of her that inhuman look all the more disturbing.

All though there is something to be said about creepiness of celebrity figures that are less accurate.  They can be equally  disturbing.

Great Scott

Here is one of my favorites.  This Mannequin choir used to exist at Santa's Land Amusement park in Cherokee, NC.  When you pushed the button garbled choir music was piped in as the mannequins sparsely moved their arms and heads.  Sadly, it is gone and I do not have a video.

Also in Cherokee is this chemically treated gentlemen.

At the Natural Bridge Wax Museum in Natural Bridge, VA you will find this monstrosity, which I like to call "Pinocchio's Midlife Crisis"

One of my favorite Wax Museum's is Musee Conti in New Orleans, LA.  The figures are very old and look like a bunch of dead bodies propped up.

Here is a pirate wench at a miniature golf course in Gatlinburg, TN that looks like someone's drunk aunt.

Of course there is no reason while you need a full body to be truly creepy.  These disembodied faces prove that.

There is nothing like finding out that a Mannequin is staring at you from above.

To this day I continue my search for the Uncanny Valley and its denizens.  I will be scouring Roadside attractions, mini golf courses and wax museums as long as I am able.

The Carpetbagger

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