A couple of weeks ago we went to the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, to see their annual experimental puppetry theatre. The show was far more incredible than the puppet shows I’m accustomed to. I liked the first show that was a mix of live-action, marionettes and Turkish shadow puppets. The story was that a Turkish hitman was commissioned to kill a pasha and bring back his head. He rode a great distance to reach this pasha and once he arrived, sword poised for decapitation, the pasha fell miserably to his knees and started weeping. The hitman dispatched him and carried his head back in a burlap bag. But every night of his return trip, the hitman was plagued with horrible nightmares of this pasha, and the sound effects for the nightmares were a looped recording of the pasha’s weeping, overlaid with sickening distortion. The hitman was so plagued that he opened the burlap bag, took out the severed head and carved up the pasha’s face so that instead of being contorted into a weeping visage of agony, it was instead a grotesque, Joker-like smile. He thought maybe the happy-looking head would put a stop to the nightmares. Upon receiving the head, the sultan who sent out the hitman claimed that this was not the pasha, and that the hitman had been bribed by the pasha to kill another man and send it back in the pasha’s place- it was obvious the head was an imposter because it was so carved up and disfigured as to be rendered unrecognizable. The hitmen was sentenced to death by beheading.
In addition to the impressive show, the puppet center also had a fair-sized puppet museum, most of the puppets being Jim Henson’s. Big Bird was there, as were the Pigs in Space and those little otters from the Jug Band Christmas special. So was a Skeksis from The Dark Crystal, and my favorite- several characters from Labyrinth, including Sir Didymus, the guardian of the bridge at the Bog of Eternal Stench. One puppet from Labyrinth, though, was noticeably absent. Where was Hoggle?
The story of what happened to Hoggle has become increasingly internet-famous, but I’ll tell it again here. Most of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth puppets are at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, but Hoggle is in Scottsboro, Alabama; at the Unclaimed Baggage Center.
In 2005, Hoggle arrived at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, theirs to keep apparently. However, he arrived in a frightful deteriorated condition.
A dollmaker was assigned to restore him and Hoggle’s been living at the Unclaimed Baggage Center ever since. So over Memorial Day weekend, Jon and I made a trip out to see him!
What I don’t understand is how the people who found Hoggle can’t find it in themselves to donate him to the Jim Henson wing of the puppetry museum. Obviously it’s Hoggle and even though it was lost, it’s not hard to identify the institution (and the family) that can lay claim to this particular piece of lost baggage. It’s just so silly that all the other puppets from Labyrinth are in Atlanta and Hoggle is way out here.
He looks decent now, but I’m disappointed to report that the Unclaimed Baggage Center is a crappy place to visit otherwise. They claim that all the clothes they have were specially selected by the people packing them, therefore they’re especially attractive and stylish clothes. They weren’t. The place looked like any Salvation Army I’ve ever seen, except that Hoggle was hanging out up front.
Not very exciting, huh?
I imagined that the Unclaimed Baggage Center would be full of bizarre souvenirs and other assorted oddities, but the truth is, most people who are packing suitcases pack fairly boring and ordinary items. There were a ton of sunglasses, CDs, cameras, thousands of books, a lot of flip-flops and beach hats. The Unclaimed Baggage Center also boasted about how cheap everything was, but for a second-hand store, it was crazily overpriced. Four dollars for a paperback? $89 for a used Kindle without a charger? I tried on a number of beach hats, and finally settled on one I liked. It was $185.00 and I did a double, then a triple take. The other hats ranged from $3-$10, but this one was $185.00 for some reason. The website says that a lot of the designer clothes have been appraised to find a fair price but $185? It’s USED!
We still had a good time. We suspected we were going to be disappointed by the Unclaimed Baggage Center (except for Hoggle), so we planned to visit the Space and Rocket Center in Hunstville, AL right afterward. That’s another post.