Sorry this is going up so long after the interview, I recorded our little chat and it's taken me some time to write up the transcript. The static on the recording is terrible. Also the little coffee shop near her was an hours drive from my hotel. I parked my car a few blocks away from the coffee shop and set out for it with Omega following me after five minutes so it wouldn't be clear to anyone watching the shop that he was with me. Obviously I couldn't bring my baseball bat but having learned my lesson from that encounter with the Salvation Army bellringer the pepper spray was in the pocket of my coat. I ordered a cappuccino and took a seat waiting for Mrs. Lewis to arrive. When Omega came in he ordered a black coffee and took a seat three tables down. A few minutes after he arrived Mrs. Lewis came in the door, despite being in her late 40s she's still recognizable for her role as "Janice" to anyone who watched in the 70s or the re-runs of those same episodes in the 80s. I waved to get her attention and she came over and sat across from me after ordering a large chai.
Mrs. Lewis: You're a very persuasive man Mr. Carlson . . .
Me: Please, call me James.
Mrs. Lewis: James then. You're a very persuasive man James. It takes a lot to get me to talk about that horrible show. Why are you so interested? Morbid curiosity like the last man who interviewed me?
Me: No ma'am. I don't know if you're aware, but the show . . . it's airing again. With a new girl playing Janice.
(here she pales and grips her cup tight. I'm glad that this place uses real mugs instead of paper cups inside the store, otherwise she would have crushed it and gotten soaked.)
Mrs. Lewis: I'd hoped after everything that happened on that set they'd never make another episode. It was horrific, my councilors say that some of what I remember has been distorted by time and the fear of a little girl. That it didn't really happen . . .
Me: No matter what you tell me about that show, I'm prepared to believe it.
(She gives me an appraising look)
Mrs. Lewis: For some reason I believe you are. So let me start at the beginning. I'd always wanted to be an actress so when my aunt told my mother about an audition for a local children's show I begged and pleaded until she let daddy bring me down to try out. The audition was fairly normal, but one wall of the room was taken up by a one way mirror and the director seemed to be deferring to someone one the other side of it for his casting decisions. Five other girls tried out for the part of Janice that day. Some days I wish one of them had gotten the part. Is that cruel of me?
Me: No. I understand completely. So how was it actually working on the show?
Mrs. Lewis: Terrifying. The director was a tyrant, he would blow up over the least little thing, like the time wardrobe gave me a dress the wrong shade of red he screamed at the lady responsible for twenty minutes and then told her to see Ms. Loutka for her last check, she was fired. But worse than the director were the puppets. I don't know if you know this but they were life sized. As a little girl it looked to me more like they were controlling the puppeteers than the other way around. One time they left me alone in a room with the Skin-Taker puppet and the Pirate Percy puppet . . . they tell me it was my imagination but I swear without their puppeteers even being in the room the Skin-Taker swiveled his head to look at me and his jaws . . . his jaws . . .
(here she has to take a moment to drink some of her chai and compose herself)
Me: I know this is difficult for you ma'am. Are you able to continue?
Mrs. Lewis: Y-yes. His jaws, they started to move back forth in that horrid way they did . . . and I swear I heard him hiss, too quietly for anyone outside the room to hear, that he was going to "Grind my skin." Then the Percy puppet, it . . . its arm moved on its own. It grabbed its sword and glared at the Skin-Taker puppet and they both stopped moving. I ran out of the room crying but no one would believe me. You know . . . Percy was as creepy a puppet as the rest of them, but I did always feel more comfortable around him and the Laughingstock than the rest. Almost like I thought they'ed protect me as much as they could. Other than that, well you've seen just how fucked up the episodes were I'm sure.
Me: Yes, yes I have. That actually brings up a question I've wondered about for a very long time . . .
Mrs. Lewis: The Screaming episode.
Me: Yes. If you don't want to talk about it I'll understand . . .
Mrs. Lewis: No, no. After all these years I should tell someone. Someone else should know. I'm not sure how the secret was kept for so long. That wasn't what was supposed to be filmed at all. They had planned what passed for a "normal" show for Candle Cove.
(Yes readers, she actually made air quotes here.)
Mrs. Lewis: But as we were getting ready to shoot we started hearing this odd drumming noise. Suddenly the puppeteer for Percy shrieked. He screamed out "Can you hear the drumming, drumming? She is coming, she is coming!" Soon all the puppeteers were screaming the same thing, over and over. That's when I started crying. The the puppets . . . the puppets . . . I swear they started moving on their own, just dancing around crazily and the puppeteers stopped their chant and they just screamed and screamed like they were never going to stop. Michael, the man who worked the Skin-Taker puppet, he screamed so much his throat started bleeding. Bloody foam came pouring down his chin as he screamed. I can't . . . I can't do this anymore. I have to go!
And my interview ended here because she left her mostly full chai on the table and ran from the shop. She is now refusing to take my calls. I'm still trying to contact Adrian Grimes and I'm trying to find an address for "Tower TV" where the show currently airs. What she told me during the interview has me more disturbed than ever. Although it does sound like Percy may not be as much of a villain as I thought.
You still reading this, Puppet? Seems like you were pretty protective of that Janice. You think you can keep her safe from the other freaks until I come for her?