When I last broached the topic of the 1934 musical “The Puppetmaster’s Regime”, my knowledge was apparently very limited. I had originally believed that all of the audience members who entered the theater on that fateful night were deceased, but I was incorrect.
One lone audience member, Alice Corley-James, who was nine years old when her grandparents took her to see the show, lives in Connecticut with her grandchildren. I gathered this information after my long investigation as to the theater which housed the unfortunate events of 1934.
I found myself on a wild goose chase after a long line of theater owners shoved me in different directions via emails or the rare private meeting. I was eventually given the home address of a little old man who shall go unnamed. This man had worked in several theaters over the past fifty or so years, and had collected many “borrowed” theater items.
One of these items was a box labeled “34-Creely/Wright”. The gentlemen claimed that he found it in the vaults of the August Wilson Theatre, but I’m not sure if he can be trusted, as his eggs seemed to be in quite a few baskets, if you understand me.
The oddly numbered box contained several sloppily organized papers, all of which detailed the long-awaited production of “The Puppetmaster’s Regime.
The most interesting of these files was a bulky folder that detailed the 1928 workshop in London, where the title of the show was originally “Morietur’s Friends”, which was later changed to “Morietur’s Puppet”. As music was refined, however, the title became “The Puppet Dressed In Black”, and was finally changed to “Puppetmaster”, which was the title they used during the actual staged readings.
The folder also contained a partial script for the show, although many pages appeared to be missing. None of the song lyrics were shown on the script, although the song titles were printed in their place, along with notes for the young actor playing the part of Morietur. Most of the notes are from the director, a man named Richard Webber…but one particular note seems a bit ominous:
“A little less vibrato on this one, Garris. Make me proud. Make us both proud. ~Mr. Sheridan”
This ‘Mr. Sheridan’ never showed up on any of the other files. He may have been an unaccredited assistant director, but something about his handwriting didn’t sit right with me.
Anyhow, some of the song titles are rather fascinating. Tunes with such titles as “Never mind me, Mister”, “Morietur was an Orphan”, and “Get A Puppet” make the production seem like any other. The characters don’t seem to be written in any strange way, much to my disappointment. It seems like a harmless little kiddie show, cutesy and upbeat. However, as the script progresses, the notes from this ‘Mr. Sheridan’ become more evident, and his messages become increasingly disturbing:
“We loved it the way you used to do it. Stop doing what we never told you to try.”
“Your cheeks puff at the end of this number, Garris. I love it. He loves it. We both love it. They love it.”
“Meet me backstage after the reading, Garris. He has a gift for you.”
“Meet us backstage again, Garris. They love to look at you.”
“Never leave us, Garris. You’re too important to Puppetmaster.”
After reading up to the scene where Morietur and his friends try to sell dolls (creatively titled “The Doll-Selling Song”), I decided to stop reading and do a bit of research on Garris Creely. I was not prepared for the sickening results:
Garris Creely was born on November 3, 1916. His mother had been a vaudeville stripteaser who lacked the funds necessary to support a child. As a result, he was taken in as a three-year-old by a man whose last name was Sheridan (His first name is recorded differently in many documents. Most people believe it to be either Carmichael or Charles.)
Sheridan was apparently a Coney Island architect, who designed elaborate funhouses and carnival freakhouses. He was also a private composer, having written many vaudeville numbers and Coney Island themes. Garris Creely-Sheridan was a semi-popular vaudeville performer from 1921 to 1923, upon which he was removed from the Sheridan home after Garris claimed to have been sexually abused by his adoptive father.
Garris was taken to live with Annabel and Henry McGregor, a middle class family living in upper Manhattan. Annabel and Henry, in an attempt to rid him of his childhood trauma, relocated to Worchester, England, with Henry McGregor’s relatives.
Coincidentally, “Puppetmaster” began rehearsals for the workshop a year after Garris Creely moved to England. The music and lyrics were still accredited with ‘anonymous’.
Now, one might assume that this is just another depressing backstory to a child performer from the early nineteen-hundreds…but it gets worse:
(unknown) Sheridan, along with being an architect and composer, was also a great patron of child pornography. He was the leader of a small group of individuals who specialized in the production of such articles. What makes this more revolting, is that from 1921 to 1923 (the years that Creely was his legal son), Sheridan housed a child-centered burlesque theatre/brothel underneath his estate. In 1924, he was placed in the Danvers State Lunatic Asylum in Massachusetts and escaped in 1926—a year before rehearsals began for “Puppetmaster”.
Now, returning to the script for “Puppetmaster”, we actually have a tangible record for both the end of Act I, as well as most of Act II.
The actual ending for Act I (as it was written), was as such:
Morietur and his friends design a puppet exactly like the one that Morietur has seen in his dreams (This was explained in a song entitled “The Puppet Dressed In Black”, which I assume was cut in the Broadway production). This puppet then comes to life and calls upon his magical powers to send Morietur and his friends into a parallel universe.
Act II begins with Morietur finding his friends (as well as Mr. Obciser), to be ‘asleep’, and dangling from puppet strings. The musical takes a more operatic theme, as we have six songs that are played one after the other, without a single interval of speech.
(The song titles being “Never mind Me, Mister (Reprise)”, “I Can Hear Them Sing”, “What Is This Place?”, “Morietur’s Soliloquy”, “Wooden Dolls”, and “The Wind and the Whisperings”.)
After this, Morietur is confronted by the odd man in black from the first act, who, in a long monologue, explains Morietur’s deep, passionate, sexual longings. Morietur realizes his clandestine emotions in a song entitled “Beautiful Music”, in which the man and Morietur apparently fall spontaneously in love, and right before they allude to the thought of intercourse, the Puppet Dressed In Black appears, jealous of Morietur’s affections. Morietur strips naked in front of the puppet, allowing for the wooden demon to seduce him. Morietur offers his soul in return for the Puppet releasing the ones closest to him.
When the children and Mr. Obciser are returned, the Puppet Dressed In Black and the old man reveal their sole motivations: to punish little children who repress the nature of their sexual responsibilities. They explain this in what would eventually become the show’s title song; “The Puppetmaster’s Regime”. Then, in a spout of randomness, the Puppet’s face turns bright red, and he shoves Morietur onto a bed shaped like a hand, apparently raping him.
In the epilogue, we see that Morietur’s friends have all been returned to the Puppet Shop, but none of them remember anything about him.
As you would assume, the workshop didn’t do well at all. Anybody with half a brain could understand why a musical about why children are obligated to have sex with adults and puppets wouldn’t work now—let alone in 1928. It was met with such a terrible response that the authorities forced the workshop to shut down, classifying it as child sex tourism. Garris Creely was temporarily removed from the McGregor household, for their approval for allowing him to participate in the production (when in reality, the cast members were contractually obligated to never speak about the show to anyone outside the production.
A week after Garris returned to the McGregors, he was kidnapped from his bedroom. This all happened the day before his birthday. After two days, the authorities found Garris at the theater that had been holding the workshops. He was found in the basement of the theater, tied to a bed, being violently raped by Sheridan. Sheridan, of course, was taken into police custody, where he died two days later of a lung infection. However, the most disturbing part about the crime scene was described by Officer James Cartwright:
“We broke through the door, and we were all fumbling down the stairs. We could hear him [Creely] screaming…we charged into the basement and saw…puppets. Puppets everywhere. All of them made to look exactly like the little Creely fella. There had to be dozens of them all over the room. Some of them were neatly dressed, like little dolls…others didn’t have any clothes on at all. It was so disgusting. I feel sick just thinking about it.”
Along with the recorded seventy-six Garris Creely-esque puppets that were found underneath the theater, authorities also found several articles of the occult in Sheridan’s makeshift apartment. He had apparently begun to worship an ancient god he called “Podominus”, a dark spirit who controlled all of life with invisible puppet strings.
Most of the investigators believed that Sheridan had created this God himself using the surplus of insanity he had retained by the time of his death. They also found a 5,023-page novel that Sheridan had written over the course of the past nine years, entitled “Puppets”. It was an extended manuscript version of “Puppetmaster” that was centered around the character of Morietur Abinces, a character obviously based on Garris Creely.
Following the events of “Puppetmaster”, the McGregors admitted Garris Creely to the West Riding Mental Hospital (now known as the High Royds Hospital) in order to repair his obvious mental damages. He was supervised by his adoptive uncle; Doctor Gregory McGregor, who personally documented his progression from 1928 to 1932, when he was released.
Other than the folder containing information for the 1928 workshop, most of the documents present in box “34-Creely/Wright” are mass jumbles of different documentations. Everything from vague police reports to scathing reviews of the workshop, and none of them are in any particular order.
The only valuable document I’ve managed to find is a list containing the names of all the audience members who attended the 1934 Broadway premiere. Seeing as how Alice Corley-James is still alive—and was seated in the fourth row of the theater—I hope to contact her soon in order to continue my investigation.