The London Daily Mail has an interesting article about creepy sculptures that appear to haunt some of the playgrounds built during the Soviet era in Russia. There’s no doubt that there is a profoundly disturbing, nightmarish quality about some of the figures that could haunt little kids and cause them to avoid the playgrounds altogether.
An evil, grinning chimp with fangs? A crying woman in a blue dress? A goateed, wide-eyed doctor in a lab coat ready to plunge some unknown instrument into your skull? A hollow-eyed, distraught boy kneeling on the ground? A bizarre fight between an emaciated bull and a reptilian creature? Who came with this stuff, the psychological warfare section of the KGB?
But maybe we’re being too hard on the Soviets. Let’s face it, American playgrounds aren’t exactly free from disturbing stuff, either. Any playground that has a jungle gym, an old-fashioned merry-go-ground, and “monkey bars” is bound to present its share of childhood horror. And the decorations at some playgrounds are unsettling, too. We used to live a block away from a park we called “Yogi Bear Park” because it had a teeter-totter where the fulcrum was a covered by a cheap plastic depiction of the head of Yogi Bear. The adults recognized the figure as Smarter than the Average Bear, but to little kids it was an unknown, apparently grimacing figure wearing a bad hat and a tie. What the parents saw as Yogi, the kids perceived as a weird, lurking presence. Not surprisingly, the tykes tended to steer clear of old Yogi.
For that matter, childhood is filled with intentionally scary stuff that suggests that adults get a kick out of frightening youngsters. “Fairy tales” aren’t happy stories about fairies, but horror shows of child-eating witches, child-eating wolves, and other evil creatures ready to devour any wayward kid. Hey, kids! How about a bedtime story?
We apparently delight in terrifying children. The Russian playgrounds just bring it out into the open.