Most recently, he’s been spotted on Twitter, where he follows just one account: Big Bird’s. He was my character, he was never imaginary; he just had bad timing. Stiles: The shows weren’t necessarily for the child who’s watching whose parents are divorced, although that was part of it. Mr. Snuffleupagus said: Picked up a SAMSUNG UE55RU7100KXXU (55" Smart Ultra HD 4K LED TV with Built-in Wi-Fi) from RGBDirect for £389 last Boxing Day. “Bat Child Found in West Virginia Cave,” which ran on June 23, 1992, introduced the world to Bat Boy, a 2-foot tall, 19-pound hybrid beast-child highly sought after by government officials. But Martin P. Robinson, who has performed as Snuffy since 1980, saw it differently. We spent the day looking at newspapers throughout the world, clipping weird stories. Berger: Joe West was appointed editor and was there for a while until he got fed up with Pope. If one didn’t grab them, something else would. Berger: There are only so many checkout slots available. Berger: It was not hard to get George H.W. Kulpa: People fell in love with the image. None of us did. People would throw out headlines for a story. Ivone: We didn’t really set out to be a news parody. For a good bit of his time on Sesame Street, only Big Bird could see him. Of course, it never happened. That’s what The Onion did, which was write incredulous things with a serious tone of voice with a serious news angle. The show asked childhood development experts to help them and came up with a two-year "scheme." In the 1990s, in the Clinton years before 9/11, nothing was going on. Lang: They said, “Don’t pitch us Bat Boy stories. He was her boyfriend. The news was fake, or mostly so, but the ads were very real. Keep up-to-date on: © 2020 Smithsonian Magazine. We tried to be as harmless and as entertaining as possible. If you say Snuffy is real, then he’s real and we’d love to meet him, whenever the timing is right." Kids were able to see him, but adults couldn’t. California Do Not Sell My Info Snuffy and Big Bird try to give the arbor a more tropical feel on a cold winter day, from Episode 1624. Then it swung the other way, where the higher-ups decided they wanted completely silly stories that no one would think were real. I think I have a book of his called Let’s Pave the Rainforests. Lind: He was found in a cave, he escaped, the FBI would catch him and hold him in some undisclosed location. Calder: What we had as an advantage was that we pretty much owned the front end of supermarkets. We’d hang out at the Hawaiian after work, a local motel/bar on the beach. Even as toys have gotten more complex in recent decades, one low-tech item has held a perennial spot on holiday wishlists. Parente: Snuffy’s family was going through it in real time, right in the midst of the crisis. Parente: We want to be helpful and useful for kids as well as parents. In the early 1980s, news programs like 60 Minutes were reporting on troubling statistics involving child abuse both at home and in daycare centers. ", Near the end of the episode, cast member Bob McGrath makes a pointed comment: “From now on, we’ll believe you whenever you tell us something.”, Rubin: It was so honest. Neuschafer: We used stand-ins for Elvis with a little bit of airbrushing. The original Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street was changed because he was too frightening for children. Snuffleupagus is his species as well as his last name. Gene Pope paid good money, at least twice as much as what I was making at the time in Washington. And while both readers and journalists struggle with the concept of “fake news,” Weekly World News alumni see its legacy as something more. Some of what he trafficked in became very real.  Trivia. The name wouldn’t even exist. Berger: Pope called us all into the conference room one day after we had gotten cubicles and it had changed the atmosphere. We were baffled by it, but they always did ok. It worked so well they brought in freelancers, and then the paper began to depend more on freelancers. Kulpa: Kids love monsters, especially friendly monsters, hero monsters who will save the day for them. There was no such jet. We thought if we were fascinated, readers would be fascinated, and it proved to be correct. C. Michael Forsyth (Writer, 1996-2005): I used to read it in college and get a kick out of it. McGinness: I wouldn’t underplay the significance of the impact Weekly World News had to a generation of Americans. He was a smart guy. After Pope died, the paper got sold, got sold again, and with each sale, the emphasis on making money became paramount. It had nothing to do with reality. Berger: I don’t know why we didn’t do Bat Boy meets Elvis. Lind: Obviously space aliens were a great favorite for us. Delgado: It was kind of a big party. He asked me, “Where do you get these stories from?” The unofficial thing at the paper was to maintain the fiction at all times, so I said that we had sources. McGinness: In many instances, the stories contained journalistic sleights of hands or twists that really drove home the thematic element to the story. Humor was a secondary thing. There were these pale aliens reaching out to Bill Clinton and him with a welcoming face. Some parents get caught up in authoritarian mode and don’t have the flexibility to retract, recant, or acknowledge a kid’s reality. It was regimented and run like a business, but it was relaxed. I’m not sure why. Every once in a while, we’d decide it was time for Bat Boy or time for Elvis. It was very much marketing, very much driven by data. In this reality, Elvis was alive, alien visitors were common, weird science ruled, and a half-human, half-bat child named Bat Boy became a folk hero. And Big Bird has a child’s mind, so he was satisfied. So it went for 14 years, until the show’s producers began to hear of a growing concern among viewers: In the wake of news reports about child abuse cases, Big Bird’s implausible eyewitness testimony about his oversized friend might have real-life consequences. “We don’t sit around and make [stories] up,” Clontz said, "but if we get a story about a guy who thinks he is a vampire, we will take him at his word.". Here is what happened to Jake from the … So he and I sat down and kicked around all kinds of different things to do on black and white paper. Put it this way: It was so outrageous, it made other journalists in the office laugh. We would get numbers back on those, and the winner would become next week’s cover. If you guys aren’t having fun putting out the paper, readers won’t have fun.” The cubicles went and we went back to laughing and that fifth grade atmosphere. People were barely missing him. He wanted to turn high school bleachers into mass electric chairs. Maybe they have political beliefs they were trying to advance, but more than anything, they were trying to amuse themselves. There was concern among child psychologists that Snuffleupagas being real but not seen to be real could have a detrimental impact on school-age children, who might not We tried to put some time between stories. Calder: Eddie worked for West but it was clear [Eddie] was the driving force. You can’t give enough credit to the writers for brilliantly finding a way to make things funny for people who drink from sippy cups and people who drink from martini glasses. The proof is in the pudding. Parente: It was the first time in history we ever taped an episode and then didn't air it. Marissa Fessenden is a freelance science writer and artist who appreciates small things and wide open spaces. Bush were photographed reading the paper. Kulpa: Bat Boy was created by accident. The first story was that five senators were aliens, and we later found a few more, and it became 12. It was not as much fun. I’m 80 years old now, and it still brings a smile, and so does Eddie Clontz. It wasn’t until a 2007 Washington Post story that it was revealed. The Enquirer never would have run it. With the aid of a $25,000 down payment reportedly borrowed from the mob, Pope purchased The New York Evening Enquirer (which later became The National Enquirer) in 1952. Kulpa: Humor has got to resonate with the reader. I don’t remember the exact combination of conversations, but we finally decided, alright, let’s move. We think of it as kids coming to a play date with real friends, and it requires a real investment in how you tell a story. The reader was perfectly willing to believe it was an alien baby, just not that Hillary was holding it. There was no real method to it, just keeping track of what sold and getting a feel for what would sell the next time around. People with their feet on the desk. Derek came up with the story of Bat Boy being found in a cave in West Virginia. The Enquirer attitude was they thought it was entertaining. As one of the show’s characters, Snuffleupagus is a friend to another Muppets character named Big Bird. A woman wrote in and claimed she spotted Elvis in a McDonald’s in Kalamazoo. Uncle Phineus — referenced in The Fix-It Shop; Forsyth: It was the most fun when you stuck to whatever reality we had established. If people knew what Weekly World News was and liked it, they weren’t afraid of it. Forsyth: Sometimes reporters took on a role in the story. You never really knew—was he imaginary? The whole idea was to not really answer that, but to leave it as an open question. Ivone: All the credit for Elvis goes to Eddie. The National Enquirer was one of the first to get into supermarkets, after TV Guide and a couple of [food] magazines. In February 1989, the paper published three photos depicting serial killer Ted Bundy’s corpse after his execution. The success of Bat Boy eventually led to merchandising, a 1997 off-Broadway musical, and even talk of a feature film. It seemed amazing at the time. I couldn’t tell you. That’s when stories about aliens and the weirder stuff, “Bigfoot Tried to Eat My Little Boy,” came up. He would just make absurd claims, take absurd stances, and carry them to their logical end. Stiles: That changed the dynamic between the grownups ... Now, Big Bird wasn’t alone. When West left, Eddie took over as editor and Sal became managing editor. Kulpa: The Weekly World News philosophy was like what Stan Lee was to the original Marvel Comics. So he was a good, real friend to Bird; it’s just that no one else ever took the time to actually meet him. They were getting so many calls demanding Bat Boy be released that their switchboard was being flooded. We weren’t sure if it was a good idea or not. We had other columnists, but Ed Anger was the prize, the column that got the most responses. Stores would use the ones that could pay them the most. People believe that the truth is not so important as what they want to be the truth. Lind: We said we had a Weekly World News jet flying all over the world to get stories. That made it compelling. Weekly World News ran at least 57 “Elvis Is Alive” stories between 1988 and 1992. His full name is Aloysius Snuffleupagus, although his friends call him Snuffy. Stiles: We started getting some letters from people who worked with children who had experienced some kind of abuse, and what we were told was that they often don’t think they’ll be believed because the stories are so fantastic in their minds. He left, quit, stormed out. While Weekly World News earned a place in popular culture in the late 1980s with fictional headlines—there was even a 1986 movie directed by singer David Byrne, True Stories, loosely inspired by the paper—there were some very real forays into controversy. Aliens in the Senate. Being found in a cave is just on the other side of plausible. It would start with how mad he was, madder than Daniel Boone with a musket, madder than a computer nerd with a busted mouse. Parente: The process has been pretty much the same all these years. We called the author, did a book review, put it on the front page, and trumpeted it as a news story. There’s an emotion in that face. People who grew up in the 1980s may remember commercials promoting the “yum-yum fun” plastic appliance. I would’ve laughed at it. Davis: Sesame Street at its finest moments always found a way to include humor and to use it to help smooth things along and to help it go down in a way that was acceptable. He’s strangely vicious yet lovable. The "large and friendly monster resembling an anteater" made his first appearance in the Sesame Street's third season in 1971, but at that time only Big Bird saw him. What is it kids and parents need from us? A lot of them were true stories. Garden: It did what The Onion did, which was play everything straight. Maybe he’s half-human, half-bat.”. We were very dedicated to doing our job and doing it the right way. Sesame Street was just two years old when Jim Henson decided he wanted to incorporate a massive presence on the show: A puppet that required two men to operate. We were playing to two different readers. Lind: It was interesting between him and Sal. Davis: I do think that the result from Sesame Street was a smart one because Big Bird, as a character, is a projection of a 6-year-old. Anything that smacked of bestiality was kept out of the paper, but we didn’t go into how he was conceived. Maybe his back was bothering him. We did some publishing, book compilations, the creation of a whole online site, and made digital archives available to the public. The Peanuts branding made the toy popular with kids, and despite the elbow grease required to crank a couple of ice cubes into shaved ice, it's stuck around. He started out his column telling us how mad he is, pig-biting mad, madder than Batman with a run in his tights. Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente says: The fear was that if we represented adults not believing what kids said, they might not be motivated to tell the truth. When it’s simple and straightforward, that’s when you have your best chance. A lot of fans were kids. It’s very physical, and very warm inside his belly. Kupperberg: Most of us at this point who were coming from comic books understood how to use characters, how to spread them out over the run of a series. $22.99 $ 22. 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