Of all the things I find spooky (and the list is long) there are a couple that really give me the willies – large dolls with eyes that roll around (think Tommyknockers) and automatons whose slightly jerky, twitchy movements seem a precursor to coming alive (think Blade Runner). So why on earth did I find myself in the distinctly spooky but nevertheless marvellous little Musée d’Automates in Limoux last week? Blame it on The Visitor.
The museum is housed in an unprepossessing ex-industrial type unit not far from the centre of town and run by an elderly lady (who might well have modelled for some of the characters found within) and her son and daughter.
Once inside the building, forget its origins – you enter a world of fantasy, magic and ghostly apparitions. The automatons range from small to massive and yet for me, each one has a spooky, sinister quality. There are times when the flesh of their faces seems to flush with warmth; expressions change; their eyes flash and, unnervingly, on occasions look straight at you. They are arranged in tableaux; some depict characters from fairy tales; some depict medieval French characters and yet others come straight from the imagination.
I know it is all done with lighting, mechanics, fantastic costumes and weird Bartok-esque music but it still gives me the shivers. I look at some of them; they seem almost human and I wonder if there isn’t some poor trapped soul within.
Enough of my shivers, have a look at these photos, marvel at the detail of the costumes and let me know if any of them will keep you company in your dreams.
P.S. All photos taken by The Visitor aka June Berridge who is a far more accomplished photographer than I.