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Haunting Sounds At Night, Kids' Puppet Show Clock By Day
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Haunting Sounds At Night, Kids' Puppet Show Clock By Day

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Haunting Sounds At Night, Kids' Puppet Show Clock By Day

Haunting Sounds At Night, Kids' Puppet Show Clock By Day
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A rooster crowing in the dead of night? A sinister ice-cream truck on the streets of Moscow? No, it's the musical automaton clock at the Puppet Theater in Russia.

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Our own Russian correspondent, Corey Flintoff, spends much of his time reporting on the activities of Vladimir Putin in Russia. But sometimes it's what's outside his own window in Moscow that captivates him.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Imagine that you're new to Moscow, this icy city somewhere near the heart of winter. Because you've just crossed eight time zones to get here, you find yourself lying awake, listening to the distant traffic and the bedside clock in the wee hours of the morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROOSTER CROWING)

FLINTOFF: A rooster - on a Russian night so cold that cock-a-doodle-doodle should be spelled out in frost? Then, just to remind you that neither you nor that insomniac chicken should be awake at this hour, a doleful bell starts to chime.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL CHIMING)

FLINTOFF: Just a bad dream, you hope, something like Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol." An ill-digested bit of cheese - or so you think - until the music starts.

(MUSIC)

FLINTOFF: The next morning, my daughter says it sounded like the song a creepy ice cream truck would play as it trundled around the dark streets of Moscow. So who buys ice cream in the middle of the night, Count Dracula? Then there's the ending of the song, a series of squeaks like little ghouls swinging on a graveyard gate.

I'm haunted by those sounds, so much so that I almost think I'm hearing them again during the next few days. But the roar of Moscow traffic is so loud that it would drown out Godzilla, much less some half-frozen rooster. It was a mystery, until one cold but sunny day when I happened to walk past a crowd of third-graders on a sidewalk in front of the Obraztsov Puppet Theater. It was noon, and they were gazing expectedly at a large bronze sculpture on the wall - a clock in the shape of a ramshackle castle. It was topped with a large bronze...

(SOUNDBITE OF ROOSTER CROWING)

FLINTOFF: ...And hung with...

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL CHIMING)

FLINTOFF: And when the music began, 12 doors flapped open and 12 mechanical puppets, animals from Russian fairytales, waved and cavorted. The kids cavorted too, until the music stopped and it was time to dash inside to warm up and catch the puppet show.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHIMES)

FLINTOFF: In sunlight, with laughing Russian kids, it was charming and cheerful. The puppet theater is about a block from my apartment. There are times in the middle of the night when I still hear that. But now, there's something familiar and comforting about it. And then the music comes along to put me back to sleep. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow.

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