Contortionist Troy James Talks His Journey From Hobbyist to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark's Scariest Monster

The Jangly Man.
Image: Lionsgate

One of the most frightening things in the recent adaptation of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark might be the Jangly Man, a character adapted from the story “Me Tie Doughty Walker”, who can detach his limbs and reassemble his own body.

Playing the Jangly Man, in the latest of an impressive series of horror appearances, is contortionist Troy James, who has made his living in Hollywood off of his unique ability to make his body do things that most bodies won’t. Talking to Entertainment Weekly, James discussed his work on Scary Stories and his path from hobbyist performer impressing his friends to go-to horror monster, a journey that began with a performance on America’s Got Talent.

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“I was incredibly nervous,” James said, about that first outing. “I did have a regular corporate job, and I did not have a background of performing on a stage in front of lots of people. It was taking something that was just a silly fun hobby of mine to the performance/talent level. But it turns out enough people liked it, and I always got the feedback ‘this is really creepy, you should do horror movies,’ so here I am!”

So far as doing horror movies, though, he did have a bit of relevant experience that helped him find his creepy “voice”: haunted houses.

“The flexibility is something I was just born with innately. Since I was a little kid it was something I was able to do,” he explained. “Then it became a cool party trick, something I would show off after work, but putting myself through undergrad was the first time I used my talent in a spooky way, so to speak. I worked at a theme park, and every October the theme park turned into a haunted theme park, ‘Halloween Haunts’ they called it. So I got to put on a costume and fake blood and run around scaring as many people as I could. I found out very quickly that moving in an unnatural way, the way I do, is really good at unsettling people.”

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As for his latest role, in Scary Stories, it was a unique delight for James, as, like many people, he grew up with the book. “I loved the books, as all kids our age did. We took them out of the library, and they were the most-requested books; dog-eared and floppy with a loose spine because we all loved those books so much.”

The books, it seems, ended up just as flexible as the Jangly Man himself. You can see Troy James’s performance in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, out in theaters now.

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About the author

Julie Muncy

io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.