R.I.P. Billie Hayes, the wicked witch known as Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf

The Broadway veteran was 96 years old.

The Everett Collection

Sid and Marty Krofft sure had active imaginations. In a span of a few years, the brothers created some of the surreal children's programming in television history. It began with The Banana Splits for Hanna-Barbera in 1968, but the two stepped out on their own a year later with H.R. Pufnstuf. The similarly minded series The BugaloosLidsvilleSigmund and the Sea Monsters, and Land of the Lost followed.

But H.R. Pufnstuf set the mold, with its youthful protagonist, floppy costumed creatures, and psychedelic fantasy. Jimmy (Jack Wild) was the hero, aided by the titular star H.R. Pufnstuf, a bulbous dragon. But every story needs a villain. Enter Wilhelmina W. Witchiepoo.

With her iconic cackle, Witchiepoo is undoubtedly implanted in the memory of any kid who grew up in the era. Billie Hayes, a Broadway veteran, portrayed the witch. She became such an icon (in a shockingly short amount of time — Pufnstuf only aired for 17 episode) that Hayes essentially played iterations of the same character on other shows. See the Bewitched episode "Hansel and Gretel in Samantha-Land," for example. She was also Weenie the Genie in Lidsville.

Those of an older generation might remember her better as Mammy Yokum, the scrappy matriarch of Li'l Abner. Hayes played the character, which was born in the popular newspaper comic strips, both on stage and in the 1959 film. Here she is in character.

The Everett Collection

Born and raised in Illinois, Hayes continued to work in children's television for decades, into her 90s, as recently as 2016, when she voiced a character on Transformers: Rescue Bots. On April 29, she died of natural causes, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 96.

Sid and Marty Krofft — still working in television to this day — honored her on Twitter with this touching tweet.

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Michael 37 months ago
I always liked Witch Hazel better, but she was only in the movie.

But I must admit, Witchiepoo's makeup certainly made her unattractive. Billie Hayes looks nothing like her.
Michael 37 months ago
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I think he means Witch Hazel from the movie Pufnstuf. Played by Cass Elliot.
vinman63 Gumbysstuntdouble 37 months ago
Case Elliott wasn’t she with the Mama and the Papas
Michael stephaniestavr5 37 months ago
Yes, "Pufnstuf", the movie. Martha Raye plays Boss Witch, I recall a witch convention. Cass Elliott later had a special "Don't Call Me Mama Anymore".

She sings a song in the film that always seemed like a variation on "Make Your Own Kind of Music"
Gumbysstuntdouble vinman63 37 months ago
She also acted in this movie.
Gumbysstuntdouble vinman63 37 months ago
I misread your response earlier. Yes, Cass Elliot was part of The Mamas and The Papas.
Rick 38 months ago
Great talent. She also brought Witchie-poo to Paul Lynde's famous Halloween special.
denny 38 months ago
As a 4 or 5 year old, Lidsville was scary. Just realized recently that Butch Patrick played the kid, and of course Charles Nelson Reilly and Billie Hayes as the witch. I do remember the Hansel and Gretal Bewitched, but now am going to have to view it again to see Billie.

RIP Billie
denny 37 months ago
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denny stephaniestavr5 37 months ago
I just went and watched an episode on YouTube. Maybe this explains my hatred of top hats:)
denny 37 months ago
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denny stephaniestavr5 37 months ago
You know they have that big top hat that he falls in. The episode I watched was the one with the beanstalk.
Corey 38 months ago
RIP Billie you made my Saturdays with HR Pufnstuf. Billie Hayes much like Margaret Hamilton was a children's advocate.
VaughnBaskin 38 months ago
I Think MeTV should bring both H.R. Pufnstuf and Lidsville to their Summer Of Me lineup soon, for Billie.
KellyTenace VaughnBaskin 38 months ago
kb7rky 38 months ago
This saddens me to no end.

Good night, funny lady, and rest well.
Barry22 38 months ago
RIP. She will be buried alongside Freddy the Flute.
sputnik_57 38 months ago
I remember Witchiepoo and Puffin'Stuff. I always connect the Banana Splits with this show for some reason. Billy Hayes reminded me of the guy who wrote "Midnight Express" which became a movie. requiescat in pace.
VaughnBaskin sputnik_57 38 months ago
That's Pufnstuf Sputnik not Puffin'Stuff!
sputnik_57 38 months ago
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sputnik_57 stephaniestavr5 37 months ago
Well, ex-cuse me! Maybe I should have just said "ding-dong the wicked witch is dead" and left it at that!
MrsPhilHarris 38 months ago
Was it Witchiepoo that sang “Oranges smoranges! Who said? Oranges smoranges! Who said? Orange smoranges! Who said there ain’t no rhyme for oranges?”. Which for some weird reason got stuck in my head last week.
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lynngdance texasluva 37 months ago
I’ll be there! Can’t make any promises of how good the drawing will be though Lol 😆.
texasluva lynngdance 37 months ago
If you wish to do Oceans Eleven instead you can. Both are bonus movies.
vinman63 texasluva 37 months ago
Sad ending to Carmen Miranda her last appearance was on the Jimmy Durante where she may have had an minor heart attack. Later that night she died.
texasluva vinman63 37 months ago
I saw last week she had died in 1955 and thought "She was not that old". I did not follow up and see why until you just explained. Things happen so suddenly and we lose someone special. Carmen did many things to make others enjoy what there is of life. Also note that one of our quiz guessers drew a pic of her with only a few hours notice (lynngdance). We have a movie quiz for the past year most Friday nights. Everyone is welcomed whether they guess or not. The movies are free at a location open to anyone. The best Movie Classics of all time along with others I am able to locate. You can search my name for more info.
Peter_Falk_Fan 38 months ago
Does anyone remember her guest starring on Bewitched? She plays the witch on the episode "Hansel and Gretel in Samanthaland" She had one of, if not the best witch's laugh ever, IMHO. RIP Billie Hayes.
Peter_Falk_Fan 38 months ago
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No, I'm sorry I missed that. Since it was on Friday night, I was probably at the football game. But I do see that it's on YouTube. I'll have to check it out. Thanks.
musicman37 stephaniestavr5 38 months ago
The Paul Lynde Halloween Special was considered lost for many years; it was rediscovered, remastered, and is now on DVD.
denny musicman37 38 months ago
It was on Amazon Prime video as well.
Mike 38 months ago
Am I the only one who remembers when Billie Hayes when she was on General Hospital?
This was back in the early '80s, when the Cassidines showed up to make trouble for Port Charles.
GH introduced Robert Scorpio, then of the World Security Bureau, who came in to save everybody's bacon - and stayed around for years afterward, but that's another story ...
Scorpio answered to a sweet-looking little old lady named O'Riley, who was tougher than most of the male leads on the show.
That was Billie Hayes, wearing the least amount of makeup in her whole career - looking pretty much like her real self, and stealing the show from Tristan Rogers every time.
The General Hospital producers made one of their biggest mistakes when they killed off Agent O'Riley, way too soon (a year or so later, they brought back Billie Hayes for a flashback, but the damage was done...)

Anyway, if you check out GH clips from the '80s on YouTube, you might get a glimpse of what Billie Hayes really looked like - and if you do, be prepared for a surprise ...
MrsPhilHarris Mike 38 months ago
I know someone that used to watch GH back then. I bet she remembers.
KMT6600 38 months ago
I remember all the shows grew up with them all
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Jeremy 38 months ago
The moment I saw Witchiepoo's photo on this website, I said, "Don't tell me she's dead!"
Jeremy 38 months ago
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