Caroll Edwin Spinney was born in Waltham, Massachusetts, on December 26, 1933, to Chester and Margaret Spinney. His mother, a native of Bolton, England, named him Caroll because he was born the day after Christmas. He drew and painted from childhood, and developed a love of puppeteering when he saw a performance of "Three Little Kittens" at the age of five. This motivated him to purchase a monkey puppet from a rummage sale three years later and put on a puppet show utilizing the monkey and a plush snake. The following Christmas, his mother gave him a Punch and Judy puppet theater. He continued puppeteering throughout his childhood and adolescence and used his performances to raise money for college tuition.