Movies like "Poltergeist" and "Child's Play" made audiences intimately familiar with haunted dolls. The idea of something so innocent being possessed by a ghost captured the popular imagination. With the advent of the Internet, haunted dolls have become a thriving cottage industry. A search on the phrase “haunted doll” on popular site eBay yields 1,430 listings, ranging in price from $1 to almost $8,000.
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But there may be some fact behind this horror fiction. Here are stories of three dolls that are allegedly possessed by spirits or demons — all of which are housed in museums so that the curious can see these dolls for themselves.
Probably the most famous of dolls thought to house a ghost is a Raggedy Ann doll named Annabelle. She has a colorful history.
The story goes that Annabelle was a gift from a mother to a grown daughter named Donna in 1970. Almost from the start, unexplained phenomena occurred in Donna's home. Initially, Annabelle seemed able to move about on her own. She would be found in a different place in the apartment from where Donna had left her earlier that day. Next came disturbing notes written in an unfamiliar hand on paper that was not known to be in the apartment. Some of the notes asked for help and some were more obscure in meaning.
Donna brought in a paranormal investigator who said that Annabelle was the home to the spirit of a young girl who may have been buried beneath Donna's apartment.
As time went on, the puzzling events continued and even escalated. A visitor to the apartment woke up one night to find Annabelle attempting to strangle him. For some unknown reason he was unable to move during the attack and so he eventually lost consciousness due to lack of oxygen. The visitor later claimed to have been assaulted by an invisible force that left large red welts on his upper torso.
Noted demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren were eventually called in and determined that Annabelle was indeed possessed by a supernatural entity. Annabelle now resides in the Warren's occult museum in Monroe, Connecticut, in a locked glass case featuring warnings not to open the case to prevent Annabelle and her ghost from wandering the world. Two movies, "The Conjuring" (2013) and "Annabelle" (2014), are loosely based on Annabelle's story.
Another allegedly haunted doll named Mandy is currently housed in a glass enclosure at the Quesnel & District Museum and Archives in British Columbia.
Older than Annabelle, Mandy dates from the early 20th century and is a porcelain doll now believed to have been made somewhere in Europe.
She was donated to the museum in 1991 after a long life that still includes various types of poltergeist activity: a baby is heard crying but no baby can be found; food and objects are moved around the museum by no human hand; footsteps are heard when nobody is in a particular room; electrical equipment goes haywire; and objects housed in the same case as Mandy are mysteriously found outside the glass enclosure.
The museum plays up the story of Mandy in an effort to bring in tourists hoping to see something supernatural. The museum's website features an entire page documenting the history and current phenomena surrounding their most famous exhibit.
The main story concerning this male doll is that it was gifted to Florida artist Robert Eugene Otto in 1906, while Otto was just a child. There is a dubious claim that the doll was brought into the Otto family by a disgruntled servant who was also a practitioner of voodoo.
Not long after entering the Otto home, the doll Robert began supernatural mischief. He would suddenly appear in places where he had not previously been left and was, according to young Otto, responsible for rooms being suddenly trashed and strewn with ephemera.
Eventually tiring of Robert's behavior, young Otto put the doll up into the attic, but that did nothing to stop the doll's activities. Mysterious footsteps and a child's laughter were heard in empty rooms.
The doll was eventually donated to the Key West Martello Museum. The museum staff report that Robert has not ceased his paranormal activities. As with Mandy, lights go on and off by themselves — and mysterious dirt will appear on the bottom of Robert's shoes as if he had been walking around the museum after hours.
These are just three stories of the myriad tales of haunted dolls. With the kind of popularity these dolls have created, the legacies of dolls intertwined with ghostly visitors will only continue to flourish.