There is probably no one reading this who has not had a disturbing experience at one time or another involving that most simple and supposedly benign object, a child’s doll.
Ask around at any party where the conversation turns to the supernatural and someone will inevitably pipe up with a creepy story about an encounter with a doll that seemed to have a life and will all its own. Invariably, the doll was the object of fear and loathing in someone’s home until the children were old enough to abandon such things. If they were lucky, the doll was given away – maybe it was passed on to some unfortunate cousin; if they weren’t so lucky, the doll was relegated to storage in the labyrinthine darkness of the attic where it often became to object of even more terror.
Dolls, simple child’s playthings, primitive or highly stylized, have been around for centuries. Every culture seems to create these little imitations of humans and all seem to do so for the same purpose: to provide companionship, entertainment and comfort to our children.
With such innocent and well-intentioned origins, what could possibly bother, or, in some cases even terrify us about these loving childhood companions?
For reasons unknown, dolls seem to attract spirits. More troubling, dolls seem to become easily imbued with the spirit of the child to whom it most closely connected. And there is ample evidence to at least provoke suspicion that some dolls stay connected via this childhood link for years, even generations after their childhood playmate has grown to adulthood or succumbed to early death.
Other dolls are created for the enjoyment of the collector, and although they are never “played with” in the traditional sense they still can become objects of devotion and even obsession. Any avid doll collector will tell you that it can be hard to pass up the opportunity to purchase or obtain a beautiful, desirable doll. These dolls are no less loved and the emotional connection is no less intense; often these collectible dolls are the objects of the most terrifying haunted events.
Author Anne Rice is one collector of such magnificent dolls and they can be seen on display at her Doll Museum in New Orleans. Once the site of the St. Elizabeth’s Orphanage, the building now houses Rice’s vast collection and other artistic works. It is interesting to note, however, that Rice once stated that she moved her doll collection to the centralized museum location because it basically bothered her to have them around her house. Prior to the opening of the museum, when she and husband Stan Rice were making one last walk-through, Rice is quoted as having said she “wouldn’t like to be locked in here all night with all of them [the dolls].” Not only are most of the dolls allegedly haunted, they are now housed in a verifiably haunted location.
Haunted dolls are also extremely popular items at online auction sites such as eBay and bidZ, however, not every doll or toy featured on these sites can be verified as truly being haunted. Granted, some of the more beat up models featured are disturbing in their own right, whether or not they are actually haunted, but it should be obvious to the discerning reader that some dolls are so decidedly bogus you can practically smell it over your broadband connection!
This is not to suggest that the haunted authenticity of every doll or toy presented for sale is to be questioned. Many legitimate paranormal investigators and ghost hunters often place items up for sale that they are willing to part with for the sake of furthering research and study. Others, it is true, are quite obviously victims of hauntings who have unknowingly come by a doll or toy, often through inheritance or estate sale, that has proceeded to haunt and otherwise terrify its new owners. These people genuinely want to get rid of the item and will usually place only a small reserve on it, willing to part with it the moment the auction time is up.
But obviously there are many others who for one reason or another feel it necessary to either bilk individuals out of hard-earned cash or make fools out of paranormal enthusiasts. These are the folks with the long, meandering, “true life” stories of “real hauntings” by the doll and who have to get rid of the dreaded object “at any cost,” so long as it’s high.
They continue to get away with it because, after all, you can’t really PROVE a doll or toy is haunted. Or can you?
Many of you are already acquainted with Robert, the lifelong companion of painter Robert Eugene (called Gene) Otto, who received the three-foot-tall straw companion from his Bahamian nanny when he was just a small boy. The doll would be with him for the remainder of his life.
There are a number of stories about the nanny, obviously the pivotal figure in this doll drama. Many say that, although she dearly loved young Gene, she was mistreated and abused by his parents on a regular basis. Some versions of the tale have the nanny practicing the dark Voodoo arts and giving the doll to Robert out of revenge for her ill treatment, but there is nothing to support this being the case. Evidently, Gene received the doll, said to be a replica of him, as a gift of love. He promptly named it Robert.
To say that Robert stayed by Gene’s side is an understatement, for Gene was never without the little plaything. He even dressed it in his own clothes and spent hours on end playing in his nursery with only the doll as company. It is said that he was often heard talking to the doll and answering himself in an entirely different voice. Gene slept, ate and traveled with Robert by his side.
Within months after the arrival of the doll in the Otto household, strange things began to occur. Objects would go missing and turn up broken, Gene took to the unhealthy habit of sneaking out of his window and wandering the grounds at night, and his parents began to suspect him of all kinds of mischief. If he was caught in the act, Gene would always hold out Robert and say, “Robert did it!”
Although some dismissed the unusual events as the product of an overactive child, others close to the family began to whisper that somehow the doll was to blame.
Soon the doll apparently became bolder. It no longer seemed to require Gene’s company to move about the house. In the still hours of the night, the servants would often wake to the sound of hollow, pattering footsteps. Too frightened to inspect the cause, they would usually cower in their beds until dawn. Weird humming and singing was heard to come from the nursery if Gene inadvertently left Robert there alone. None of the servants was eager to clean Gene’s rooms; nobody liked to turn their back on the doll.
As time went by, the Ottos grew older and each, in turn, died, leaving the adult Gene – and Robert – to live in the house. They spent several years there alone until Gene ultimately met and married a local socialite and took her home to live.
From the moment she arrived, the creepy doll disturbed the new Mrs. Otto and eventually she prevailed upon her husband to put it away. Robert was relegated to rooms in the attic, where he was to remain – mostly – for the rest of Gene Otto’s life.
“Mostly,” because, according to the stories, Robert often left the attic on his own. There are several accounts by the servants and Mrs. Otto herself of Robert being seen darting up and down the attic stairs. Mrs. Otto was often troubled by the sound of the doll’s dancing feet tapping the attic floor above her, and one time was alarmed to hear the doll’s voice singing in the old nursery. Upon entering, she found the doll sitting in one of Gene’s old rocking chairs. When she confronted her husband about taking the doll from the attic when it disturbed her so, she was met with the obtuse statement, “Robert did it!” yet again. When Mrs. Otto eventually preceded her husband in death, many wondered, “Did Robert do it?”
It was widely believed that the death of Gene Otto in 1972 would put an end to the ghostly activity of the haunted doll. It was quickly learned, however, that true evil never dies, and while the house stood empty reports of the awful doll still continued. Many people would hear the sound of singing coming from the house at night and on more than one occasion the gruesome doll is said to have frightened school children by peering out the window in the attic turret and making faces at them.
Eventually, a new family purchased the old house and Robert the Doll was discovered in his attic home and was promptly presented to the family’s youngest daughter, then aged 10, as a housewarming gift.
From the moment she received the doll the child was plagued by horrible nightmares. More than once, she claims, she awoke to find the doll sitting on her face, attempting, she believed, to suffocate her. It seemed that Robert intensely disliked being left behind by Gene and had no love for his new “owner.” It was also painfully obvious that he did not like little girls because he is blamed for having torn up and mutilated most of the young girl’s other dolls. When the family pet became mysteriously entwined in the cord of the nursery Venetian blinds, Robert was once again consigned to the attic.
When the family finally moved and the home was converted into the Artist’s House historic location as it stands today, Robert was donated to The East Martello Museum not far away. It quickly became evident, however, that Robert was still up to his old tricks.
Museum workers began to report strange activity after the arrival of the doll, including one volunteer who was terrorized when the doll apparently spent most of a day following her around. Eventually, the doll was encased in a plastic display case in which it remains to this day. Still, there are those who claim that even this cannot contain the evil doll and it is often blamed for numerous odd occurrences in and around the museum.
Once a year, in October, Robert the Doll (in his case) is taken to the Historic Custom House where he is placed on display. Some visitors comment about the seemingly odd practice of peppermints being placed in the display case along with the doll. They are usually fittingly creeped out by the explanation: Robert, it seems, loves peppermints, and placing some in his case will keep him from wanting to roam at night. Skeptics might scoff at this practice, but it is reported by museum and Custom House staff alike that each morning during his October visit there are empty peppermint wrappings littering the bottom of Robert’s display case…
Robert the Doll, still clad in one of Gene Otto’s sailor suits and clutching a small teddy bear, can be visited at The East Martello Museum and, in October, at the Historic Custom House in Key West, Florida.THE DEVIL BABY DOLL
There is a legend in Old New Orleans about the Devil Baby of Bourbon Street, the monster child of a Creole doyenne, adopted by Voodoo Queen Marie Laveaux and christened by Madame LaLaurie. The baby lived to plague the French Quarter and its environs for several years, though some say it still exists, at least in ghostly form, haunting the narrow streets and alleys of the old city. Some others claim that its tiny bones are moldering along with those of its Godmother Marie Laveau in her famous tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
In years past, there were many renditions of this famous “boogeyman” (or, boogeybaby?) of New Orleans legend, the earliest of which were carved from dried, hollowed out gourds. This primitive Devil Baby dolls were often hung in the windows of old Creole cottages to frighten off the real Devil Baby who lurked in the darkness just beyond the gas lights. Other primitively carved Devil Baby dolls, complete with horns and a knotted jute tail, would sometimes appear on the stoops of unfortunate victims of the local hoodoo rootworkers. (It is said Marie Laveau frowned on the practice of leaving effigies of the Devil Baby because it made light of the “afflictions,” as she described them, of her adopted ward, the real Devil Baby.)
These early, hand-carved Devil Baby dolls are extremely rare these days. Those families in possession of such an heirloom usually have kept it hidden and have passed it down through generations, so it is hard to estimate just how many of these little effigies were in circulation.
In the early 20th century, however, other versions of the dreaded Devil Baby doll began to appear in and around New Orleans. These renditions were more doll-like, clothed in children’s garb and able to stand on their own, with a stuffed body and arms that moved slightly. The face of the Devil Baby dolls was always the same, with leering, glassy eyes and small horns protruding from the forehead. It was said that these dolls had faces that most closely resembled the actual Devil Baby; this was verified by a woman who had evidently played with the Devil Baby as a child.
These are the first dolls to truly have a “haunted” reputation. They were a “black market” item in old New Orleans, and in order to obtain one it was necessary to be well connected among secret sosyetes and practicing vodoun community. As bad luck seemed to follow the dolls – some claim because of a curse laid on them all by Marie Laveau – none of them seem to have survived this period. Only parts of one doll remained and these had been locked away until very recently.
Recently for stories about the Devil Baby posted on Haunted New Orleans and Haunted America Tours, local artist and Mardi Gras parade designer Ricardo Pustanio was able to obtain the remnants of the last known surviving Devil Baby doll (c. 1900’s). From these he was able to recreate the doll, adhering to the size and style of the original, for use in the Haunted site stories. These new Devil Baby dolls are full-size, exact replicas of the turn of the century dolls produced in old New Orleans, and, like their predecessors, there is something not quite right about them.
The handmade, sculpted dolls seem to have taken on a life of their own. Their eyes seem to follow you as you are moving about the room near them, and when they are gathered together there is sometimes the sound of whispering and rustling among them. Since the dolls were constructed with no real magical intent, the fact that they seemed to be animated by some otherworldly agent made Pustanio curious to see what would happen if he separated them.
Even though no one likes having the Devil Baby dolls around, Pustanio was able to convince a few of his friends to each take one of the dolls for safe keeping. It wasn’t long before Pustanio’s friends began to complain about having the dolls and all were anxious to return them. Evidently, even separated there is something devilish about the Devil Baby dolls.
One person claimed that the Devil Baby doll he was keeping moved on its own when no one was there. It was housed in a spare bedroom closet and each day when the unwary keeper returned from work, the closet door would be ajar and the Devil Baby would be lying halfway out, sprawled on the carpet.
Another of Pustanio’s Devil Baby dolls apparently “got loose” at night in the home of a couple who was keeping it, overturning ashtrays and littering the kitchen floor with beads from a bead-making craft kit nearby. The couple had no pets and no children; there was no other explanation for the strange occurrences.
A third Devil Baby doll was placed with famous psychic Reese at his new home in Lakeview in the days before Hurricane Katrina. Reese, a collector of rare dolls, immediately disliked the Devil Baby but reluctantly agreed to keep it. In the two weeks he had it he was continuously awoken in the night by the sound of a baby crying. By the end of the second week of the doll being in his home, Hurricane Katrina struck flooding the house with 7 feet of murky water. When Reese returned to his devastated property he was disturbed to find that the Devil Baby doll was one of the only things missing from the inside of his home.
Sylvia Cross, a paranormal investigator who specializes in possessed objects, bought her Devil Baby doll directly from Pustanio online. She thought it would be the perfect addition to her collection of spooky dolls; little did she know she had purchased the real thing. In a short time, she observed changes in the doll’s position from morning to evening; she reported the sounds of snuffling and crying coming from near the baby; and she also related that her two cats would not go near the doll, refusing to even be in the same room with it.
“Some objects,” said Cross, “are just ‘born,’ for lack of a better word, with a dark soul. I think the Devil Baby is one of those objects. If you look into its eyes you can almost discern the flicker of a trapped, unhappy soul.” Others believe the glimmer is put there by the Devil himself and that he claims every incarnation of the Devil Baby as his very own.
Cross also purchased a Voodoo Queen doll from Pustanio and she claims that it is haunted as well. Pustanio claims that only his talent and nothing magical or ghostly went into the creation of his dolls, but many still believe them to be possessed by something unexplainable and bizarre. It is interesting to note that Pustanio’s previous forays into other forms of art over the past 15 years, including painting and sculpture, are rumored to have something of the supernatural about them.
Besides his online store, Ricardo Pustanio recently allowed his Devil Baby dolls to be placed on eBay for auction as an initial showing from a large collection of New Orleans-inspired artwork. One Devil Baby doll has already changed hands on eBay several times; it seems the old saying “buyer beware” was never more appropriate!
Asked about the possibility that his artwork is haunted, Pustanio just shrugs and says, “I’ve heard about haunted dolls since I was young. We had several in our family that came down to us. But I never thought my dolls would be haunted, too.”
Ricardo Pustanio’s Devil Baby dolls, haunted or not, are in high demand. Each is one of a kind and can be made to order and dressed in baby clothes the purchaser supplies. Other dolls by Pustanio include Voodoo Queen dolls, Voodoo Zombie and Lwa dolls, and Voodoo You dolls made by the artist to look like any person the buyer wishes.
MANDY THE HAUNTED DOLL
Mandy the Haunted Doll lives at the Quesnel Museum, which is located on the Old Cariboo Gold Rush Trail in British Columbia. There she is just one of over thirty thousand artifacts on display for the public, but there is little doubt that she is the most unique.
Mandy was donated to the museum in 1991. At that time her clothing was dirty, her body was ripped and her head was full of cracks. At that time she was estimated to be over ninety years old. The saying around the museum is, “She may seem like an ordinary antique doll, but she is much more than that.”
The woman who donated Mandy, also called Mereanda, told the museum curator that she would wake up in the middle of the night hearing a baby crying from the basement. When she investigated, she would find a window near the doll open where it had previously been closed and the curtains blowing in the breeze. The donor later told the curator that after the doll was given to the museum, she was no longer disturbed by the sounds of a baby crying in the night.
Some say Mandy has unusual powers. Many speculate that the doll has acquired these powers over the years, but since little is known of the doll’s history nothing can be said for certain. What is certain is the unusual effect she seems to have on everyone around her.
As soon as Mandy arrived at the museum, staff and volunteers began to have weird and unexplainable experiences. Lunches would disappear from the refrigerator and later be found tucked away in a drawer; footsteps were heard when no one was around; pens, books, photos and many other small items would go missing – some were never found and some turned up later. The staff passed these events off as absent-mindedness, but this did not account for everything.
Mandy did not have a permanent “home” inside the museum when she first arrived. She was placed in the museum entranceway, facing the public, and visitors would stare and talk about the doll with the cracked and broken face and sinister smile. Eventually, Mandy was moved to another part of the museum where she was carefully placed alone in a display case because museum staff had been told that she should not be placed with other dolls because she would harm them.
Since her permanent placement there have been many stories about encounters with the haunted doll. One visitor was videotaping Mandy only to have the camera light go on and off every 5 seconds. When the visitor’s camera was turned on another exhibit, it functioned just fine. (It is interesting to note that the same thing often happens when visitors try to photograph Robert the Doll in his Key West museum home.)
Some visitors are very disturbed by the doll’s eyes, which they say appear to follow them around the room. Others claim to have seen the doll actually blink, and still others say they have seen the doll in one position and minutes later she will appear to have moved.
Although they’re used to it by now, museum staff and volunteers still prefer not to be the last one working or locking up the museum at the end of the day.
For more on Mandy and the Quesnel Museum follow this link. www.city.quesnel.bc.ca/Museum2004/Mandy.asp
Annabelle The haunted Doll
This is a terrifying case of a raggedy Ann doll named Annabelle. The case is from the 1970’s and is highlighted in the book The Demonologist. This is one of the Warrens most asked about cases. The referral came from an Episcopal priest. A somber toned clergyman told Ed Warren of two young nurses who had communicated with what they thought to be a human spirit. One of the girls’ friends had been attacked physically, and the activity was still in progress, so Ed accepted the case. With that the priest gave Ed the phone number of the girls. Ed immediately called the number and upon reaching one of the girls, Ed verified the existence of the problem and told the young women that he and Lorraine were on their way.
As a dedicated paranormal investigator I have been investigating for about 12 years now and experienced haunted doll paranormal activities. I don’t have to go out in the field as much as before. I concentrate now on haunted doll and doll items.
The Devil's Baby Dolls
HAUNTED TOYBOX: FEAR OF FURBY AND A HAUNTED TEDDY BEAR – TWO REAL-LIFE STORIES
What were they thinking when they came up with Furbies? After the “Gremlin” movies of the 1980’s, didn’t they learn anything? No, Gizmo was NOT cute and his extended family was far from CUDDLY.
The sensation of the Furbies really hit stride in the early 1990’s and it seemed like everyone, girl, boy, even mom and dad, wanted to get their hands on the freaky little fur balls.
As a devoted parent who completely loathed them, I did all I could to prevent my child from getting one. But unfortunately, a birthday came around and one of the little monsters snuck through my defenses.
It was instant hate tinged with not a little fear. For instance, how did the things know they were hungry when they woke up? How did they talk and interact with other Furbies? What was this spell they cast on kids large and small?
Thankfully, the Furby shine wore off fairly quickly with my daughter and soon she had moved on to Pokeman and Rugrats toys. The first opportunity I had, I removed the batteries from the offensive little creature and stashed it in the back of the closet.
Unfortunately, the golden age of Furby love was still going strong with some of my daughter’s friends and it was my encounter with one of their little nightmares that swore me off the hairy beasts forever.
This particular booger belonged to the mother of my daughter’s best friend, and on one visit to their home the all white Furby was produced to “oohs and aahs” from the kinds and a dry, gulping sound from me. Immediately the monstrosity came to life (I was told it was “napping”) and began to declare that it was hungry. I don’t know how she did it, but one of the girls convinced me to put my hand in the thing’s beak, all the while telling them how I hated the toys.
To my astonishment the toy refused my finger, first “spitting” it out, and then chomping down on it. When I pulled my finger away the little bugger flapped his wings and said, in perfect English, looking right at me, “Me no like YOU!”
To say we cut the visit short is an understatement. When I returned home I dug my daughter’s Furby out of the closet, taped it in a box, and put the box in the attic. As far as I know, it is still there. I personally don’t have the guts to check!
* * * * *
I used to love going to yard sales. One particular summer it seemed like there were at least five or six every Saturday and my sister-in-law would drag our kids around digging through other people’s unwanted things hoping to find treasures.
On one such trip I found a darling little black teddy bear. It was old, obviously, because it was well worn. It was made of chenille and had black buttons for eyes. When I picked it up I was surprised to find that it was a “beanie” or was at least filled with the same material as the popular stuffed collectibles.
I turned to the woman running the sale and said, “You can’t be selling this?” To which she replied, “Oh, yes, he’s for sale. He used to be my son’s, but I had him for years. He’s very old, probably early 1900’s.” Looking over the bear, I could believe it, and I paid the ungodly price of $3 for this little bit of history.
When I got it home, I cleaned it up a little and sat it on my bed among some other stuffed animals I had there. Later, I went back to my room to take a short nap. I pushed the animals aside, though the little black bear was close to my arm and at some point I must have put my hand on it.
I guess I dozed off quickly because when I woke up it was getting dark outside and I felt as if someone were tugging at me to wake up. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the little black bear moving. It looked as if someone was tugging it, but there was NO ONE in the room with me. Unseen hands were pulling the bear away from me. Instinctively, I grasped the bear and held it tightly, still amazed to find that something was tugging against me.
I sat up and put the table lamp on. The bear fell to the floor – I might have knocked it, or my unseen opponent might have pulled it down. Either way, I was convinced that if this particular little bear was going to be in my home, he wasn’t going to sit on my bed!
Perhaps the ghost of a previous owner hadn’t liked that the bear was sold in a yard sale? Who knows? I just know, if anyone from the “other side” misses it, they can visit it in my china closet from now on