Why Are There So Many Possessed Dolls?
May 01, 2019 6:00 AM ‐ Paranormal
Dolls have traditionally been the playthings of children for thousands of years, dating back as far as the 21st century BC. In recent years, these innocent kids' toys seem to have undergone a sinister shift in public perception.
While young children are still happy to play with dolls, many adults now describe dolls as being strange, unsettling and even scary. Over the last few years the number of cursed or possessed dolls in the news has been on the rise and more than ever, people are now selling haunted dolls on eBay.
Part of the reason why dolls have become creepier is because they've become more realistic. Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, who wrote about the history of creepy dolls for Smithsonian, says that being afraid of dolls wasn't common until the 19th century, when innovations in toy-making meant dolls became more human-like.
Despite having lifelike skin, realistic eyes and even making sounds like a real child, there's still something about dolls that triggers alarm bells in our head, telling us that although they might look real, there's something not right about them. This is called the "uncanny valley."
The term was coined in 1970 by the Japanese robotics engineer, Masahiro Mori, and describes the unsettling fine-line between lifelike and not quite fully human, or a "dip in emotional response that happens when we encounter an entity that is almost, but not quite, human." This psychological phenomenon doesn't seem to effect children, perhaps as they are not yet primed to consider whether other people and objects have minds of their own or are inanimate. This instinct seems to kick in at about nine years of age.
McRobbie wrote, "however much we know that a doll is not a threat, seeing a face that looks human but isn't unsettles our most basic human instincts." The fear of dolls is a real thing, it's known as pediophobia, a specific sub-fear of automatonphobia, which is the fear of "human-like-but-not-quite" objects including mannequins, statues, wax figures or robots.
This new fear of dolls has almost become a psychological feedback loop. The reason for the heightened fear of dolls is because of their depiction in popular culture where they are often possessed by demonic entities and take on an evil and sinister persona. Because these dolls in movies freak us out, we then transfer the fear onto regular dolls. As more people report a fear of dolls, Hollywood reacts by making more creepy doll movies.
The cursed doll trope really started in 1963 with a famous episode of 'The Twilight Zone' called 'Living Doll'. A young girl is given a "Talky Tina" toy which initially sweetly speaks the phrase "my name is Talky Tina and I love you very much," but becomes much more vocal and much more terrifying.
Then in 1988 we were introduced to Chucky, the stuff of nightmares from the 'Child's Play' movies. More recently, it's a doll named Annabelle that's been scaring cinema goers and what makes her appearance even more chilling is that her story is based on a real paranormal haunting case.
Texas State University professor, Joseph Laycock says the Annabelle doll is an "interesting case study in the relationship between pop culture and paranormal folklore". He thinks that the demonic doll trope promoted by movies originates from a creepy doll named Robert, who was blamed for a haunting and a murder in the first part of the 20th century and from that Talky Tina 'Twilight Zone' episode.
"Of course, we all know dolls can't really talk, and they certainly can't commit murder. But to a child caught in the middle of turmoil and conflict, a doll can become many things: friend, defender, guardian. Especially a doll like Talky Tina, who did talk and did commit murder—in the misty region of the Twilight Zone."
The Twilight Zone, 1963
The Six Creepiest Haunted Dolls
Below is a list of the six most famous haunted dolls. These are real-life dolls that are actually known for their paranormal activity. Although some of them may have been the inspiration behind movies, none of these dolls are fictional movie characters.
6. The Cursed Doll Of Codnor Castle Cottage
In a 2017 episode of the long-running ghost hunting show, 'Most Haunted', Yvette Fielding and her team placed a cursed doll in the attic of the now derelict haunted farmhouse, built within the grounds of the medieval Codnor Castle in Derbyshire.
The doll was left throughout the night with a locked off camera placed in front of it, their hope is that if any spirits interacted with the doll and it moved, it would be caught on camera. During the show, the doll seemed to suddenly burst into flames without any obvious source of ignition and no sign of anyone around.
Yvette eventually arrived on scene and was amazed by what she was seeing, "a thing has just spontaneously burst into flames, should we not be worrying? Should we really be here?" With the doll safely extinguished, the team then discussed what should be done with it, one member of the crew suggested that they should bury the remains of the doll.
5. Christine The Doll
Christine, an eerie Victorian-style doll has been called "the world's most famous haunted doll", she's so famous that she's appeared on British television show, 'This Morning' presented by Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford.
Paranormal researchers, Lee Steer won the doll in the online auction. Lee paid £866 for the eerie bridal doll and it seems it took her no time to get back to her old tricks. After several strange happenings, Lee has forced to hand her over to a psychic to investigate.
After the doll arrived in his house, Lee started experiencing odd things, such as a picture frame moving on his wall. He also claims his father was mysteriously scratched by the doll. He called in psychic Deborah Davies to take a look at the doll. Since taking it home, she has also experienced a host of spooky goings on, including jewellery going missing and the scratching of skin.
Deborah says she can feel the spirit of a little girl in the doll, she doesn't know if it's the owner or not but feels the girl was murdered. She could also picked up the spirit of the little girls mother. But most disturbingly, Deborah said she felt an evil in the doll that comes and goes. She believes this energy is left behind by the man who murdered the girl.
4. Victoria Of East Drive
30 East Drive in Pontefract is one of the UK's most infamous haunted houses and it's home to not one, but a collection of supposedly haunted dolls. In 2016, viewers of a ghost hunt streamed live to Facebook witnessed the team or paranormal investigators terrified after a doll moved in one of the bedrooms.
Lee Roberts and Paul Stevenson had visited the house ahead of their live Halloween broadcast from 30 East Drive and captured evidence that a "dark spirit" had moved the porcelain doll, named Victoria.
The hunters were testing their live Facebook video stream in preparation for Halloween and viewers were amazed to see a doll seemingly move in between shots at the notorious house in West Yorkshire.
When the doll, first appeared on the live stream, she was clearly seen packed in its white rectangular box, partially covered by a lid. Later in the live broadcast, the guys walked back into the room to find that not only had the doll appeared outside of her box, but the lid was also bent.
Lee later said, "I was speechless. Paul was adamant someone was playing tricks on us and wouldn't even come into the room he was so scared."
3. Island Of The Dolls, Mexico City
Dolls are creepy at the pest of times, but imagine a whole island full of them. The Isla de las Muñecas is a floating garden on a canal in Xochimilco. It's said that a local man who was a bit of a hermit, found a doll floating in the canal after a young girl drown there in mysterious circumstances. He hung the doll from a tree as a sign of respect and started to experience paranormal activity in the form of mysterious whispers and disembodied footsteps.
Driven by fear, he spent the next fifty years of his life hanging more and more dolls, some missing body parts, all over the island in an attempt to appease what he believed to be the drowned girl's spirit. Since his death in 2001 the area has become popular with tourist, who bring more dolls to add to the eerie collection.
2. Robert The Doll
Robert is a three-foot tall doll, dressed in a sailor's costume and holding a dog, who was once owned by Eugene Otto, of Key West, Florida. Eugene was given the doll as a gift from his grandfather who bought it on his travels in Germany in 1904.
It's said that the doll was cursed by the house maid, who was sacked by the family after they discovered she was conducting occult rituals in their home. According to the witness reports, the doll has caused car accidents, broken bones, job loss, divorce and a cornucopia of other misfortunes.
Eventually in 1994, Myrtle donated the doll to the East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida, where it sits in a glass case today and is said to still roam around at night.
The story of Annabelle is touched upon in the 2013 movie 'The Conjuring' and a year later Annabelle was credited with a whole movie to her name and a 2017 prequel, 'Annabelle: Creation'.
The origins of the creepy doll are rooted in a real life paranormal case, that was investigated by demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real Annabelle, a Raggedy Ann doll, is now kept in a glass case in an occult museum set up by the Warrens.
The doll was given to a student nurse and strange things started happening. A psychic medium told the student that the doll was hosting the spirit of a girl named Annabelle. Paranormal activity surrounding the possessed doll escalated and eventually the student and her roommate contacted the Warrens for help, they concluded that the doll was demonically possessed.
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