Dolls are certainly creepy enough as it is. With their dead stares as they look off into the distance, and their weird features that seem almost a mockery of the human form, it is no wonder these objects have become a favorite of a plentitude of horror stories and movies. Yet it appears that stories of these dolls becoming even more frightening than their unsettling appearance may suggest bring accounts of cursed, haunted, or possessed dolls from beyond the realm of mere horror fiction and very much into the real world. There have long been tales and cases of dolls that have managed to be every bit as spooky as they look, propelling themselves from our nightmares and fears into our reality. Here we will look at some of the more notorious tales of dolls that are said to be intensely cursed, haunted, demonically possessed, or all of the above.
By far one of the most infamous allegedly cursed dolls is the one called Annabelle. Although appearing as a pretty normal looking Raggedy Anne doll, and not particular creepy, at least as far as dolls go, it is nevertheless steeped in deeply weird phenomena and spooky happenings. The story of Annabelle begins in the 1970s, when it was purchased at an antique shop by a mother as a birthday present for her 28-year old daughter, Donna. At the time, Donna was living away from home as she attended nursing school, and she brought the doll to her humble apartment, which she shared with her roommate, Angie. At first there was nothing particularly strange or menacing about the doll, and it was merely an interesting conversation piece for their home, but things began to get seriously weird rather quickly.
It began when both Donna and Angie began to come home to find the doll had been moved and put into a variety of different positions upon the bed where it had been placed, even though no one had been home to have done such a thing. Both Donna and Angie insisted to each other that they had not been the ones to have moved the doll, and no one else had been to the apartment. While these movements were at first confined to just the bed, in time the doll began to be found in different rooms throughout the apartment, and sometimes even found in rooms where the door had been firmly shut. The doll was also found in a variety of different positions, both standing and sitting, sometimes with its arms folded or legs crossed. In some cases, it was in positions that seemed impossible, such as kneeling or in a standing position without leaning against anything; two positions into which the women could not get the doll to do on their own without it inevitably falling over.
This is certainly unsettling enough already, but things got worse. Donna and Angie began to find mysterious notes in the form of scraps of paper with the words “Help me” childishly scrawled in pencil upon them. The pieces of paper were apparently a type of parchment paper which both of the nursing students did not even own and which was nowhere to be found in the house. The notes on occasion menacingly said “Help Lou,” with Lou being Angie’s fiancee, who had recently moved in with them temporarily. Before the two women had had time to really adjust to the profound bizarreness of the moving doll and handwritten notes, they one day came home to find the doll with what appeared to be blood on it, with a splotch of the red substance on the back of its hand and three drops on its chest.
It was this macabre sight of the blood stained doll that finally prompted the increasingly disturbed Donna and Angie to call a psychic medium for advice. When the medium arrived at the apartment, a séance was held and they were subsequently told that the doll was inhabited by the spirit of a 7-year old girl by the name of Annabelle Higgins, who had apparently died on the land on which the apartment was located years before. According to the medium, Annabelle liked the two women, was not malevolent, and wanted to stay with them. Upon learning of this, both Donna and Angie, rather than freak out as might be expected, rather surprisingly decided to take sympathy on this seemingly harmless spirit and allow it to stay in the doll at the house. This was not a decision endorsed by Lou, who had always had a deep dislike of the doll, and in light of the medium’s story had become convinced that it was an evil thing possessed by a demon. Lou insisted that they get rid of the doll, but Donna and Angie refused.
Perhaps it was Lou’s dislike of and desire to destroy the doll that brought on what happened next. In a decidedly dramatic account, Lou claimed that the doll had come to his room as he lie half awake one night to levitate up onto his bed, over his chest and to fervently strangle him until he passed out. He insisted that it was not simply a nightmare, but the women he lived with did not believe him at the time. This would soon change.
Not long after this sinister incident, Lou and Angie had been planning for a road trip that they were to take the following day when they purportedly suddenly heard the sound of rustling movement coming from Donna’s room. Lou is said to have waited until the sounds stopped and then slowly opened the door to see Annabelle on the floor against the far wall. As Lou entered the room and approached the doll he claimed that he had heard a noise behind him but had turned to see nothing. It was in this instance that he abruptly doubled over in pain, grabbed his chest and fell to the floor writhing in agony, clutching at his midsection. When he got up and his chest was examined, there were found to be a series of seven scratches, 4 of them horizontal and three vertical. Oddly, the scratch marks seemed more like burns than scratches, and they are claimed to have healed faster than usual, totally vanishing within a mere two days.
It was at this point that Donna contacted a priest by the name Father Hegan, hoping for some form of exorcism, who then turned to a Father Cooke, and it was Cooke who would take the case to the well-known demonologists and paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, best known for their investigation of the notorious Amityville Horror house. The two investigators came to the conclusion that the doll was indeed possessed, but not by the spirit of a little girl but rather a malicious and evil demon merely pretending to be one, possibly to get close to the two women and possess one of them.
In response to this rampaging demonic force, Father Cooke was instructed to carry out an exorcism on the house. Donna and Angie, wanting nothing more to do with the sinister doll, gave it to the Warrens, who accepted and took it with them in order to make sure it did not cause any more trouble for anyone. Annabelle was subsequently placed in a display case at the Warren’s occult museum and surrounded by Holy water and religious imagery, with a sign on the outside reading “Warning: Positively Do Not Open.” Annabelle can be seen at Ed and Lorraine Warren’s Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut to this day, and so infamous has its story become that it has become the subject of one modern Hollywood horror movie called Annabelle, which is a dramatized version of the tale.
Even now it is claimed that the doll moves on its own, sometimes appearing in different positions even when no one has opened up the glass case it rests within. According to the Warrens, the doll has even since its arrival at the museum been responsible for at least one death. They claim that one museum visitor who came to see Annabelle began to jokingly berate, taunt, and insult the doll, daring it to scratch or attack him through the glass. Although nothing happened at the time, three hours later the man and his girlfriend, who had arrived by motorcycle, were involved in a terrible crash into a tree that killed the man and sent the woman to the hospital with serious injuries. Ed Warren referred to the incident in a video tour of the museum, in which he stated:
Many of the objects in this room here have had dire effects on people. People have been maimed, have been killed. People have wound up in mental institutions because of many of the things that are right in this building here. You have the voodoo dolls, you have the Raggedy Ann Doll, which was responsible for the death of a young man who came in here one time, who challenged the doll to do its worst and it did.
Nearly as well-known as Annabelle is the haunted doll simply known as Robert the Doll. The story begins in 1906 in Key West, Florida, where an affluent family, the Ottos, lived on their sprawling estate manned by numerous servants. One of these servants supposedly was a Haitian who was a practitioner of Voodoo and Black Magic, and was allegedly fired when the family found her in a garden performing some dark spell or ritual. Before the servant left, she is said to have given the family’s son, Robert Eugene Otto, a 3-foot high doll made of cloth, wire, and straw, with human-like hair and dressed in a sailor outfit as a parting gift, which is thought to have been imbued with a potent curse to smite the family.
The boy apparently took an instant liking to the doll, going so far as to name it Robert, after which he insisted that this was the doll’s name from then on and that everyone should call him by his middle name, Gene. The boy and the doll were inseparable, and he would often reportedly talk to the doll for hours on end. The spooky part was that servants claimed that they could on occasion hear a ghostly voice that was clearly not the boy’s own responding to him. Gene’s parents dismissed it as the boy just using a disguised voice to converse back and forth with his beloved doll, and didn’t think much of it at the time.
Not long after this, odd things began to happen around the house. Rooms would be found in a state of disarray, with objects smashed and broken upon the floor and furniture toppled over, which young Gene insisted he had had no part in, instead claiming that it had been the doll, Robert. The same went for the rash of objects that would suddenly go missing to be found later far from where they had been placed, dishes falling from tables, lamps toppling to the ground, and clothing found to have been ripped up, shredded, and strewn all about.
Some nights Gene’s parents heard a commotion in their son’s room, only to run there and see that toys and items had been sprawled out everywhere, and which the boy also claimed had been done by the doll Robert. In addition to this, neighbors swore that they had seen Robert the Doll scurrying under its own power from window to window one day when the family had been out. Guests to the house also claimed that sometimes when they were looking at the doll its expression would change or it would even blink. At other times the doll would change positions in the split second it took for someone to look away and look back. Things got more intense when the doll was seen by the family to tilt its head or move on its own, and it was claimed that it would on occasion let out a sound like a giggle.
The frightened family locked the doll in the attic and it was all but forgotten as Gene grew up to pursue a career in art in Paris. When he moved back to the states with his wife, he found his old friend and made a small room for the doll, complete with a tiny chair and furniture for it. From then on the weird phenomena apparently started again, with neighbors seeing the doll move through the windows when no one was there, or to hear disembodied laughter when no one was at home. This went on until Gene died in 1974 and his wife moved away after putting Robert back into the attic. Even after this time, neighbors and utilities workers claimed that they could hear strange laughter and footsteps emanating from the house.
When the house was bought again, the new family’s 10-year-old daughter allegedly found the doll and started keeping it in her room. Not long after this, the girl began to wake her family up in the middle of the night, claiming frantically that the doll had moved on its own. She would later claim that the doll had actually attacked and tried to kill her.
Eventually, Robert the Doll found itself at the East Martello Museum, an art and historical museum located in Key West, where it remains locked in a glass case to this day. Visitors claim that the doll is still up to its old tricks, as it will sometimes move as guests look on or change positions even though the case has not been opened. It is also claimed that if one wants to take a picture of Robert it is imperative that they ask his permission first. It is said that if the doll tilts its head this means permission has been denied. Those who take photos without asking permission, or those who take one anyway after being turned away, are said to be doomed to be befallen with bad luck, and indeed Robert’s display case is surrounded by letters from people outlining their testimonies of the string of misfortune they’ve had since taking such photos, and begging for forgiveness. To this day, Robert the Doll is considered to be one of the most haunted objects in the world.
There are actually quite a few allegedly cursed or haunted dolls kept at various residences and museums and locked away within glass cases, from which they still manage to allegedly cause mysterious mischief. Another such doll is called simply Pupa, which means “doll” in Latin. This doll reportedly has real human hair, and was supposedly given to a young Italian girl in the 1920s. The girl reported that the doll frequently spoke to her and moved around on its own.
In 2005, the owner passed away and Pupa was placed within a sturdy glass display case. From there on family members have reported that the doll will often move within the case, tap or knock on the glass, or rearrange the various decorations in there with her. The doll is also said to have the disconcerting habit of steaming up the glass and writing the words “Pupa hate” in the fogged glass. One particularly chilling account claims that the doll’s owners actually caught it moving around within its case on video, but that it was inexplicably found to be blanked out when they tried to upload it.
Another haunted doll that seems to enjoy terrorizing people from within its glass case is the doll known as Mandy. This incredibly creepy, porcelain doll from Germany is said to date to around 1910, and was donated to the Quesnel Museum in British Columbia in 1991, after its owners complained that it would cry or wail in the middle of the night. As soon as the doll arrived at the museum, strange things began to allegedly happen. Workers claimed that they could hear strange footsteps when no one else was around, and that objects would often inexplicably go missing or be misplaced for no discernible reason.
In addition to this, it is said that Mandy abhors other dolls, and that if she is placed with other dolls they will surely be mangled or strewn about shortly after, which is why she is always housed in her own separate case. Visitors to the museum claim that Mandy’s eyes will follow them around or blink, that she will sometimes move her head, and that photos of her will invariably turn out with white splotches, blobs, or weird shapes on them. At times, guests have reported that their cameras will malfunction and refuse to work at all when trying to photograph the notorious evil doll.
If one is interested in having a cursed or haunted doll of their own, it is amazing just how many are supposedly available for sale on sites such as eBay, and there are several ominous stories originating from such dolls. One woman in Galveston, Texas supposedly purchased just such a doll on eBay, which was an ugly thing fashioned from string and cloth and claimed to be an authentic Voodoo doll from New Orleans. The doll was apparently so cursed that the woman was given strict instructions to never remove it from the silver casing it arrived in. Of course the woman immediately removed the doll from the case, after which it was claimed to move on its own, attack its new owner, and relentlessly terrorize her in her nightmares. When the woman tried to sell the evil doll, the story goes that whoever ordered it would receive an empty box and the doll would inexplicably reappear at its terrified owner’s house. The doll currently supposedly belongs to a paranormal investigator who plans to study it.
This wouldn’t be the first instance of paranormal investigators buying up haunted dolls to study. Indeed one such couple from Pennsylvania have ordered and bought numerous supposedly haunted dolls that they keep under constant video surveillance in the hopes of capturing something weird on tape. The dolls, named Chrystal, True, Monika, Sharla, Isaac, Lilly, Ashley, and Cameron, are all taped 24 hours a day and live streamed. While mostly they just sit around being dolls, in 2009 apparently the video showed what seemed to be the ghostly image of a boy walking amongst them.
One of the most harrowing accounts of a cursed doll purchased on eBay certainly has to be that of the doll called Harold. The doll was put up for sale in 2003 on eBay by a young filmmaker who claimed it was deeply haunted, and there was even video released that purportedly showed the doll’s arm moving as a disembodied voice seems to whisper “Harold.” For some reason, this particular listing became a sensation, inciting a great deal of Internet chatter and becoming the subject of radio shows on the paranormal such as Coast to Coast.
When one woman known as Kathy successfully bid for the doll, she was told by the owner that the whole talk of hauntings was a hoax, but she didn’t really care as she was hoping to capitalize on the insane amount of buzz and debate it had generated. However, despite the fact that she did not believe the doll to be really haunted, strange things began to happen as soon as she received it, and she claimed that it caused the deaths of two people she knew within 6 months of acquiring the doll. Kathy would say in her listing for the item:
We had a roommate who was a health nut, climbed mountains, dove, and was a very athletic guy. Harold was stored in the closet in his room. Three months after moving in, Stephen was diagnosed with lung cancer and died a few weeks later. He had to move in with us because Ronnie, the woman who he was living with, asked to see the doll one day when she was at my house the weekend before she went to Amsterdam for a visit. She fell down a flight of stairs while she was there and died instantly. Also, one day I heard a crash coming from the bathroom. I went in there only to find that everything had fallen out of the linen closet….and everything landed perfectly folded and stacked.
Kathy eventually sold the doll to an eBay user going by the name Anthony Quinata, who ended up winning the bid with an offer of $720. Quinata was actually in the process of buying up a range of allegedly haunted items on eBay in order to use for a planned book to be titled Haunted eBay – Are You Going to Believe Me, or Your Lying Eyes? Kathy was at first somewhat hesitant to sell, telling Quinata “I’m really worried about you having this doll. I should have just thrown it in the ocean.” Upon receiving the doll, he tied it up into a bag along with some holy water and a crucifix.
Quinata ended up taking Harold to a medium friend of his named April Palmer for a psychic reading. Before commencing, the doll was sprinkled with holy water, after which Palmer did her reading and stopped abruptly, claiming that the doll had threatened to kill her and then caused her to feel faint, and as if something was actively squeezing her heart. When he later listened to the recording of the event, Quinata claims that he could clearly hear a raspy male voice say “I’m going to kill you… you bitch!” followed by an evil laugh, right before Palmer got her chest pains. Since then the doll has allegedly given its owner terrifying nightmares and visions, and caused numerous freak accidents and injuries for those around it. People close to him also complained to Quinata that the doll had a habit of haunting their dreams, with one of his friends proclaiming "Harold is pissed. He told me that he’s angry that you’ve had him for so long and haven’t helped him.” All of this prompted the doll’s owner to have it put away into storage, where it supposedly remains.
There are certainly more stories of haunted or cursed dolls to add to this, and here we have merely a sampling of some of the creepier such tales. Are these mere tall tales built up around these admittedly creepy dolls to make them seem like more than they are? Is there anything to any of these accounts, or is this just our seemingly deeply ingrained aversion to these constructs materializing within our imaginations to imprint themselves onto our reality via amazing, spooky stories? Are these dolls more than they seem to be, animated and influenced by powers beyond our comprehension, or are they just what they superficially appear to be; plastic and wire, merely imbued with sinister significance by our feverish nightmares and the power of imagination rather than supernatural forces? Dolls will likely continue to generate such tales as long as their lifeless gazes fall upon all they survey. Whether those black, doll eyes merely stare blankly and lifelessly, or conspire and ponder all they survey I leave for you to decide.