Dolls have always had an unsettling, creepy quality to them that seems to invite stories of strangeness and hauntings, and indeed there are countless supposed haunted dolls out there. They are not hard to find at all, put on display and even available for sale in some places, but for the most part these dolls have been passed down for generations and have solid histories that we can look at. Yet in other cases dolls just seem to turn up without any discernible owners, found just lying around or even thrown away in the garbage, their pasts murky and uncertain, but quickly demonstrating strange phenomena and powers that make it clear they were probably discarded for a reason. If you think haunted dolls are spooky enough at it is, wait until you get a peek at these various cursed and possessed dolls that seem to have come from nowhere, left to rot and full of impenetrable mysteries.

One very spooky abandoned doll was found within a box of old junk purchased in England by a Ben Canham, and he took it home to find an envelope attached to it saying “Read Me.” Within it was a handwritten message that painted a rather eerie picture of the doll’s past, claiming that the doll had been found in 1990 inside an abandoned car, and also explaining that it was possessed by a pair of lovers named Sarah and Richard. The note reads in its entirety:

Hello, thank you for purchasing Richard and Sarah. These items were found in an abandoned car in 1990. The woman who found them took them home. After a few days she started to notice that the doll had moved positions and the box was open. This happened a few times. She started to hear giggling coming from the room that they were being kept in. Eventually the activity grew and she found my aunt and asked for her help. My aunt took the items and held a seance. She learned that the spirits names were Richard and Sarah. They were lovers in life and became bound to the items that meant something to them. Sarah is bound to this doll and Richard to the box. We are unsure how they passed. These items were returned as the buyer reported walking up and down their stairs of a night and began to hear a whisper. This freaked them out and the items were returned. UK law means that I must state that this is for entertainment purposes only. Paranormal activity cannot be guaranteed as experiencing the paranormal is different for each individual. Please use the white sage incense stick if required. Thank you, God bless. xxx

Amazingly, Ben did not immediately burn the doll to ashes right then and there, but rather locked it away in a box and kept it with a collection of other various haunted antiques at the Haunted Antiques Paranormal Research Centre in Hinckley, where he volunteers. Not long after this, strange things began to happen, starting with the box often found unlocked and open even though no one had touched it. This graduated to other weird phenomena, such as lights turning on and off by themselves, the sound of banging or of disembodied footsteps, the doll changing positions when no one was looking, and even the sound of laughter that seems to come from thin air. Apparently the doll is still in the possession of the museum, along with the note it originally came with, the author of which is unknown. Ben has said of it, “It is scary but at the same time it is interesting. Interestingly scary.”

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The haunted doll and its note

Just as eerie is the doll called simply “Charlie the Haunted Doll,” which was found by chance in 1968 in the gloomy attic of a Victorian home in upstate New York, locked up within a box of old newspapers dating back to the 1930s, as well as a note containing the Lord’s Prayer. The homeowners had just moved in and were cleaning the place up, and were surprised that anyone would leave this doll behind, dusting it off and placing it with some other antique dolls they owned, where it quickly proved to be quite mysterious indeed. The first thing the family noticed was that the doll would change positions during the night, found in different areas of the room every morning, despite the fact that everyone insisted they had not moved it, and this was only the beginning of the strangeness surrounding the doll.

Before long the family’s youngest daughter began claiming that “Charley” sometimes talked to her in the middle of the night, and the couple’s five daughters were soon absolutely terrified of the doll, refusing to go anywhere near it. On one occasion one of the children woke up with scratches on her body, and this was enough to convince the family that there was something seriously bizarre going on with the doll. They took Charlie and locked him back within that trunk in the attic, along with the note, and a few years later they supposedly sold the whole thing at a yard sale, after which it changed hands several times and ended up at its current location at an oddities and antiques shop called Local Artisan, in Beverly, Massachusetts. What was going on with this doll and what was its history that it should be so imbued with the paranormal? No one knows.

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Charley the haunted doll

Speaking of dolls being mysteriously discovered abandoned in houses, one particular such doll was found by chance in an old, empty house in Texas being investigated by ghost hunters Craig Jones and Matt Wood. The mysterious doll, which is called “Janet,” allegedly dates back to 1903, and is completely missing its eyes and eyelids, yet when the ghost hunters took a photo with it they claimed it suddenly had closed its eyes to blink even thought that should have been impossible. Jones would say of this:

We took a picture with Janet, and as I looked at the picture it looked like her eyes were closed. But then I remembered that she doesn't have any eyes or eyelids and just has empty sockets, so I turned my torch on to check, as it was dark and I saw that's she doesn’t. We were confused and took more photos to try to recreate it, but couldn't. Then other people then tried but also couldn't recreate it either. We showed a lot of other people at the event and everyone said that it's 'crazy' and 'very creepy’. People also said that it definitely looks like her eyes are closed and it looks like she has eye lashes and make-up on.

Janet the haunted doll

Ever since then the doll has provoked all kinds of strange reactions in people, causing dizziness and headaches, even in online videos of it, and there are also the sounds of disembodied footsteps purportedly heard in its vicinity. Jones has said of the doll:

Many people feel sick or dizzy when around her and in her presence. Also being have said they get headaches when watching videos of Janet online. In my house, I've had voices and shadows downstairs and also my daughter's bedroom door opened on its while I was filming a video with Janet.

Some abandoned haunted dolls aren’t found within dusty old houses or in the trash, but rather sitting right out in the open. In June of 2014, a strange doll was found sitting against a tree on a busy road in the Hougang area of Singapore. The doll was just sitting there abandoned, and had on a blindfold with the Arabic word Bismillah written upon it in black ink, which translates to “In the name of God.” Once the story of the doll hit Reddit it was widely talked about and became well-known all over the world, with numerous spooky stories about it coming out of the woodwork, such as that it was possessed, that it could sometimes be heard whispering in Malay, that a suicide had happened at a nearby apartment on the same day the doll had been found, that it often moved on its own, as well as the belief that it would follow and hunt down whoever was to remove the blindfold. Pictures of the doll without its blindfold on eventually circulated, provoking the Reddit response, “It looks unhappy, good luck to whoever did it.” Urban legend or real haunted doll? If it is real then where did it come from and why was it left at that tree? Where is the doll now? Who knows? A whole Reddit discussion on this doll can be seen here.

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The mjysterious blindfolded doll

At times there is not just one abandoned doll found, but many, and this is the case with a supposed abandoned doll factory in Mexico. Here strewn about the ruins and rubble of the former doll factory are many various pieces of dolls in different states of completion, with disembodied arms and legs gathering dust and doll heads perched about gazing upon their decrepit domain with dead eyes, making great nightmare fuel for whoever is unlucky enough to stumble upon this place. It is also supposedly haunted, with shadow shapes roaming about, as well as many signs of strange rituals, such as dead chickens and arcane imagery. Urban explorer Nacho Labrador, who has investigated the site extensively, has said of it:

Do not enter the factory, seriously, I took a doll's head and a box ... and I had to return it. Now that site gives me a strong anxiety has something, there have been rituals.

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Inside the haunted doll factory

OK, a haunted abandoned doll factory is creepy enough, but what about a whole island of abandoned haunted dolls? La Isla de las Munecas is located in the area of Xochimilco, a borough within the Mexican Federal District which was historically positioned on what was once Lake Xochimilco. Xochimilco is a locale well-known for its extensive system of canals, which are a relic of the times when the settlements of the Valley of Mexico were interconnected by networks of canals and lakes.

The island itself is what is known as a chinampas, which are artificial islands which were built in shallow areas of the lake during the pre-Hispanic period as a means of increasing agricultural production. The chinampas were mounds of earth and mud heaped upon a frame of intertwined juniper branches and tied to the shore. As the islands sank, new ones would be built on top, stacking one over the other until a rectangular island was eventually formed and permanently affixed to the bottom of the lake. Upon these islands were grown a variety of crops, and they were of great economic value during the time of The Aztec Empire. The artificial islands were so lush that they were also known as “floating gardens,” and the large number of chinampas constructed subsequently contributed to the gradual shrinking of Lake Xochimilco into the canal system seen today.

In modern times, most of the chinampas have deteriorated and fallen into disrepair, yet around 5,000 remain and they are popular with tourists, who ride along the canals in special gondolas called trajineras. Indeed, due to its important historical connection to pre-Hispanic Mexico, Xochimilco with its ancient man-made islands and canals is deemed a World Heritage Site. However, one of the chinampas that all but the most fearless visitors may want to steer clear of is the menacing Island of Dolls.

La Isla de las Munecas is perhaps the most infamous of Xochimilco’s chinampas due to its bizarre history and status as one of the spookiest, most haunted places in Mexico. The story begins in the 1950s with a reclusive loner known as Julian Santana Barrera, who took up residence on an abandoned chinampas where he lived in a hut by himself. He then used the artificial island for growing not fruits and vegetables, but nightmare fuel.

After witnessing a young girl drown in a nearby canal, Barrera became convinced that the spirit of the girl was haunting him. He reportedly claimed he could hear the dead girl singing, giggling, and calling to him from over the water, as well as dragging and scratching noises outside of his hut or rapping on the windows when no one else was there. Sometimes he could see her ghostly form through the trees or over the water, hovering about the island at night. Disturbed by these visitations, Barrera’s behavior became increasingly erratic. One day, Barerra saw a doll drift by in the water of the canal and took it as a sign. He fished the doll from the water and hung it up on his island believing that it would protect him from the wrath of the girl’s ghost. It soon became apparent to him that one doll was simply not enough, as he believed the restless spirit was still tormenting him. Barrera became obsessed with collecting more dolls, sometimes even trading vegetables he had grown for more of them in his desperation to appease the angry spirit of the girl. He hung the dolls all over the island, amassing more and more until eventually there were hundreds of the things strewn all over the place, covering the chinampas. Barrera put the dolls everywhere; on the ground, propped against trees, tied to tree trunks and fences, and even hanging from the branches like twisted Christmas tree ornaments. It is said that he would often rearrange the dolls and frequently move them into different locations and positions about the island as he saw fit.

Word of mouth spread about the odd hermit on this island surrounded by his creepy collection of disheveled dolls, and local legends began to form. It was said that the dolls would come to life at night and roam the island brutally killing animals, and that if one listened carefully the gibbering whispers and giggling of the dolls could be heard as they went about their grim work. It was rumored that Barerra would talk and sing to the dolls, caring for them as if they were real children. It was also said that the dolls became infused with evil as soon as they were put up on the island, and that they were all connected by some insidious supernatural force. This went on for years until one day Barreras was found dead, floating face down in one of the canals. Chillingly, it was the very same canal the little girl had died in all those years ago, the same girl whose ghost had slowly driven Barrera insane. Local legend has it that Barrera’s ghost continued to inhabit the island, haunting it along with the dolls.

Today the island’s dolls are still there. They are scattered haphazardly all over the island, strung up everywhere, with their dull, wide eyes gazing lifelessly over their domain. Over the years they have deteriorated to the point that most are in various states of disrepair, and many are filthy and decrepit, all of which makes them that much scarier and further fuels the menacing ambiance of the island. The dark superstition and folklore associated with the island showed no signs of abating with Barrera’s death, either. People say that when visiting the island, it is a good idea to bring a doll with you to appease the dark spirits there. As soon as the new doll arrives, it is believed to connect with the others through whatever black magic it is that courses through them. In addition, Barrera himself is still said to survey the place, watching all who visit from the shadows.

The Island of the Dolls has been investigated by numerous paranormal groups and the TV show Destination Truth, which had quite an experience there. Barrera’s nephew explained to the crew that indeed the dolls seemed to be charged with some eerie supernatural energy and that the island was haunted, cursed, or both. The crew were not disappointed as they managed to experience quite a few strange happenings during their stay. Strange dragging sounds were heard on the roof of the island’s shack as well as other creepy noises and bumps in the dark. Sensors for ghostly energy also were going wild with readings and the highlight of the show came when one of the dolls appeared to open its eyes of its own accord when asked to do so. The entire incident was caught on camera. Say what you will about its authenticity or whether it constitutes evidence of the paranormal, but there is no denying that the footage is exceptionally creepy and disturbing.

Such cases of haunted abandoned dolls seem to be even creepier than regular stories of haunted dolls, because in these cases we don't always know the history behind them or why they were left behind. There are questions swirling about as to what happened to them in the past or what could have contributed to their haunted nature, and so they maintain an indefinable aura of menace that we are powerless to find the source of, propelling them further into the odd. Why didn't anyone want these dolls and what are their stories? What happened to them to give them such unseen powers? Are they even really haunted at all? Whatever one may think, among the world of creepy dolls these are the creepiest, and it at times doesn't seem hard to imagine why they have been abandoned.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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