Haunted doll

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A haunted doll is a handmade or manufactured doll or stuffed animal that is reported to be cursed or possessed in some way.


The earliest haunted dolls were poppets, effigies and voodoo objects which were created by early peoples for either religious or ceremonial purposes. These traditional objects were later acquired by various civilizations for mystical purposes or the occult.[1][unreliable source] In Rome, dolls were used quite often in magical rituals to represent a connection with a god or goddess.[2][unreliable source] Egyptian priests and magicians often used poppets for ceremonial purposes, to free the body of evil or to place curses on those who went against the will of the Gods.[3][unreliable source?]

According to Wiccan beliefs, poppets have been used to place curses on members of a community, for religious, or traditional purposes.[1][unreliable source] Some of the earliest effigies were used by African, Native American and European cultures. The European poppet has its roots in early Germanic and Scandinavian tribes who used them for ceremonial purposes.[1][unreliable source] Modern day Wiccans have adapted this practice for their own uses. Most Wiccans believe a poppet is a symbolic representation of a person, and spells and other actions are performed on the poppet to transfer whatever might be affecting the targeted individual out of their body in something like a healing ritual.[1][unreliable source] The Kongolese nkisi statuettes, and the bocio figurines used in Vodun traditions of Benin and Togo, are traditional effigy-like dolls of West and Central Africa believed by their practitioners to be "spirit embodying" forces that can also "heal or protect".[4] Voodoo dolls are fairly modern novelty items. Their concept is thought to be based on European poppet dolls.[citation needed]

Lomé Fetish Market

West African fetish magic[edit]

Fetishism is defined by Merriam-Webster as worshiping an object believed to have magical power to protect or aid its owner.[5] In West African culture, they used dolls placed inside or around homes, and for every wish or harm inflicted on another, a nail was driven into the doll's body.[6][unreliable source] Additionally, chicken blood and other various liquids were often poured on the doll's body, and are described to have a malevolent ambience. Due to the alienness of African culture,[according to whom?] Europeans in the 16th and 17th centuries grew to be wary of these objects and believed they were evidence of sorcery.[7]


Research around why people perceive dolls as "creepy" has been conducted with some varying conclusions. A 2013 study by psychologist Frank McAndrew named doll collecting as one of the creepiest hobbies an individual could have. Of the topic of creepiness McAndrew stated that it was related to uncertainty, as something "might be dangerous but you’re not sure it is".[8][better source needed] In a 2015 article for Smithsonian.com, writer Linda Rodriguez McRobbie stated that "Dolls inhabit this area of uncertainty largely because they look human but we know they are not".[8][better source needed] Since the doll lacks ability to mimic, human brains at the most basic evolutionary tactic remain suspicious of whether or not it is human since they may expect the doll to mimic their own actions. This leads to feelings of physical coldness when the doll does not act the way one thinks it should.[8][better source needed]

The market[edit]

As of 2017, a market has arisen where consumers search for dolls that come with supposed paranormal phenomena. Films about certain dolls, like Annabelle, have created a desire to explore claims of haunted dolls. According to Katherine Carlson of The New Yorker, such dolls bring with them a certain fascination that a regular doll does not, since "a haunted doll requires proof — or at least enough of a backstory that a prospective buyer can embrace the possibility of the supernatural".[9] The dolls are typically sold by private users and can be found for sale on eBay, Amazon, Etsy and many other sites. Carlson reports that sales listings are often accompanied by stories and claims detailing the background of the doll and claimed paranormal phenomena.[9] Folklore professor Libby Tucker purchased an allegedly haunted doll for discussion in her Folklore of the Supernatural class, and said that the value of such items for folklore researchers is considerable.[10]

Chucky the doll from the film Child's Play

Haunted dolls in pop culture[edit]

Haunted dolls in films[edit]

Dolls like Robert and Annabelle have been inspirations to films. The doll Annabelle was the source of inspiration in the Annabelle series and the doll featured in The Conjuring.[citation needed]

Haunted dolls on TV[edit]

Haunted dolls have also made appearances in TV. In an episode of Ghost Adventures they visit a haunted Island of dolls.[11] Additionally, a murdering haunted doll named "Talky Tina," appeared in The Twilight Zone. The doll was inspired by the real life toy "Chatty Cathy." This episode became the inspiration to The Simpsons in a "Treehouse of Horror" episode. However, instead of it being "Talky Tina," it was a Krusty the Clown doll.[12] In the SpongeBob Squarepants episode "Sanitation Insanity," Squidward and SpongeBob find a talking doll. The doll goes on to say that it wants to destroy Squidward.[13]

Haunted dolls in other forms of media[edit]

A recurring bit on the podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me is the "haunted doll watch", a segment where the brothers read descriptions of allegedly haunted dolls for sale on eBay.

Famous haunted dolls[edit]

Although tales of haunted dolls or cursed objects in general have a long history, a number of supposedly haunted dolls have appeared in popular culture in recent years.[14]


Robert the doll

Robert is a doll on display at the East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida, United States that was once owned by Key West painter and author Robert Eugene Otto. The doll is alleged to be possessed by spirits.[15][16]


Annabelle is a Raggedy Ann doll alleged by Ed and Lorraine Warren to be haunted[17] and displayed in The Warren's Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut, the United States. The doll served as the inspiration for the films The Conjuring and Annabelle.[18]

Letta the Doll[edit]

Kerry Walton, of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia has appeared on a number of television programs with a doll he claims to have found while visiting an abandoned building in 1972 in Wagga Wagga, Australia.[19] According to Walton, he named the doll "Letta Me Out" because of its supposedly supernatural characteristics.[20] Kerry claims that people have seen the doll move in front of them, and that the doll has left visible scuff marks around the house. Currently, Letta Me Out is owned by Kerry in Warwick, Queensland.[21]


According to modern Japanese folklore, in 1918, a teenager named Eikichi Suzuki purchased a large doll from Hokkaido for his younger sister, Okiku, who gave the doll her name. When Okiku died, her family came to believe that Okiku's spirit was inhabiting the doll and the hair on the doll was growing. The doll resides in Mannenji Temple in Hokkaido, where it is claimed that a priest regularly trims Okiku's still-growing hair.[22]


According to stories published on the internet, Pupa is a doll said to "contain the spirit" of a dead Italian girl.[20]


Made in England or Germany between 1910 and 1920, Mandy is a porcelain baby doll donated to the Quesnel Museum in British Columbia in 1991. Mandy is also said to have supernatural powers.[20] It is claimed that Mandy's eyes follow visitors as they walk in the room. The doll gained notoriety when it appeared alongside the curator and donor of the doll on the Montel Williams Show.[23]

Pulau Ubin Barbie[edit]

According to Singapore legend, Pulau Ubin Barbie is a Barbie doll displayed in a memorial temple said to have supernatural powers.[24][20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Patti Wigington. "Poppet History - Global Poppet Magic". About.com Religion & Spirituality.
  2. ^ Debbie Turkilsen. "An Examination of Ancient Greek and Roman Witches throughout Literature". academia.edu.
  3. ^ "Heka, the ancient Egyptian magic". reshafim.org.il. Archived from the original on 22 November 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  4. ^ Elias Kifon Bongmba (21 May 2012). The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to African Religions. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 118–. ISBN 978-1-4051-9690-1.
  5. ^ "Definition of FETISHES". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  6. ^ "POWER AND MAGIC". WestAfricanDocumentary.com. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  7. ^ MacGaffey, Wyatt (1994). "African Objects and the Idea of Fetish". RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics. 25 (25): 123–131. doi:10.1086/RESv25n1ms20166895. ISSN 0277-1322. JSTOR 20166895.
  8. ^ a b c McRobbie, Linda Rodriguez. "The History of Creepy Dolls". Smithsonian. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  9. ^ a b Carlson, Katherine (31 October 2017). "On eBay, a Fantastical, Earnest World of Haunted Dolls". The New Yorker. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  10. ^ Tucker, Libby (Fall 2009). "Tiny Feet on the Stairs". Schenectady. 35 (3/4): 22 – via ProQuest.
  11. ^ "Q&A: Zak Bagans on the Island of the Dolls". Travel Channel. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  12. ^ eman4240 (22 October 2011), Evil Krusty, retrieved 10 April 2019
  13. ^ King, David (8 May 2018). "Review: SpongeBob SquarePants- "Sanitation Insanity"". Bubbleblabber. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  14. ^ June Pulliam; Anthony Fonseca (26 September 2016). Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend. ABC-CLIO. pp. 83–. ISBN 978-1-4408-3491-2.
  15. ^ Schensul, Jill (12 January 2014). "Schensul: If you go to Key West, Fla., beware of Robert the Doll". NorthJersey.com.
  16. ^ Ella Morton (18 November 2013). "Robert the Haunted Doll: Creeping Out Floridians Since 1904". Slate.com.
  17. ^ Nancy Lynch (28 October 2014). "The story behind the 'evil' and 'dangerous' Annabelle doll". AOL.
  18. ^ Rebecka Schumann (2 October 2014). "'Annabelle' True Story: 9 Freaky Facts About The Real Doll Haunting Ahead Of Movie Release". International Business Times.
  19. ^ Harris, Meghan. "Mystery surrounds 200-year-old 'haunted doll from hell'". Chronicle. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  20. ^ a b c d "10 Freaky Dolls You Don't Want To Play With". Listverse.[unreliable source?]
  21. ^ "Meet 'Letta Me Out', An Extremely Haunted 200 Year Old Doll From Wagga". Pedestrian TV. 7 September 2018. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  22. ^ Catrien Ross (30 August 2011). Japanese Ghost Stories: Spirits, Hauntings, and Paranormal Phenomena. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 82–. ISBN 978-1-4629-0100-5.
  23. ^ "Canada Is Home To One Of The World's Most Famous Haunted Dolls". HuffPost Canada. 31 October 2018. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  24. ^ "Worshippers offer cosmetics to Barbie doll at Pulau Ubin temple". AsiaOne. Singapore Press Holdings. 29 March 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2015.

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