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The Uncanniest Valley
By Ghia Vitale
I recently wrote about how children's "imaginary friends" often turn out to be spirits. Inanimate objects also make great company. More often than not, they’re very agreeable and you hardly ever have to pay for their admission into any venue where they aren’t being showcased. More often than not, they don’t require the same level of care that a living, breathing organism necessitates. When is the last time that you had to water a doll that wasn’t part-Chia Pet? Dolls tend to do whatever their maker programmed them to say and do. Most of the time, but not all of the time. Some dolls have lives of their own that extend far beyond the simple, boring existences that their creators envisioned for them.
One of the most notorious dolls in pop culture is “Robert the Doll.” Robert Eugene Otto received this doll in 1906. Rumor has it that Mrs. Otto and Mr. Otto habitually mistreated their servants, so they definitely had some kind of bad karma headed their way. But once they crossed the wrong servant and they wouldn’t get away with it. Their victim happened to be a skilled Voudou practitioner. Instead of lacing their drinks with arsenic or laxatives, she took the high road (read: the most legal option) and left the household with a momento, one that would be immortalized as the inspiration for the Child’s Play franchise.
The woman secretly “blessed” the doll clad in a Naval Officer uniform that she gave to their son. The six-year-old boy immediately fell in love with it. Robert was so smitten with the doll, he bestowed his first name to his new friend. Soon enough, he began to insist upon being called “Gene” because his original first name now belonged to his straw-stuffed playmate.
Robert the doll revealed his “lively” personality soon after he moved in. Mr. and Mrs. Otto were routinely awakened by things going bump in the night along with Gene’s screams for help. Whenever they investigated the commotion, they’d find that the ruckus was Gene’s furniture being strewn about his bedroom. Visibly terrified, Gene would claim each time, “Robert did it!” Initially, his parents blamed their son’s overactive imagination and punished him. What else could rationally explain the baritone voice that responded to Gene whenever he addressed Robert? Perhaps their son had a impressive vocal range that they hadn’t been previously aware of? His parents assumed that it was all a game, that Gene was using Robert as a convenient scapegoat to blame for his own shenanigans.
Gene’s parents were correct about their son having a brilliant imagination. He would eventually grow up and become a successful artist. Still, Robert’s havoc was more than the product of Robert’s creativity. It wasn’t until the neighbors started complaining about the doll moving around their home by itself that the Ottos finally believed their son. Friends of the family often saw the doll’s expressions change, heard him speak, or unleash a ghastly giggle that frightened people of all ages. The Otto family’s friends remained adamant that the hardships that befell the Ottos definitely had something to do with that dastardly doll. Apparently, everything was absolutely peachy before Robert came into the picture. That’s when they realized that there was much more to Robert than straw and cloth.
After Gene Otto’s parents died, he moved back into “The Artist House” that he inherited. He soon recovered his old doll-friend from the attic. His wife, Annette, didn’t like Robert because she, like many so many other adults, saw his expression change and heard his spine-shivering laughter. She thought it was unhealthy for a grown man to be so deeply attached to a doll. Obviously jealous of the bromance that was blossoming between Robert and her husband, she decided to give Robert his own room in the attic. Robert languished there for a few years until he was finally able to telepathically communicate to Gene how much it freakin’ sucked up there. You’d think that his incessant pacing about the attic would’ve made the doll’s discontent obvious, but Robert had to Houdini himself back into the rocking chair downstairs.
After Gene kept finding his mate downstairs, he finally took the hint. Deep down, Gene knew that Robert was too classy for that, so he gave him a room of his own, one with a window from which he could torment the children who walked by. Thanks to Robert’s devoted taunting and eerie giggles, he put those brats in their place. They were sure to look away from the house whenever they passed it. Robert also got rid of that pesky plumber who darted out of the house after Robert giggled and glared at him. That’s alright, though. What’s a little septic issue between friends?
Annette just didn’t get it. Gene grew sick of how she was always interrupting his heartfelt discussions with Robert. What would his art be without Robert’s invaluable critiques?! Eventually, Gene and Robert became so close, their minds enmeshed and they became one. The main problem with their total mind-body connection was that whenever Robert would fly into violent rage episodes, Gene’s body served as a medium of communication by proxy. D’oh! Afterwards, Gene would apologize to Annette for breaking their valuables and explain that “Robert did it,” but his wife was convinced that her husband was just descending further down the slippery slopes of dementia. She eventually forfeited the battle and accepted that it was futile to bother arguing with a guy who was clearly insane and possessed at the same time. In 1974, Gene passed away in Robert’s room as Robert faithfully stood by his bedside.
Thanks to Annette, Robert found himself trapped in the attic realm again until the Myrtle family moved in. When he made his debut, their supposed daugher felt drawn to his charms. That friendship quickly went sour when Robert continued to torment the little girl with his usual antics. Unlike Gene, she didn’t understand the unique ways in which Robert expressed affection. Even as a grown woman, she claimed that the doll repeatedly tried to kill her. Myrtle took Robert with her with her when she moved out of The Artist House six years later, but she also donated him to a museum. Throughout the years, Robert was up and at ‘em, running around and spooking out people of all ages. Needless to say, Robert the Doll has garnered a very colorful reputation over the years and enjoys his stardom inside of a luxurious glass box in the Key West Martello Museum.
Another infamous doll in history is Annabelle, the inspiration for The Conjuring. Hollywood glammed up Annabelle’s appearance and used artistic license to make the whole shebang more cinematic. However, the real “Annabelle” is actually a Raggedy Ann doll. Well, not just any Raggedy Ann, but possibly the most impressive Raggedy Ann in the known universe. From now on, I hereby pronounce this doll “Swaggedy Ann” because I’ve never heard of any other ragdoll doing anything that was even remotely as interesting as this doll. This ragdoll made history.
Swaggedy Ann came into Donna’s possession when her mother gave it to her as a birthday gift when she was about to graduate from nursing school. Not nursery school, mind you, but nursing school. That knowledge alone sets the stage for creepiness of epic proportions to ensue. At first, Donna and her roommate Angie didn’t notice anything special about the doll, except maybe that it looked weird in an apartment that belonged to two twenty-somethings. At first, they noticed that the doll would change positions on its own. The doll’s movements eventually became increasingly noticeable and drastic. Donna and Angie would come home to find the cross-legged doll lazing on the couch or leaning against a chair. In no time, Swaggedy Ann was teleporting into different rooms.
As more time passed, Swaggedy Ann really got her groove back. She started doing more sophisticated gymnastics like standing upright and kneeling with the sheer force of her cotton legs. Angie and Donna tried to replicate the doll’s impressive ability to defy physics, but all of their attempts failed. Being the sociable sort, Swaggedy Ann started writing them notes on parchment that they didn’t own and couldn’t find anywhere in the house. The notes always said things like “Help us!” and “Help Lou!” Lou was their friend. He wasn’t in any danger when Swaggedy Anne wrote that message, but he was never fond of the doll to begin with. It must be hard for a ragdoll to have good motor skills, so no wonder Donna and Angie thought that the scribbled letters resembled a child’s handwriting. Despite boobytrapping the hell out of their house, they couldn’t find anything or anyone that they could explain the mysterious happenings.
Around the holiday season, Swaggedy Ann went out on a limb and left a little piece of chocolate on their stereo as a present. However, she must have felt as though they didn’t appreciate her gift enough. Amidst a temper tantrum, she “picked up” a statue and tossed it toward the center of the room. Angie and Donna were understandably startled by the sight of their statue floating in midair, only to see it drop to the ground and shatter into bits. What if someone had been standing underneath the statue? Worse, what if the spirit hurled that statue at someone? Swaggedy Ann was angry and wanted to make sure that they knew it. She became more dramatic each day until the ladies eventually discovered three drops of blood on the her chest as well as some blood on the back of her hand. They decided that enough was enough and contacted a medium to intervene, all while Lou insisted that they just get rid of the damn doll already.
The medium spoke the doll’s behalf which, unsurprisingly, turned out to be complete fiction. The spirit didn’t even have the nerve to come up with a compelling tale, let alone an interesting name. It probably looked at the doll and thought, “I can work with this ‘Raggedy Ann’ thing. I can do this.” The interaction probably went something like this:
“Hi, guys! My name’s, um, Ann..uuuuuh...belle. Yeah, I’m Annabelle! Annabelle Higgins! I’m a little dead girl who died a long time ago before these apartments were built. Since I’m all dead and stuff, I have no one to play with, just like when I was alive and my parents neglected me. To top it all off, I’m homeless! Why don’t you help me out and let me crash here?”
Annabelle’s tale moved the whole room to tears. Donna and Angie acquiesced and invited Annabelle to live with them. More specifically, they invited Annabelle to live inside of the doll. Soon, Annabelle started wilin’ out. She’d scurry around the house, mess with the electricity, and overall act like the roommate from hell. Lou suffered from recurrent nightmares that were vivid enough to be mistaken for his waking reality. In these dreams, the doll would slowly creep up his leg and strangle him until he passed out. He would wake up gasping for air, genuinely feeling as though he had just been choked. Not only did Annabelle severely batter and harass him when he was fully awake, but she also left seven gashes on his body that had the distinct appearance of claw marks. His testimony can be found online along with the detailed accounts of Donna and Angie.
Fortunately, the renowned paranormal experts Lorraine and Ed Warren saved the day. They explained how the evil entity had been trolling them all along and how inviting the spirit into their lives made it worse. According to the Warrens’ expert opinion, the malicious spirit would have murdered Lou, Donna, and Angie within the span of two or three weeks if they hadn’t enlisted the help of experts. The Warrens prescribed a professional exorcism and confiscated the doll after it was complete.
The Warrens eventually detained Swaggedy Ann in a glass case after they got sick of her spontaneously levitating and moving all around their house. Even though she hasn’t levitated or been as animated as Robert in recent years, she is thought to be responsible for causing multiple automotive accidents that turned out to be fatal. If someone didn’t die, then those who survived the accidents defied odds that were clearly against them. Nowadays, Robert mostly prefers to destroy the cameras of those who fail to ask for his permission before taking pictures. Employees pacify him with peppermints so that he doesn’t subject them or the patrons to his dreadful mischief.
Does this all sound interesting to you? Well, you’re in luck! You, too, can adopt a possessed doll of your very own. If you google “haunted dolls,” you’ll find plenty of venders who sell them. Why buy a boring doll whose only superpower is urinating on itself or saying redundant phrases? Instead, you can have a lifetime of priceless memories and a chance to win an insurance-sponsored vacation to your local happy house. A haunted doll is a gift that truly keeps on giving.
#HauntedDolls #Ghosts #Supernatural #Imaginary #Otherworldly #Nostalgic #StrangeToys #StrangeChildhood