Creepy Corner: I Can't Say Enough About How Creepy Dolls Are

Dolls man, they're creepy.
Publish date:
May 19, 2014

When we moved into our house in Seattle, THE CREEPY HOUSE, I was, uh, "pleasantly" surprised to find that the previous owner had left her entire doll collection in the basement.

I know I've mentioned this before, but those dolls were spooky. As a five-year-old girl, I remember exploring our new house and upon going into the dark, cold basement for the first time being met with dozens of glassy eyes staring at me from the corner. I remember backing out of the basement, and running up the stairs to investigate another day.

When I went back later, I found the dolls still in their spot: lumped in the corner, hanging all over an old bookshelf and chair, still staring at me, waiting for me to turn out the one dim light and -- I was sure -- continue edging toward the stairs. There were fancy porcelain ones, baby dolls in bonnets with those lazy "open and close" eyes, cloth dolls in all manner of "ethnic" garb -- Japanese, Spanish, Native American, and so on.

It didn't help that it was around this time that my older cousin, Sarah (yes, I'm looking at you), told me a story about the Killing Doll, a beautiful lady doll that went on killing sprees every night. Sarah claimed that every day the Killing Doll's lips and cheeks would get redder and redder because every night she was going out looking for victims.

Of course there was a doll that fit that description in our basement. I had nightmares for months about that little doll climbing up the stairs and murdering me in the bathroom late at night when I got up to pee. I don't know why it was always in the bathroom.

Needless to say dolls have always held a special place of horror in my mind.

Dolls, man, they're creepy.

Of course now, as a grown up creeper I'm morbidly drawn to all creepy things doll-like. Annabelle, Robert, Okiku, the especially unnerving La Pascualita.

So when Kate Conway alerted me to this house in upstate New York, I spent the evening traipsing down the mysterious mannequin rabbit hole.

Built in 1845, the Lawson House is the last surviving house of a great fire on the block. In 1871, a horrible train crash killed 22 people only 200 feet from the house. Nobody knows if HUMANS still inhabit the Lawson House, but as far as anybody can tell it does not sit empty. DOLLS -- that is, mannequins -- live in the house.

Placed on the porch in regularly changing positions, the mannequins hold books, cups overflowing with potpourri, and all manner of civilized accoutrement. Sometimes a light can be seen shining through the windows of the supposedly empty (except for the mannequins) Lawson House at night, introducing the question: Who is in the house?

The mannequins seem to have a life of their own, their changing gestures pointing "towards an unsolved riddle, a story that unravels every day, regardless of whether anyone is there to see it."

Sometimes the mannequins are turned toward or are pointing at the site of the train crash. Other times "they’re discovered with their heads looking towards the only other historical house left on the street, which has sat abandoned for many years." When it rains, the mannequins have been known to retreat indoors, but moved by whom? The mystery of who "mans" the mannequins has yet to be solved.

While I'm sure this is some sort of elaborate installation or performance piece, the Lawson House is still freaking creepy. No matter how cynical you are, the house plays on all the fears that THE DOLLS ARE GOING TO GET YOU. I mean, come on, doesn't a small part of you wonder if one day someone will catch the Lawson mannequins moving on their own and then the world as you know it will be MESSED UP?

You can add the Lawson House to your Creepy Corner Vacation list now -- and while you're at it, go ahead and add this next place.

Isla de las Munecas, or The Island of the Dolls, in Mexico.

Over 50 years ago, Don Julian Santana -- the only inhabitant of the island -- found the body of a drowned young girl in the Xochimilco canal by his home. "Haunted" by her death, he saw a doll floating in the canal some time later and decided to hang the doll in a tree as a gift to her. Just like daddy used to do.

In the years that followed, Santana continued to give the young girl dolls -- fishing them out the canal, salvaging them from garbage heaps, trading food for them. Eventually when outsiders found about Señor Santana's Island, they would bring him additional dolls to nail up.

For the rest of his life, Santana continued to hang the dirty, decaying dolls up all over the island in hopes of appeasing the spirit of the deceased girl. And, oh, did I mention that he, too, drowned in the canal? Some say in the same spot the girl was found. Now all that's left is the dolls.

A few groups have gone onto the island in the hopes of proving that it is haunted. People have said that whispering can be heard among the dolls, especially at night.

I remember one episode of "Destination Truth" (Imagine greater!) where Josh Gates and gang spent the night on the island. At one point one of the dolls, perhaps none too pleased at having a night vision camera and Josh's mug up in her business, opened an eye on its own. Check it out:

The whole episode was pretty ghostly good fun, but I'm wondering if the Island of the Dolls is more in the Winchester House vein. Maybe there were ghosts involved (I'm always HOPING for that), but just as Sarah Winchester had an obsession with building onto her house to protect herself from angry spirits, I wonder if Santana had the same type of obsession? Just with dolls.

And in case you're hankering for your own little "Killing Doll" to keep you company at night, you could bid on this charming fellow:

The seller claims that the doll is possessed and says, "We hear odd sounds and my son has been scratched on his face in his sleep."

Of course there's any number of "haunted dolls" for sale on the interweb. Like this one:

Or this one:

When she opened it she dropped it as she gasped at the site of an evil dybbuk doll with a metal golden cross on her chest while covered in brown feathers. On the right side of the box is a picture of a Victorian man. Written on the back is the name Grahm. Who was he and what did he have to do with this evilness staring at her? Scared and confused she took the box to a priest to see if he had any answers. He told her that the doll had the devil in it and used in some dark magic. My dogs whimper whenever they pass it.

Or Lilah:

I'm highly skeptical of all these dolls, but all the same I won't be making any investments any time soon.

All I know is if one of those dolls found its way to my home, with a rosy flush to its cheeks and bright red lips, it would be in the first shipment to Mexico to join its spooky brethren.

Do you think dolls are creepy? Ever "met" a haunted doll or mannequin? Who's your favorite haunted/spooky/just plain WRONG doll?