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  • Writer's pictureJohn Wick

The Creepiest Real Life Dolls

Stories of haunted dolls could be traced back many generations. But it was not until the arrival of Hollywood characters such as Annabelle and Chucky that the concept of possessed puppets truly cemented itself within the wider public consciousness. In this post, we look into three allegedly true stories of toys which seem to have a life of their own.

Robert the Doll

Robert Eugene Otto was born on the 25th of October 1900 into one of the wealthiest families in the Floridian city of Key West. From a young age, he preferred his second name over his first and was known to everyone in his household simply as Gene. By the age of three, his parents had duly commenced the search for a nursemaid to supplement their staff and attend their son's needs. After several interviews, a Bahamian lady was finally employed who quickly went on to form a close bond with her young charge.

But the nurse was soon to discover why there was such a speedy turnover of staff within the family, when she was handed her notice for the most trivial of matters. It was never established if the hand-stitched doll she handed to Gene prior to her departure was created to ease the boy's heartache or to perhaps simply irritate his parents.

Regardless, Gene immediately fell in love with his new companion, a three-foot-tall puppet dressed in a sailor's uniform who he named Robert. In no time at all, he was spending hours with his new best friend and as the servants went about their business, they would regularly catch the sound of two young boys conversing with one another, coming from behind the closed door of his bedroom. Quite naturally, it was assumed that Gene was providing the voice for Robert, affecting a slightly gruffer tone to differentiate it from himself.

But soon, rumors began to circulate among some of the servants that they believed they had in fact heard two distinctly different voices coming from the young boy's room. Then one day, Gene's panicked screams brought his parents running upstairs. As they hurried across the landing towards his bedroom, they also heard what they thought was devilish laughter, which continued as they then struggled to open his door. Finally, with the help of a servant, they managed to force entry. Inside, the Ottos found their son cowering on his bed, his furniture and toys lying overturned and broken all around him. When they tried to find out from Gene what had taken place, all he could reply was that Robert had done it, whimpering and pointing across to the doll, which was now sat on the window ledge staring back into the room.

As time passed, Gene and his possessions were plagued by further supernatural occurrences. These included some of his other dolls being discovered hidden around the house, mysteriously torn and mutilated. There were also incidents where servants working in a particular room subsequently found themselves locked inside, when no other person was present in the house with them. Several items of family silverware were also discovered bent or warped out of shape. More than one of the servants openly stated that they believed the nursemaid had used Voodoo or some other form of black magic to curse the doll she had given to the boy before she left.

Eventually when his parents passed away, Gene would go on to inherit the Otto family home. With his love for his childhood friend undiminished, he happily gifted Robert his own bedroom where the doll was placed in a chair by the window to sit and stare down at passers by. In time, Gene fell in love and married a local woman called Anne. But his insistence that Robert should sit with them at the dinner table and sit on a chair in their bedroom at night would go on to put great pressure on the marriage. Finally, at the behest of his new wife, Otto agreed to lock the doll in the attic and have no further contact with it. Unsurprisingly, this only seemed to make things worse. Parents from the neighborhood began to attend the address, complaining that the doll was pointing and gesturing from the attic window, terrifying their children who were playing on the road outside.

Anne Otto was plagued by the sound of footsteps coming through the ceiling above their room, only to find nobody up there besides the doll when she and her husband went to investigate. Eventually, she suffered a full mental breakdown and was committed to a local asylum. Gene went on to pass away in 1974, at which point both the deeds of the Otto household and its hand-stitched occupant passed to new hands.

When the ten-year-old daughter of the new owners became plagued by visions of Robert the Doll trying to kill her, the aging puppet was quickly removed from the address and donated to the nearby East Martello Museum. Robert remains there to this day, safely contained in a glass case, but stories of his supernatural shenanigans persist. It is said that it's almost impossible to take a photograph of him with cameras and electronic devices regularly malfunctioning when visitors attempt to do so.

There have also been reports that some tourists have seen the doll's facial expressions change, with his hands sometimes twitching down by his sides inside his display case. It would seem that whatever strange powers the doll possesses remain undiminished following the death of its beloved owner.

The Mandy Doll

The tales of Robert the Doll's mysterious movements in his new public home are eerily similar to those of another doll, which resides nearly 4,000 miles away, on the opposite side of North America. Resting in a near identical container in the depths of the Quesnel City Museum, is the enamelware doll of a small girl named Mandy, sitting with a baby lamb upon her lap. The full history of this doll is much less well known than that of her American counterpart, as the woman who donated the toy to the museum in 1991 insisted on remaining anonymous.

From the first evening that Mandy arrived in her new home, haunting events began, which would totally unnerve the staff members who had been tasked with preparing her for public exhibition. When it arrived, the toy's clothing was filthy. For a short time, it was placed into a clear plastic bag, in order to shield it from the elements whilst the garments were taken away to be cleaned.

Almost immediately, staff working in the vicinity of the bag began to detect a faint rustling sound. Some workers even reported having seen the plastic twitching and moving, apparently by itself. But when the bag was opened, only the doll was present inside with no power source or mechanism which might cause it to move of its own accord. It had been hoped that once Mandy's laundered clothing was restored, and she had been placed in her display case, that such incidents might cease, but it turned out that quite the opposite would be true.

Visitors passing by the new exhibit reported hearing faint tapping sounds, as though the toy was drumming its tiny fingers against the glass. On one occasion, Mandy's toy lamb was found placed on the floor outside her case, despite nobody having been anywhere near it at the time. Then, several months up to her arrival, staff opening up the museum one morning found that all the exhibits had mysteriously been opened overnight. A number of these pieces had been petulantly held across the room, as if by a child suffering a tantrum.

Mandy's display case, however, remained sealed and untouched. It was at this point that one of the workers suggested inviting a medium to come and assess the toy. Unnerved by the happenings, the museum's curator was quick to agree to this idea.

A local seer was duly approached, who conducted a psychic reading of the doll and apparently deciphered that it had previously belonged to a little girl. Unfortunately, when her owner had died at a very young age, the child's spirits have been transferred into the doll she was holding at the time she passed on. Like any small child left to their own devices, the girl's psyche would possess and animate the enamelware toy, in search of excitement and attention. But when the curator contacted the woman who had donated Mandy to the museum, he was unprepared for the entirely different tale she related.

The donor explained that she lived alone, and one night had been pottering around her house, when she had heard the sound of a baby crying downstairs. Cautiously descending the stairs into her cellar, she had found a doll she did not recognize, lying on the floor in the middle of the room.

Despite all of her efforts to dispose the unwanted toy, even including throwing it in the bins on the day they were used to be collected, she would always hear further haunting crying, before going on to discover that the doll had somehow made its way back into her cellar. Eventually, at her wit's end, she had offered Mandy to the museum, in the hope that regular human contact would satisfy the toy's hunger for attention, an idea which now seemed to have paid off.

Much like Robert the Doll, Mandy appears to have an issue with being photographed, with many attempts to take her picture failing due to unexpected malfunctions of the devices being used. Mandy remains at the museum to this day. Her new owners are adamant that the doll is not bad or evil in nature, merely childish, and prone to the occasional temper tantrum.

The 'Letta' Doll

Naturally, haunted dolls do not reside solely within dusty museum display cases, and on the other side of the globe, in the state of Queensland, Australia, one such haunted curio remains a fully functioning member of the family that owns it. Much like Mandy, the exact origins of this Australian example of the haunted doll phenomenon will never now be known. It was first discovered by two brothers during the early 1970s, when they were exploring an abandoned house in the suburbs of Wagga Wagga.

As they had made their way through the shattered husk of the premises, the younger of the two had suddenly cried out in terror. There, staring back up at them through a gap in the floorboards, was a human face. Cautiously, the pair had edged closer, only to discover a crudely carved wooden doll, dressed in boy's clothing.

Reasoning that the toy had been abandoned when the house was vacated, the boys decided to take it home with them. They christened their new friend Letta, a shortened version of the full name Letta Me Outta Here. Letta would later disappear from sight for some time, until the older brother, Kerry Walton, discovered the doll again when he was cleaning out the attic of his home in Warwick. It was at this point, when he brought Letta down to clean it up, that the doll's apparent supernatural powers began to manifest.

The family dogs became agitated when in the same room as Letta, to the point where they had to be removed to prevent them from becoming aggressive. On a number of occasions, the family would leave the doll in a certain pose or position when they went to bed, only to find that it had mysteriously changed when they awoke the following morning. Kerry also found a series of small scuff marks on the floor around the house and was shocked when he discovered corresponding marks on the soles of Letta's shoes.

Determined to get to the bottom of the doll's origins, Kerry placed it in a sack and took it to a toy expert, who stated that they believed the doll was European in origin. They theorized that had been hand-carved, possibly by gypsies, and that the thick black hair woven into the

top of its head may well be human. Dumbfounded, Walton returned home with Letta, only to recoil in horror when he parked on his drive and found the doll now out of its sack, lying across the rear seat of his car.

Finally, when his children awoke screaming in bed one night, stating that they had dreamed that Letta wanted to kill them and could move of its own accord, Walton called for a spiritualist. The medium who agreed to hold the doll stated that they believed it was possessed by the spirit of a young boy, who had drowned many years ago. Reasoning that the toy was lonely, as opposed to malevolent, Kerry decided to sell his story to the local media. Since that point, the supernatural occurrences within the Walton home have ceased, only manifesting themselves when visitors come to see and hold the haunted doll.

During one interview, when a journalist began to ask about the spirit of the drowned boy, a nearby clock flew off the wall and smashed upon the floor. Several other interviews have also become disconcerted and upset as they have allegedly felt the doll moving around, as if trying to make itself comfortable when they have been holding it in their lap.


So, are we to believe that the human soul can transfer into an inanimate object, thus prolonging its time amongst the living? There is certainly a key number of similarities in each of the cases we have examined, which seems to suggest that such supernatural possession may be a reality. And yet, psychologists have a very different theory about the phenomenon which dates back centuries all through the evolution of children's toys.

The oldest surviving dolls still in existence from the 17th and 18th centuries possess angelic, exaggerated human features, designed in such a way to bring joy to the child playing with them. But over the years, more and more effort has been put into making the dolls look realistic, producing an end result that is very similar to a real child, but still not quite perfect. As a consequence, such dolls are unnerving because of their subtle differences to a genuine human child.

People will accept the presence of a doll, as it resembles a human being, but will also subconsciously remain hyper-vigilant and guarded if they know it is not a real thing, building an almost instinctive distrust of it. As a knock-on effect, the mind can over-interpret and misunderstand situations which occur when the doll is nearby, mistakenly attributing accidents or coincidences to its presence. In essence, what has been manufactured is not intended to be frightening, but as it sits there staring back at you with glassy eyes and a big smile, it is inherently unnerving.

With the popularity of The Conjuring film series, more and more stories of creepy dolls have now come to light. It is clear that some of these lack merit, but others such as the ones we have examined, remain intriguing. So when looking to purchase lifelike companions for your children, it may be worth ensuring that you know its full history, before you bring it into your home.


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