Now that the holiday season is upon us, many dolls will be given as Christmas gifts. When I was young, I was given a doll for Christmas and favored it more than all the others. We did everything together; ate lunch together, had tea parties, watched TV and played dress up. She was my height and my best friend. But not all dolls are friendly — some can have ulterior motives. If you’re not familiar with Rod Serling’s, “The Twilight Zone,” there is an episode entitled, “Living Doll.” The story follows a little girl, Christie, who receives a doll named, Talky Tina, that her mother bought at an ordinary department store. Talky Tina becomes Christie’s comfort and friend until things start taking a downhill turn. Christie’s mean stepfather begins to witness the doll saying threatening things to him. He tries destroying the doll, but she comes back and becomes more aggressive saying, “My name is Talky Tina and I’m going to kill you.” But those things only happen on television, right? Think again. Are you familiar with Annabelle? I am. I met her. How about the Robert doll?
The Annabelle doll has become more mainstream over the last few years ever since she was mentioned in the movie, “The Conjuring” in 2013 and then had her self-titled movie, “Annabelle” in 2014. However, in both movies, Annabelle is depicted as a porcelain doll with long, light brown hair that is braided in pigtails, having a menacing face and wearing a white dress with red ribbon. But that’s just fiction. The real Annabelle is a basic Raggedy Ann doll. Unfortunately, she may appear “basic,” but inside, she’s far from that.
A normal-looking Raggedy Ann doll was purchased from a hobby store in 1970. She was a gift from a mother to her graduating daughter, Donna. Her daughter and roommate, Angie, fancied the doll and placed it in their apartment as a decoration. Over time, the two girls began noticing unsolvable movements from the doll where she would change her sitting position; crossing arms, legs or even moving into different rooms within the apartment. If that wasn’t already perplexing, the doll started showing signs of having the ability to write. Donna and Angie would find notes in child-like handwriting on scraps of paper that read, “Help us.” After ruling out the possibility that the building superintendent or someone else with a key was playing a joke on them, the two girls called a medium for assistance. The medium told the girls that a seven-year-old girl named, Annabelle Higgins, had inhabited the doll. She had resided on the property that is now the apartment complex they are living in. Feeling sympathetic, the roommates verbally gave permission for the spirit of Annabelle to remain as an occupant of the doll.
Eventually, Annabelle became dangerously disruptive to the point where Ed and Lorraine Warren were called to investigate the situation. They concluded that it was not a little girl inhabiting the doll, but a demonic entity that was quickly reaching the infestation phase. The Warrens quickly removed the doll from their apartment and put it in a glass case in the basement of their home. To this day, the Annabelle doll is kept in that glass case with a sign that distinctly reads, “Warning: Positively Do Not Open.”
Over the summer, I had the opportunity to visit the Warrens’ Museum where the Annabelle doll resides. Upon entering the museum, we were told to pray for protection and for God’s light to be around us because behind those doors, one comes face to face with many possessed dolls that were used for voodoo, curses, and other black magic rituals. They come from all over the world from people who encountered these dangerous, satanic dolls and contacted the Warrens to take possession of them. The dolls, along with other unholy artifacts, are safely kept in one place and blessed frequently. The space is regularly exorcised, and no one is permitted to enter the room after dark.
Nervously and anxiously walking up to the case to see her up close for the first time was intriguing – I didn’t want to look away. An ominous red light shines upon her and there is a single cross above the door. Nothing unnatural occurred, but to look into the eyes of a possessed, demonic doll that has caused mysterious phenomena, gave me an indescribable rush. I was also surprised by her size — she’s quite large with dark button eyes and an innocent looking smile; very deceiving. To be safe, upon approaching the doll, everyone is warned not to taunt or disturb the doll. Apparently, years ago during a tour, a young man began mocking Annabelle. Ed Warren instantly escorted him out and told him to leave. The young man and his girlfriend rode away on their motorcycle and headed home. Sadly, he never made it. According to his girlfriend, he was still mocking the doll when they crashed. She survived.
Eleven-year-old Robert Otto moved with his family to Key West, Florida in a house that his now referred to as the Artist House. The family hired a servant to help care for Robert, but she was soon fired after Mrs. Otto caught her rehearsing black magic spells. Before the servant departed from the family, she left Robert with a gift; a three-foot-tall doll with button eyes and human hair. The doll essentially resembled Robert and soon became his companion. He did everything with his new doll; dressed him in his own clothes, sat with him at meals, and would even let the doll share his bed.
Little Robert would soon learn that his doll was more than a doll. Randomly, Robert began to insist that he be recognized by his middle name, Gene. He would confidently carry his Robert doll by his side, but eerie things started happening around the house. Gene’s toys would be mangled, objects would be thrown across the room and voices could be heard. He persistently told her parents that Robert did it, but understandably had to accept the punishment.
As an adult married man, Gene still had a strong attachment to Robert, regardless of his wife’s disapproval. He would spend countless hours with the doll in his attic where he did his painting. After Gene’s death, Robert was abandoned in the attic alone. It wasn’t until a new family purchased the mansion and found him, that he came to life once again. He tormented the new family until they packed up and moved out.
Currently, you can find Robert, dressed in a sailor suit, at the East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida. But be careful. Like Annabelle, there are rules. One has to ask Robert for permission in order to take his photo. If you don’t and you take a picture of him anyway, it is claimed that the picture will not be clear and you will have a curse put upon you. The same thing will happen if you heckle him. One can also see Robert on an episode of “Deadly Possessions” on the Travel Channel.
Does this still make you want to buy a doll for that special someone for Christmas? I’m sure glad mine never turned out to be possessed. I can’t imagine seeing a doll unexplainably move on its own. So, be careful when purchasing your next doll. You never know what could be behind those plastic eyes and innocent smile.
Contributed by Rachel Pierce