Theophanes is a New-England-based blogger, traveler, writer, photographer, sculptor, and lover of cats.
When I was a little girl I hated dolls. I was my mother’s only daughter, and she was often saddened by the fact any doll she tried to bring home would inevitably end up wedged in some dark corner and forgotten. I don’t know if I just didn’t like them or if they genuinely freaked me out, though I do know that these days they scare the crap out of me.
One of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes was the one where Talky Tina, a doll, torments and eventually kills a child’s evil stepfather. I mean at first you’re rooting for the doll— “Go kill that mean bastard!”—but once she does, while giggling maniacally, you can’t help but shiver. The episode is left off with a line that burned itself into my subconscious. “My name is Talky Tina and you better be nice to me…” How creepy is that?!
Talky Tina may have been my own childhood source of terror, but she was indeed a fictional character created in the wonderfully warped mind of Charles Beaumont, the writer of the episode. I’m here to write about real haunted dolls, creepy little toys that have taken on a life of their own and started terrorizing children and families.
Robert the Haunted Doll
Of course I have to start out with my personal favorite haunted doll. His name is Robert, Robert the Doll, and he’s quite infamous these days. I first heard his story when I was twelve years old off of some weird documentary. They told stories of a three foot tall doll given to a small boy by his families’ maid servant, who by all accounts loved little Robert but may have been severely mistreated by her employers, his parents. Some legends suggest she may have been practiced in voodoo. Could the doll be a perfect revenge for a disgruntled worker?
The doll was named after the little boy who it was given to, Robert, and the two were inseparable, even long after the little boy grew up! In fact the doll held a spell over him until his death, creeping out his wife, and everyone around him. It wasn’t just the fact he looked creepy, or even his owner’s neurotic attachment, that scared people, it was what the doll was doing. From the get-go whenever something bad happened in the house and the little boy was the blame he would always come back with, “It was Robert! Robert did it!” This remained a mantra repeated to his wife later in life. Witnesses say the doll would get up at night, throw around furniture, glower at children through the window of his room, giggle, and change position and expression. Robert’s owner, Robert Eugene Otto, eventually became a fairly well known artist in the area. However he did eventually pass away and at that point his wife hastily threw the strange little doll into a dark and dusty corner of the attic. Years later a new family bought the home, discovered the doll, and gave it to their ten year old daughter as a gift. What a delightful gift, a really creepy old doll from the attic!
The poor girl was terrified of the doll who apparently set about going on a killing spree popping off the heads of her other dolls and ripping them limb from limb. Jealous much? He also wasn’t fond of her and she claims she’d wake up in the middle of the night with Robert sitting on her face. She believes to this day he was trying to suffocate her. When the family’s dog got mysteriously tied up, gangland style, in the cords of a venetian blind the doll was once again imprisoned in the attic. Eventually the house was bought for historical reasons and was titled, The Artist’s House. By now almost a hundred years had gone by since Robert first made it onto the scene and how lucky the staff felt when they found an original possession of Robert Eugene Otto still sitting in the attic! Suffice to say he didn’t stay at the house long, something about staffers not wanting to be the last one there to lock up at night. He found himself rather generously donated to the East Martello Museum not far down the road. Here he apparently followed around staffers like a real-life Chuckie doll until they had the good sense to encapsulate him in a plastic display case.
Now, last year my boyfriend wanted to know if there was any place in Florida I’d like to go. Without hesitating I said, “Key West! I want to see Robert the doll!!” Naturally my boyfriend had no idea what I was talking about but because he’s such a darling we went down there and I got to meet the only celebrity I’ve ever wanted to see – Robert the Doll.
We were told if we wanted to take a photo we’d have to ask permission, not of the staff but of the doll, because he likes to black out photographs. So when we found him in his display case I took out my cell phone camera and my boyfriend, of course, immediately said, “Hey! You have to ask him first! Go on! Ask! I want to hear you ask!” I think I blushed. Normally I have no problem talking to inanimate objects. I give my computer encouragement when I think smoke is about to pour out of it, I yell profanities at my own possessed printer (that coincidentally hates me) and I talk frequently to my pets and other people’s pets. I realize animals aren’t inanimate but I also know they probably have no idea what I’m saying to them. I shuffled forward, sheepishly saying, “Robert… Can I take your photo? You’d make me so happy. I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time and I have come all the way from NH to see you… I also think you’re adorable.” Robert did not black out my photo. However when I used it as wallpaper on my phone I lost two successive phones to freak accidents that had the salespeople I returned them to scratching their heads. My wallpaper on my current phone is a bleary eyed cow. Seemed safer somehow…
Of course I am not the only one blaming Robert for doing bad things. His display case is surrounded by letters from around the world about people’s misfortunes after having come to visit him so I decided to do the same in my own letter.
Annabelle the Haunted Doll
Not many people know that the demonologists that made the Amityville Horror House famous also runs a haunted objects museum. They’re sort of really into this stuff. Anyway, sometime in the 1970’s two young nursing students were living in a tiny apartment happy as could be until one of their moms bought an antique Raggedy Anne doll and presented it to her daughter as a birthday gift. The gesture was sweet and comforting… until the doll came to life. Just like Robert it would change positions while the girls were away. At first it was little – maybe someone had bumped into the doll or forgotten they’d messed with it. However the doll got increasingly brazen until it would just wander into completely different rooms and get itself into all sorts of odd positions around the house. Eventually the doll was put in lock down in the poor young woman’s bedroom. Like a haunted doll respects a lock down! This one sure didn’t and decided to keep busy writing creepy notes on paper no one in the apartment owned. Most read cryptically, “help us” or “Help Lou.” Of course the first thoughts that come to mind is, “Wow, what a twisted doll” and “Who is Lou??” Lou was a friend of the girls who complained the doll was evil and they should get rid of it, obviously not winning any brownie points from the doll. The girls were equally scared by the doll’s new hobby of stigmata – where it would appear with bloody hands. Charming.
In order to answer some of their burning questions about the doll the girls hired a medium. The medium held a séance during which a bizarre story came to light. She claimed a seven year old girl who once lived on the property died there and restless and with nowhere else to go she decided to inhabit a doll and become close to the two girls. OK, that’s not freaky at all. Soon the doll was being treated like a seven year old, out of pity. She’d be played with, given attention, talked to, dressed up. The doll adored the attention and garnered up energy to terrorize Lou. In a very typical succubus type of way the doll came to Lou in the night, paralyzed him, crawled up his leg, and sat on his chest where she wrapped her soft little hands around his neck and started throttling the poor guy who blacked out. Not content with this she would later be found luring Lou alone into a booby trap and using him as her own personal scratching post.
The girls started to realize their new red-headed friend was kind of psychotic… so they called a priest. The priest scratched his head, said something along the lines of, “I’m an Episcopalian not a Catholic, I don’t know how to exorcize a doll…” before giving the case to the famous Warren couple. The Warren’s looked at the doll with a deep suspicion. They felt it was a demon controlling the doll, one that was looking around for a human host like some sort of paranormal parasite. They decided to take the doll away from anyone it could harm.
Apparently the car ride home with the doll was quite a story! The car stalled, sped up, wielded wildly out of control, swerved towards trees, but Mr. Warren was strong willed. He stopped the car, got out, sprayed the doll with holy water, as one does, and continued on his way. Now the doll sits at his museum, the Warren Occult Museum, in Connecticut. Its said she’s still not particularly calm as she sometimes growls at visitors and is said to have killed some guy who taunted her in a tragic motorcycle accident right after leaving the museum. I’m intrigued and think I might schedule a visit to Connecticut to see for myself…
Island of the Dolls (Isla de las Munecas)
I know what you’re thinking. How can I top off those two crazy dolls? Well how about by telling you of an island absolutely infested with haunted rotting dolls, a virtual swarm hanging from every tree? I know, the idea gives me the heebie jeebies too.
It all started when the only man living on the island had the great misfortune to fish a drowned girl out of the canal. To ease the soul of the girl and his own tormented mind, he hung the first doll in a tree there, eventually fishing out more dolls and doll parts to hang in the trees later on. This became a consuming obsession until every tree was decorated with hanging dolls from everywhere he could gather. Many were missing limbs, some were just heads, and the time and environment made them decay even further. The dolls have been said to make scratching noises, whisper, talk, giggle, blink their eyes and move.
Not surprisingly their owner eventually drowned in the canal, just like the girl whose spirit he was trying to appease. Was it the dolls? Well I know one thing… I’m not going down there to find out! I might be just a bit of a sissy though as the island has become somewhat of a morbid tourist attraction for anyone who visits Mexico. Below I've added a cheerful gallery of some of the dolls you can see there. Enjoy (or run for your life - your choice.)
Emily on April 03, 2020:
The Annabelle dolls are creepy
Brooke on December 30, 2019:
I was lying kn my bed last night and in my moms room there was a doll what was creepy thats why it was in there cause i hated it and the door was shut and then it burst open and i heard footsteps that i could not explain as soon as i woke up to look around the door slamed shut i can not forget this.
Lalia on November 16, 2019:
Those are the creepy creeps
C&S on January 07, 2019:
Those sent chills down my spine
Elizabeth on December 21, 2018:
Is that you and did you write all these stories
megh watts on December 10, 2018:
why are you making dolls and sending them to people
LunarCat1 on November 08, 2018:
Now those stories are just straight out creepy.
Lina Anderson on October 18, 2018:
What About Cynthia
Bagryana on August 07, 2018:
If I was their I would be skerd.I like annabell could you give it to me pleas Im from ingland flat 10 yuonger park do you like to meet me and to play games with annabell I like you to come pleas can you come to my hous?
Someone on July 11, 2018:
I like dolls even as an adult but old dolls that are visibly worn and aren't lifelike enough do creep me out along with these haunted ones. It's so cool you got to meet Robert the Doll though!
Me on July 10, 2018:
Tadgh- Australian on April 04, 2018:
Scary dolls are really scary with me. Who’s placed one man hide and seek. Leave comment. One man hide and seek is scary as how you grab a doll then stuff it with rice. Not cool man
hope on November 19, 2017:
Susan on September 17, 2016:
I am so fascinated by these stories. Although I am essentially a very spiritual individual and feel deeply rooted in the battle between good and evil...these stories unhinge me...rock my faith. These stories are proof that evil sometimes prevails over good; and that spirits can and will possess anything
Vdjm on September 15, 2015:
Crazy how i ran across this article , it seems so strange to me especially when i got to the island of the dolls part. When i was a lil girl i remeber i would always have the same dream/nightmare & it looks exactly like in those pictures. From the island in my dream i would be wandering alone looking at the dolls and searching for my parents ,it would start off so nice till i couldnt find nebody. Talk about weird
roxievictoria on September 15, 2015:
Won't let me see all of Robert the dolls photos
bloody friend on March 20, 2015:
I actually liked it alltho I'm Christian n I do believe in dolls I had an American doll n I rememberd that it moved I was freakin scared I locked my self n I haerd stuff falling ...then my mom came then she blamed it on me so after that I remembers that it just looked at me n gave me a look...I told my mom that I didn't want the doll n when I said that my mom said ok...at that night I remembers I saw my dog barking at it so...it was in the kitchen floor I told my mom that I wanted that doll out of my house n when it wasn't there I just saw weird things happening
Violet King on March 01, 2015:
This reminds me of the doll I had when I was younger. I loved the very disturbing doll that would always talk back to you. One day I woke up and its eyes went from pretty sky blue to creepy pitch black. When it spoke it sounded as if it were some sort of demon. So at that moment I got out of bed grabbed the doll by the blonde hair and threw it in the shed so I wouldn't have to look at it.
Keith W Johnson on March 01, 2015:
Cool hub. Thanks for ruining everyone's sleep. :-) I'm glad I always stuck to Star Wars action figures as a kid...
Mara Alexander from Los Angeles, California on March 01, 2015:
Very interesting. I saw a movie once a while back about a doll name Robert who had voodoo put on it. When the real Robert grew up, and got married he found the doll Robert in a trunk in the attic. It sounds like the same one you are speaking of.
Island of the Dolls sounds creepy too
Great hub that was fun to read
Melissa Reese Etheridge from Tennessee, United States on February 28, 2015:
This is such an interestingly creepy Hub, and I loved it. Thank you for such a grisly read right before bedtime. Voted up and interesting.
Krzysztof Willman from Parlin, New Jersey on February 28, 2015:
I've heard of Robert and the Annabelle doll but the Island of the Dolls sounds even more eerie, and you showed the pictures to prove it.
Although I'm not a huge believer in the supernatural, I still wouldn't want to mess with any of those dolls just in case.
:-D on May 28, 2014:
The island of dolls was so freaking scary!!!!
UndercoverAgent19 on February 01, 2014:
I loved reading this hub! Since I've been little, I've had a mild touch of automatonophobia. Up until I was a teenager, most of my nightmares involved dolls, puppets, or mannequins chasing me. If I would have known about Robert and Annabelle when I was a child, I can't imagine how terrified I would be. Although I've already seen several little documentaries about these haunted dolls, it was fun to read about them again, particularly because you brought kind of a fun voice to the topic and your interest in the topic really shows through your writing.
Gail Louise Stevenson from Mason City on December 03, 2013:
Very interesting. The doll on the Twilight Zone did seem awful evil! I would never root for the doll. The dolls look creepy. Robert does look creepy, as well. Dolls that are evil would be scary.
Woody Marx from Ontario, Canada on October 02, 2012:
I found this a fun read. Personally I'm not scared of dolls at all. They may look a little creepy with their wide open lifeless eyes and that way they have of watching you when you enter a room...I'm not scared of them though...just don't lock me in a room with one that's all. ;)
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on October 01, 2012:
Sean from PA on October 01, 2012:
My wife is terrorized of dolls. And based on this article alone...simply the pictures alone have made me a follower of the fear.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on September 26, 2012:
LoL Thanks - it helps to know there are others. ;)
LA Elsen from Chicago, IL on September 26, 2012:
Freakish Fun! Since the age of 3 I have been tortured by dolls, but as an adult I can say I thought I put it all behind me. Well... now you have brought new life to my once deeply buried fears. Talky Tina - Always the villain. I never had sympathy for her. Poor Tele.