Creepy doll stories persist: Imagine your inanimate object going spooky

Roger Marsh
Peg Knickerbocker discovered this doll after being told where to look in a dream.Credit: Roger Marsh

Tales of haunted dolls dot the paranormal story landscape going back centuries - well, pretty much as long as dolls have been made. The series of "Chucky" films kept us all on the edge of our seats since "Child's Play" premiered in 1988.

Most families have a tale or two they can tell late at night about some odd occurrence no one can explain. I first thought of my own creepy doll story.


The earliest paranormal story I recall is one my father told late one night from his favorite chair in the living room as the kids sat listening quietly on the floor. His parents, he said, had 11 children, and two of these were twins – a boy and a girl. He said his brother died at the tender age of five months, and his sister died following a horrific accident one afternoon at the age of five years. The youngster was playing with matches in a vacant lot just down the street from their home, caught her dress on fire, and decided to run home.

My grandmother heard the screams from inside her home and came running outside to see what was happening. As her daughter approached in flames, the woman tried to douse them with her bare hands, and eventually wrestled the child to the ground. The burns were obviously severe and she was taken to a nearby hospital. The child was not doing well in the hospital and my grandmother picked up a favorite doll that her daughter had been asking for. Later, clutching the doll, the girl died in her mother’s arms. My father also pointed out that his sister was severely burned on her left leg and her right arm.

Funerals in this era were frequently conducted at the family home, and my father described the scene where his sister was laid out in a casket in their living room, holding her doll, while crowds of people poured in to pay their respects. The family had no idea how popular the little girl was as so many people attended. My grandmother, supposedly without other members of the family watching, removed the doll from the casket before it was finally sealed, wrapped the doll in a paper bag, and eventually tucked it away privately in the attic.

Several years passed, my father, said, when the family was sitting around one evening talking about their lost sister. Someone mentioned the pretty doll that she held, and my grandmother decided to go up into the attic and retrieve the doll for everyone to see. She took the doll from its hiding place in the attic and brought the bag downstairs. But when she opened the bag, the family stared in shock. All of the paint had blackened from the doll’s left leg and right arm, an alarming portrait of how the child must have looked after her burns.

My father said that the episode so severely upset the family, that his father immediately burned the doll in their furnace. The feeling was somewhat evil or satanic apparently, and he felt that they needed to destroy the doll.

We of course wondered about the doll and his sister and asked if he was sure none of the other family members could have discovered the doll and blackened the limbs. My father was convinced that his mother had secretly removed the doll from the casket on her own, and then had securely hidden it in the attic. She even commented that it did not appear that the hiding place, nor the bag, had been tampered with. And at the time it seemed unthinkable that a family member or friend would have done that to the doll and put it back in place to be found at a later date.

Peg Knickerbocker and Roger Marsh consult notes during a documentary shoot in 2009.Credit: Roger Marsh

I discovered another creepy doll story while shooting a documentary at the haunted Knickerbocker Hotel in Linesville, PA, IN 2009. The hotel had its grand opening in 1882 and in its days was the perfect halfway stop between Chicago and New York City. Myrle and Peg Knickerbocker bought the property in 2005 and have been restoring it since.

Peg said she owned a house in Meadville, PA, and while doing a cleanout of that house very strange things were going on. One night Peg had a dream and in the dream, she was given some very specific instructions.

"Go through the wall where the drywall has been removed," Peg said. "You will find on the other side stacks and stacks of magazines. Walk to about the center of the room and reach down and you will find a doll. That doll is special. Remove it and take good care of it."

The following day, Peg did exactly what the dream instructed.

"When I reached down between the wall and magazines there was a doll. It was very old and in really good shape. I took the doll home."

But there was an accident as Peg carried the doll inside.

"It got dropped and the face got smashed," she said. "After the face was put back together, the doll was taken to the hotel and was placed in a sitting position on the third floor in back bedroom number 21.

"We had cameras that we placed in the room which we had online and let her be seen and comments were allowed from viewers. We felt we were letting the world see our broken dolly."

But viewers soon saw and recorded some very strange things.

"Asylum Cam had one of their cameras broadcasting so their viewers could view into the hotel. I was sent a short video of what looks to be a few seconds with some delays from their camera of me walking into the room and the dolly's feet and eyes opening and closing.

"I walk into the room and it looks as if dolly's eyes opened and shut and her feet went back and forth. Her eyes are permanently open. They are glass eyes that do not shut and her feet with her little shoes that are original to her look as if they move open and then shut."

We are working to get this video.

Sharon Day's haunted Shirley Doll.Credit: Sharon Day

Sharon Day is a screenwriter and actress (gemStar TM), researcher, author, publicist, and artist. Her published books include: "Ghost of a Chance," "Vacationing with Ghosts," "What Ghosts Do," and one I purchased recently that I love, "Growing Up With Ghosts."

I have known Sharon for a few years now as Facebook friends and her adventures are wildly interesting and fun. I knew she had a creepy doll story.

"The Haunted Shirley doll was sent to me by a ghost investigator in the Midwest," Sharon said. "The doll was being passed around because everyone had bad luck with it. One person said she started a fire, another claimed she killed their dog. Her eyes are red, but from research I did, I found out it wasn't unusual for dolls' eyes to turn color, especially this strange red. They had been green when manufactured.

"Oddly, she arrived in a box, and out of her pants, a small quartz crystal wand fell out. I asked the person who sent it. She didn't even own one. Hmmm.

"As a psychometrist, I could read a lot of things about the people who had handled her, but the doll itself felt pretty devoid of a personality.

"However, after much testing, she did seem to set the EMF meter off in a big way when asked very pointed questions about her motives and her emotions.

"One time, while sitting on the floor of my room doing some crafts, she literally launched herself 3 feet from a dresser and hit me in the head. It was a physical impossibility.

"Another time, I left her next to a plugged-in curling iron. I rushed out to a film event and the people picking me up had a new car. The car wouldn't start. I looked at the house, thought about Shirley as one of them commented, "I wonder if that freaky doll did this?" Thinking about her made me realize I left the curling iron on with her gown touching it. I rushed inside and unplugged it. The car suddenly started.

"More people started sending me Shirley dolls. One had purple eyes. I put them in the garage one night to see what would happen. I came back the next day to find the original Shirley doll sitting away from the others.

"For all her odd quirks, I never felt threatened by the doll. However, one day, I was busy packing up my closet and organizing and she fell from a shelf and her porcelain left leg broke. The next day, I had an accident crossing a rainy street and the light changed and a truck was coming at me. I slipped on the rainy ground and fell injuring my left leg. Hmmm.

"I sent the dolls back and wished their new owners well. I don't believe in possession, but as a psychometrist, I do believe in retaining energies that are sometimes very disruptive and energetic. It's not necessarily good or bad, but simply energy.

"I refer this example to folks who collect antiques and have disruption and assume the newly acquired item is at fault. You can have two objects with positive energy, but one is the positive energy of a zen meditation and the other is the positive energy of Christmas morning. Put side by side there is a conflict. It doesn't mean one is good or bad, only that they are rather like north pole magnets meeting. Simply move the objects around until there are complements near each other and things quiet down."

You can visit Sharon's website at Ghost Hunting Theories and explore her social media sites.
Haunted Shirley doll.Credit: Sharon Day

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ROGER MARSH is a media content producer with works in print, film, television, web, and stage. His “UFO Traffic Reports” published more than 7,000 times since 2009. He was a case researcher for the History channel’s “Hangar 1: The UFO Files.”

Franklinville, NY

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