Dolls have a long history of being both cherished and feared. From handmade to store bought, the closeness we share with them--whether from physical or emotional proximity--has resulted in otherworldly connections, some of which last long after death.
Many individuals who have received haunted dolls from their original owners (if they’re even known) report creepy tales and disturbing experiences. Dolls, known for their anthropomorphic features, can come alive in more ways than one, sometimes even dangerously. These are five haunted dolls that have horrified their owners and viewers, past and present.
1. Robert the Doll
Currently residing in Key West, Florida, haunted doll Robert has inspired a series of tales and tributes, including the murderous Chucky doll from Don Mancini’s Child’s Play series. Robert’s story also made a recent appearance in Amazon’s new horror anthology series Lore which explores the human origins of some of our most terrifying legends.
The life-sized Robert the doll was made in the early 1900s and given to painter and author Robert Eugene “Gene” Otto when he was a young boy by one of Gene’s maids, a woman who reportedly practiced voodoo. When Gene was young, his parents and other servants would hear the boy in his room talking to someone with a distinctively different voice, while at night, the Ottos would wake to Gene screaming in a room full of overturned furniture. Soon after, the Ottos began finding mutilated toys and hearing giggling and strange noises around the house.
At first, many believed it to be Gene, who would often blame it on Robert. But as activity increased and more people noticed--some reports claim that those walking by the house could see Robert move from window to window—the Ottos felt compelled to get rid of the doll, locking it in their attic.
Upon the death of Gene’s parents, Robert moved back to his childhood home, and out from the attic Robert came. Rumors swirled that Gene would spend hours locked in the house painting with the haunted doll by his side and take it with him wherever he went. Gene’s wife Anne was bothered by the behavior and eventually became somewhat tormented by the presence of possessed doll that Gene kept in a chair next to their bed. After both their passings, a new family moved into the Ottos’ house, but quickly moved out citing that Robert the doll had attempted to harm them. Robert remains the most infamous, and the most haunted, doll in the world years later.
Next to Robert, Annabelle is perhaps the most well known haunted doll. Currently on display at the Ed and Lorraine Warren Occult Museum in Connecticut, reports of the possessed doll’s terrifying antics have earned it a place in cinematic history—much like Robert. James Wan’s Annabelle and the recently released prequel Annabelle: Creation are very loosely based adaptations on the Raggedy Ann doll’s creepy powers, supposedly so dangerous she must be kept in a special box which shouldn’t be touched.
The doll’s dangerous hauntings supposedly began after a nursing student by the name of Donna came into possession of the doll through her mother. It’s unclear whether the doll was bought new or at an antique store. Either way, once she entered the apartment and life of Donna and her roommate Angie, things took a terrifying turn.
At first, Donna and Angie noticed that the doll would move around the residence or change position, quirky things the two young women were more than willing to put up with. But then the doll—or whatever possesses it—started leaving notes on paper and their bathroom mirror, asking the young women to help her. And when Angie’s fiancé got into the mix, things started to get violent.
The girls reportedly found blood on the doll’s dress. Angie’s fiancé claimed that Annabelle had tried to choke him while he slept and scratched his scratched his stomach when he entered a darkened room. That forced the young women to reach out to a medium. The medium claimed the doll was haunted by a young girl who had died there. Eventually, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren said the doll was actually controlled by a dark entity. They took the doll off the women’s hands, and she has remained in her encasement at the Warren’s museum ever since.
One of the most verbally vicious dolls on the list, Harold is also one of the most visibly disheveled. He was created approximately around the turn of the century and has passed through many hands. It’s unclear whether the doll is possessed, cursed, haunted, or something else, but various reports from those who have seen the doll indicate that merely being in its vicinity can be painful.
Harold is “the first haunted doll to be sold on eBay” and is currently owned by a man named Anthony Quinata, a paranormal investigator and author in his right. Its previous owner expressed concern over Quinata taking the doll, but Quinata was adamant about getting to the bottom of the haunted doll’s story. He brought Harold home with him after winning it on the online auction site in 2004. That persistence and curiosity lasted around a year until the doll’s creepy and tormenting behavior became too much for its owner to handle.
Quinata has said that the doll is guided by a dark force, unlike “anything I’ve ever read or heard about in paranormal literature.” In 2005, Quinata put the doll in a storage unit, where it stayed until 2013. After public interest in the doll grew, Quinata brought it out from storage to continue investigations into the scary doll.
Investigators and the members of the general public who have come into contact with Harold have reported hearing aggressive and antagonistic voices, as well as seeing slight movement and changes in facial expression from the doll. A paranormal team, after asking to come in and do a reading on the doll, reported migraines and back pain caused by Harold. Others have claimed unexplained injuries, and Quinata even blames the doll for the death of one of his puppies.
This antique haunted doll is over 100 years old. Since 1991, she has resided in the Quesnel & District Museum in British Columbia. Mandy was handed over to the museum by an anonymous donor. At the time the doll was gifted, its former owner reportedly couldn’t handle the strangeness that often surrounded her.
According to the museum, the former owner swore that a baby’s cries could be heard coming from the doll, its screams drifting up from the basement in the middle of the night. With time, the cries would grow so loud they couldn’t be ignored, and that’s when Mandy was handed over. Made approximately between 1910 and 1920, this doll is made of porcelain and since moving into the museum has caused even more of a fuss.
Following Mandy’s arrival to her new home, unexplained footsteps were heard around the museum; lunches would disappear from the fridges and turn up in drawers. Meanwhile, office supplies like pens, pictures, books and other items would simply vanish, never to be found again. Museum visitors have also claimed that their batteries drain around the doll and their camera’s light acts erratically in the haunted doll’s presence. The museum claims this real-life scary doll was even confined to her own case because it would “harm” the other dolls around it.
5. The Hands Resist Him painting
Dolls have become such a universal form of terror that they don’t even have to be physical objects to frighten you. One doll, in particular, is a great example of this--the two-dimensional rendering sold by an anonymous eBay seller in 2000. Artist Bill Stoneham originally painted the scene in 1972, and it is by and large the definition of creepy. The painting centers on a boy and a near life-size doll that is leaning against a post next to him. Both are on a porch in front of a large window, and behind them, in the darkness of the home, you can see various small, white hands reaching out.
A truly (and possibly literally) haunting piece of art, it was once owned by Hollywood actor John Marley before landing in the hands of the anonymous eBay seller. In their original posting, the seller claimed that the characters featured in the painting would shift and change position during the night. At one point the doll even “held a gun” to the boy and on another night a motion-sensitive camera supposedly caught the boy crawling out of the painting. Those who looked at the photo reached out to the seller and shared odd or terrifying experiences they had while simply looking at the photo. According to the BBC report about the painting’s sale, viewers stated they were overtaken by violent illness, fainting, children screaming upon seeing the painting, and feeling gripped by an 'unseen entity.’” On the artist’s website, he notes that “Both the owner of the Gallery where the painting was displayed and the Los Angeles Times art critic who reviewed my show were dead within a year of the show.” The painting is currently in storage at a Grand Rapids, Michigan gallery owned by the eBay member who purchased it in 2000.