Saturday, May 9, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 45 - The History and Haunting of Dolls

Moment in Oddity - The St. Louis Ghost Train

Residents of St. Louis, Saskatchewan have long reported sightings of a peculiar thing at an old railway crossing outside of their village. When people are out near the railroad tracks at night, they can see a bright light off in the distance, which resembles the light on an old railroad engine. The light gets closer and closer to the witnesses. As it gets closer, people claim that they can see a little red light near the bigger regular light. Before the light gets to the witnesses, it disappears. Local legend tells of a conductor who was accidentally decapitated by a train at this stretch of the railway. People believe the large light is the ghost train and that the red light is from the deceased conductor's lantern. Adding to the mystery is the fact that no train has run on this line for 30 years and the tracks are actually no longer there either. And although a couple of high school students debunked the ghost train while conducting a science fair experiment, claiming that the light was an optical illusion caused by car headlights, it should be pointed out that witnesses have reported seeing the ghost train even before cars were common place in the area. A St. Louis ghost train certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Join or Die Cartoon Premieres

On this day, May 9th, in 1754, the political cartoon known as Join or Die premieres. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was the owner of the Pennsylvania Gazette, which published the cartoon for the first time. This publication was not just the first time Join or Die ran, it was also the first political cartoon printed in America. Benjamin Franklin is the man who drew the cartoon. Most Americans are familiar with the design. The cartoon features a snake cut into eight pieces. The eight pieces represented the different colonies with New England colonies being combined together. Delaware and Georgia were omitted completely. The words "Join, or Die" were printed at the bottom. The cartoon represented Franklin's sentiments on colonial unity. Originally, the cartoon was meant to drive support for America to join Great Britain in the French and Indian War. Later, the cartoon became a symbol for freedom for the colonists during the American Revolution. The words were changed to Unite or Die during this time.

History and Haunting of Dolls

Dolls are one of the oldest and original toys. Dolls have been used for more than just play though. Sometimes they are used in religious rites, for magic or education. The main characteristic of dolls is the fact that they are made to resemble human beings. Could some dolls carry more than just a resemblance to humans? Could some of them contain a soul or spirit? Join us as we explore a brief history of dolls and then share the tales of many dolls that seem to do more than just sit idly and stare blankly into space.

The earliest dolls date back to 2000 BC and have been found in Egypt, but it is believed that dolls have been around since the dawn of human existence. Paddle Dolls are these types of early dolls found in Egypt and they were made from wood. Other early dolls were constructed from a variety of materials, including wood, clay, bone, ivory, leather, rags, soapstone and wax. Dolls with articulated limbs have been found as early as 200 BC. Many of these early dolls could be dressed and undressed and wore the fashions of the day. A girl would carry her doll throughout her young life in Roman and Greek society and then when she decided to marry, she would dedicate her doll to a goddess.

Various cultures have their own distinct dolls. Japan has Dogu figurines, Haniwa, Hina, Kokeshi and Daruma dolls. The Hina dolls are constructed from straw and wood and are elaborately painted, while the Dogu and Haniwa are made from clay and seem to be more decorative. Kokeshi dolls are made from wood. Daruma dolls are hollow and are considered good luck charms. The Ashanti people had Akuaba dolls, which were used in fertility ceremonies. Effigies, which are dolls meant to resemble actual people, have been used for centuries in various locations from African countries to European countries to indigenous populations. The most well known is a Voodoo doll, of course. The Hopi Indians called their dolls Kachina dolls and they were believed to harbor spirits of the gods and were fashioned to resemble the gods. Early North American dolls were apple dolls, which used dried apples for heads. Corn husk dolls were popular with Native Americans. Russia has the Matryoshka dolls, which are the nesting dolls we all know so well.

Clay dolls were made in Germany starting in the 13th Century and by the 15th Century, wood dolls had become more popular. It was in the 15th Century that doll making became more popular in most European countries. Wood was dominant in doll making until the 19th Century. It was after the Civil War that doll making became an industry in the United States. Other materials were soon introduced and combined with wood. Many of these dolls were constructed from papier-mache with leather bodies and wooden legs. The ingredients used to make papier-mache was closely guarded by manufacturers. Weird ingredients like eggshells and ash were sometimes used. English dollmakers Pierotti, Montenari and Meech began using wax in the production of dolls. These were the most lifelike dolls and glass was fashioned for eyes. Hair was individually applied to each doll and they were dressed in the finest fashions. Over time, these dolls heads would become cracked from expansion and contraction of the wax.

It was at this same time that china dolls began to be made. Only the heads were made from china and they were attached to bodies stuffed with straw or cotton. The finest dolls of the 1800s came out of France. Fine fashion dolls were produced by makers like Francois Gaultier, Jumeau, Barrois, Huret, Rohmer, and Bru. Bodies were fashioned from papier-mache and ball joints were added for better articulation. The French were the first to make dolls that resembled babies and children. Up until this point, dolls were made to look like adults. Germany eclipsed the French dollmakers by 1890 because they started cheap mass production. Germans made the heads from bisque and carved in the eyes. For those who do not know, both china and bisque refer to the use of porcelain as a material. Porcelein is made by firing different types of clay at temperatures above 2000 degrees. During the 1800s, rag dolls gained in popularity as well, especially in America. Mothers could make these dolls for their girls.

It was in New Jersey were celluloid was first used in doll making. This started after the Civil War and continued until 1950. The flammability of celluloid was its downfall. After World War II, plastics came into the mix. These dolls were very durable. Plastic soon was put aside for vinyl in the 1950s. Not only was it durable, but hair could be rooted into the head. Rubber and foam rubber were also used and most modern day dolls are made using these types of materials. Dolls are as popular as ever and some become all the rage like Barbie, the Cabbage Patch Dolls of the 1980s and today's Bratz and American Girl Dolls. Even boys get involved with dolls in the form of action figures.

One of the scariest movies about a doll that not only looks human, but is able to talk and move about is "Chucky." While we can sit back and watch such movies and think to ourselves that this is only Hollywood, is it possible that a doll could actually move about? Could a doll be almost real? Could spirits be just as comfortable in a doll body as they would be in a human body? When we tell you about the various haunted dolls that have been reported throughout the years, you just might find the movie "Chucky" all too real.

One of the creepiest places on the planet is the Island of the Dolls. The location is seventeen miles outside of Mexico City, Mexico and Mexicans call it "Isla de las Munecas." The area is separated by canals and it is in one of these canals that a young girl supposedly drowned. A man named Don Julian Santana Barrera had come to live in the canals and he had discovered the body. He found a doll near the body, so he nailed it to a tree. Don Julian was a hermit, but when he would venture out, he would collect discarded dolls. He began to decorate his island area with the dolls and doll parts. This was not because he really liked dolls. He apparently was being haunted by the spirit of the young girl who had drowned and he thought placing the dolls around the island would appease her restless spirit. The local town council decided to clean up the canal area in the 1990s and they were surprised to find the doll sanctuary. Or perhaps really creeped out. They left the dolls and Don Julian became a local celebrity. People started visiting the Island of the Dolls and bringing the man dolls to add to the collection. In 2001, Don Julian eventually met the same fate as the girl when he was found drowned in the canal.

Mohawk Valley Ghost Hunters sold a doll named Chandra on eBay several years ago. The paranormal investigators had originally bought the doll at a ghost convention in Virginia. Chandra had been donated to a haunted touring museum in 1991. The woman who had owned the doll claimed that she would wake in the middle of the night to sounds of a woman screaming from the basement. When the woman would investigate, she would find the window next to the doll opened. After arriving at the museum, people started having unusual experiences. Objects like office supplies would go missing. Disembodied footsteps would be heard. Lunches would go missing and be found in drawers. A weird substance has been found on the doll and in places were she has been set. After testing, the substance was found to be mostly of wood composition. Visitors to the museum claim that the doll moves. The ghost hunters claim that things had been weird for them too. They always found the doll on the floor even though she was not somewhere where she could fall onto the floor. Once, a two year old came out of the area where the doll was kept carrying Chandra. The doll was not in reach of a two year old. On another occasion, everybody heard a crash and they found the doll on the floor. A cold blast of air went by them as they entered. Someone snatched the doll up in the auction and who knows what kinds of experiences they have had.

A haunted doll named Christina was sold on eBay a few years ago and the owner sent the buyer the following letter with the doll:
Dear Shana,

Christina was originally purchased by myself at an antique store in Jefferson, Texas. And was given to my six year old daughter who named her the lovely name "Christina" I was never certain why but I believed it was after my deceased grandmother who she never knew.

I do not know why I bought such a fine antiqued porcelain doll for such a young child. Then again, but I knew instinctively I was to do this and in my life the doll would stay.

The doll was originally made in the late 1800's and she was not cheap. An original doll from England as I was told since her condition was so perfect at the time cost me $500.00.

The store I bought her in was called the Red Barn, and it's still there today. An old man waited on me I will never forget. He was very nice as he shuffled around pointing at the doll with his nice silver headed cane. He told me to notice that this doll was looking at me and wanted to go home with me. I said oh really.

I told him she was nice but I had a small child that would destroy her. He then looked me in the eye and said lady that doll is telling me it wants to live with you and will love your daughter until the day she dies and she will be no trouble at all. I was taken back because the man was talking to me as if he could hear the doll telling him just what to say. so I bought her and did not quibble about the price because I knew the doll was worth much more.

My daughter Jasmine Elisabeth Croaker was only 6 years old at the time. Everyone told me why would I give my child such an expensive present. I said i's not the price it's that fact of the happy memories it will give me and her. And of course Jasmine Elisabeth Croaker fell in love with her at first sight.

Christina lived with Jasmine day and night, I do mean lived. she had to sit on the toilet at bath time, She even went pre school and a few years of kinder garden. Jasmine informed me one day that Christina told her that she was bored and would rather stay home.

When Christina's right leg was broken accidentally by her best friend Connie Kaye. Jasmine cried real tears all day for the terrible tragedy it was just so devastating. And she flung her self about as I bandaged the nub that was left. I was told by my daughter or should I say informed that there had to be a professional funeral for the shattered leg, and Connie had to attend no if's ands or buts about it. I was stunned but I did what Jasmine asked. My husband built a little coffin out of a old cigar box that he cut to scale like a small pinch toed coffin. Jasmine told us it was just like the one Christina envisioned.

So we set to have the funeral as I was told to put the shattered pieces in the freezer. Jasmine called all her friends, and old our family. And told them to come dressed for the funeral which was to be held the next day. she said it had to be buried right away because the next day was Sunday and Christina not only was upset because she had one foot in the grave but because if it was buried on a Sunday the leg would go straight to hell.

Though Christina told Jasmine after that to never speak to her again Jasmine never did.

Jasmine carried her around as an invalid for many months that turned into a year or more. I constantly had to replace her bandage daily as Jasmine told me Christina instructed her to tell me. I also had to check it out for infection and what ever other malady Christina told her for me to check. She also told me that Christina would wake her in the night complaining of phantom pains where her missing leg once was. At this point I was beginning to think my kid just had a great imagination. Because in the early 1980's no one ever thought about a child's doll being really haunted.

Jasmine once woke me up screaming that the pain in Christina leg felt like fire ants were eating it. So in the middle of the night went to grave of the leg to see that it was now a mound of fire ants.

I personally believed the doll is haunted from that point on. Then I had to find a way to take the doll away. So I came up with a plan and have kept her locked away since. I told my daughter that Christina had decided she wanted see her mother and went to visit her friends and family back in England. then I locked her away in a old trunk in my attic where she has been since my daughter was 7.

Her right leg is broken and buried in a unmarked grave in someone's backyard in Henderson, Texas. I have since moved to El Paso. I hope she does not haunt you too much, and she has a new wonderful time with you to study.

Sincerely,

Mrs. D. Croaker
Marie Ford who lives in Washington claims that she owns a haunted doll named Alice. Her grandmother had named the doll after her best friend who had died. The grandmother claimed that Alice's spirit resided in the doll and perhaps it does. Marie says that the doll's eyes follow you wherever you go in the room, the doll's expression changes and that she whispers in a ghostly voice when you press your ear to her porcelain lips. Marie claims to have caught EVPs from the doll saying, "I want to be left alone to suffer."

From Japan comes the Haunted Doll of Hokkaido. In 1918, a 17 year old Japanese man bought a present for his sister while he was at a marine exhibition on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. It was a doll named Okiku. The doll was sixteen inches tall and wore a kimono. The face was white porcelain with black eyes and the hair was black and hung to shoulder length. Remember that last detail. The doll's name was actually the little sister's name as well. She loved the doll and took it everywhere with her. Unfortunately, the little sister got the flu a year later and she died. The doll was placed on an altar in remembrance of the child. And then the doll's perfectly cropped hair began to grow. It grew irregularly. The growing stopped when it reached knee length. The family cut the hair and it grew again until it hit knee length. They decided that the little girl's spirit must be inside the doll. When the family moved, they took the doll to the Mannenji Temple where it resides to this day. And yes, the priest's have cut the doll's hair and it did grow again.

Then there is the exorcist doll. This doll has no name, but it is believed that it was made in 1740. Reverend Thomas Blythe somehow became owner of the doll and he started using it during exorcisms he would conduct on houses. The doll is thought to have been a part of at least 68 exorcisms. It was used as a distraction, something for the evil spirit to play with, but did it perhaps become a place for a spirit to inhabit? The Reverend claimed that he sometimes felt the doll was looking at him. A photographer once snapped a picture of the doll and then took another picture several minutes later. In the second picture, the doll appears to be smiling. People who saw the plates claimed that the two images showed different expressions. In 1888, the doll was given to Cedric Argyle of London. The doll then made its way to a dime store where it became an attraction and people would take pictures of the doll to see if they could capture changing expressions. The doll then ended up in the Museum of Curios in Cornwall until 2007. The doll is now privately owned.

A woman found this next doll at a resort in Clearwater, Florida. She unfortunately did not share the name of the establishment, but it dates from the late 1800s and is suppose to be haunted according to a security guard she asked. She and her husband had heard a woman moaning while they toured the hotel after midnight and when they investigated, they found the doll sitting next to the stairs. The woman took the doll home as a souvenir. After getting home, the woman was having trouble sleeping, so she was sitting on the computer around 3am. The doorbell rang and she jumped. She got her husband and when they both checked, they found no one at the door. The following day, a tremendous crash came from a room. When the couple investigated, they found nothing amiss. The woman auctioned the doll off on eBay.

A doll named Joliet has haunted a family for several generations. A woman named Anna claims that her great grandmother was given the doll by a vengeful friend who had cursed the doll. When the great grandmother gave birth to a boy, the child died three days later. Each generation of girls would give birth to a boy and a girl, but the boys always died on day three. The doll continued to be handed down through the generations. People claim to hear inhuman screams coming from the doll and baby cries. Could this be the cries of the deceased baby boys?

Could Elmo be haunted? For the Bowman family, he certainly was haunted. The Bowmans bought their two year old toddler, James, an Elmo Knows Your Name Doll. This was a talking doll that could repeat a child's name. That is fun and not creepy. But when the doll adds the word "kill" in front of the child's name, that gets creepy. This all started after the family changed Elmo's batteries for the first time. Elmo started saying "Kill James" so often that the mother took the doll away. Fisher Price issued the family a voucher. No one knows if they bought another Elmo doll.

We dicussed Robert the Doll in an earlier podcast, but another very famous haunted doll is Annabelle. Some people may know this doll from a recent horror movie. They doll in the movie is far different than the real Annabelle, which is a Raggedy Ann doll. Famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren are the people who discovered Annabelle and took possession of her, keeping her locked up in a case. A mother originally bought the doll at an antique shop for her daughter Donna. Donna had been away at college and the mother thought she would appreciate it. Donna loved it and put the doll on her bed. Donna and her roommate began to notice that the doll seemed to change positions. At first the changes were subtle, but over time, there was no mistaking that the doll was moving on its own. Then the doll started moving into other rooms. Creepy messages would be found on scraps of parchment paper that appeared to be scribbled by a child. No parchment paper was kept in the apartment. The messages asked for help. On another occassion, Donna and her roommate found the doll kneeling on a chair at the table. When they tried to make the doll kneel themselves, it would fall over. One day Donna came home and got a really eerie feeling from the doll. When she inspected it, she found blood on the doll. Donna asked a medium for help and the medium claimed a spirit resided in the doll named Annabelle Higgins. The real Annabelle Higgins had been found in the field where the apartment now stood at the age of seven, dead. The doll began to give off some really unsettling feelings and the Warrens were called in and they took the doll. They always claimed that the doll was possessed by a demon.

Dolls are wonderful parts of many people's childhoods, but they can also be pretty creepy. Do dolls take on a life of their own because we will them to have that life? Are haunted dolls just part of overactive imaginations? Can spirits reside in dolls? Can dolls be haunted? That is for you to decide.

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