I love a good scare, but like most people, I have a line that just shouldn’t be crossed. And that line involves blinky eyes, cracked porcelain skin, and oddly jointed bodies. Yup: dolls scare the crap out of me. I’m in good company though – it seems like plenty of people out there are terrified of these little mini-people. I believe in facing my fears head on, so I dove headfirst into research on the most nightmare-inducing dolls out there, and here’s what I came up with (your mileage may vary).
1. Frozen Charlotte dolls are dolls that molded from one solid form – no movable arms and legs, no free-flowing hair. And the reason this gal is called a Frozen Charlotte adds to the creepy factor: it’s based on an 1800s folk song called “Fair Charlotte” about a girl who refused to bundle up to go on a sleigh ride and froze to death. Charming. The male version is called a Frozen Charlie.
2. Baby Laugh a Lot. This commercial is so disturbing I swore it must have been an SNL skit, but as far as I can tell, it’s the real thing. Baby Laugh a Lot was made by Remco in 1979.
3. Robert the Doll. Robert has been around since at least 1896 and belonged to a little boy (who grew up to be famous artist Robert Eugene Otto) in Key West. As children do, little Robert often chatted with his doll – but, servants and family members said, Robert the Doll often talked back. Neighbors claimed they saw Robert move to different windows of the house when they knew no one was inside; entire rooms were trashed and the little boy, seemingly terrified, claimed it was Robert’s doing.
A family bought the house in 1972. Their little girl discovered Robert in the attic and was petrified of it, claiming even 30 years later the doll wanted to kill her. These days Robert resides at the Martello Gallery-Key West Art and Historical Museum. If you want a picture of him, you have to ask – a slight tilt of his head means yes. If you don’t get the tilt and take a picture anyway, beware – Robert will curse you. Word has it there are letters in the museum from people apologizing for taking pictures of Robert or for not believing in his powers.
4. Buddy Lee. Little Buddy Lee was the Lee’s jeans mascot from 1920 through 1962. He was brought back in the late ‘90s in a series of ads that found Mr. Lee facing certain destruction and coming through unscathed, showing, of course, just how indestructible Lee jeans were. All it shows me is that dolls are freaks of nature that can’t be killed, so… (I know, I know, they’re not alive to begin with… right?)
5. Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces. A toy produced by Kenner in the 1970s, Hugo was a relatively blank slate that came with many accessories so you could mold him into any man you wanted him to be (hmm). The good thing about Hugo? He was just a torso and a head, making it slightly harder for him to kill you should he happen to come alive during the middle of the night.
6. My Buddy (and Kid Sister). As a child of the ‘80s, I remember those relentless “My Buddy” commercials during Saturday morning cartoons. I can still sing it to this day. It’s thought that the makers of the Child’s Play movies based Chucky’s look on My Buddy, and it’s hard to argue.
7. Tiny Tears. Everyone knows how much fun a crying baby is, so why not make it into a toy? Well, they did, and it’s quite off-putting. Tiny Tears was around during the ‘50s and ‘60s, and after you gave her a drink of water with her special baby bottle, she could cry tears if you pressed on her stomach. Tiny Tears’ other big selling point is that her eyes closed slowly when you leaned her back, instead of blinking shut fast like other dolls of the day.
8. Betsy Wetsy. I mean, just look at her. This is the version I dislike the most, but a later version came with real hair as well.
9. Annabelle the Haunted Doll. This Raggedy Ann was given to a little girl named Donna in the ‘70s and she and her family immediately began to notice strange things. The doll would seemingly repose itself when no one was looking and was once even found in a kneeling position. When Donna tried to replicate the pose with the doll, she couldn’t – it was too soft to stay in that position and would just fall over. Childish writing began to appear on the walls, scaring the family enough to hire a medium and hold a séance. They discovered that a little girl named Annabelle had once lived there long before the building housed apartments; she wanted to play with them. Even worse things began to happen afterward – Donna’s father received inexplicable burn marks on his chest and everyone in the house began having nightmares. Suffice it to say, Donna and her family got rid of Annabelle the Doll. It’s now in an occult museum; she apparently makes new “friends” every day.
10. Baby Secret. The commercial speaks – er, whispers – for itself.
Well, I’m not sleeping tonight. How about you guys? If you still think you’ll be able to get some shut-eye, check out this photo gallery of creepy dolls from Life magazine. That ought to do the trick.
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