Demonic Dolls: The Possession of a Plaything

Robert the Doll

Robert the Doll

In this day and age, demonic possession is an idea that doesn’t sit well with a lot of people, whether for theological reasons or as a result of the discomfort that comes with an admission that such evil exists.  In the past, it was common to hear of people, places and things that were possessed.  The middle ages were rife with examples of such things.  The idea of a haunting is much more recent, the difference amounting to a bit of hair splitting.

Despite this apparent distaste for the demonic, our culture still fosters the occasional dark secret, and in the case of demonic dolls, the secrets run deep.

Possibly the most famous recent example of an allegedly demonic or possessed doll is the case of Robert the Doll. Robert is an early 20th century cloth child’s doll, made to look like an American Naval officer of the period, who now sits in the collection of the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida.

A photo of Robert the Doll taken by Paranormal Investigator Sandy Deveau, showing what she claims in his aura.

A photo of Robert the Doll taken by Paranormal Investigator Sandy Deveau, showing what she claims in his aura.

Robert’s story is well known; he was given to Robert Eugene Otto, a painter and author later in life, by an unnamed Bahamian servant of the boy’s family.  It is said that the servant was a master in the practise of voodoo and black magic, and that he was displeased with the family.  Apparently Robert the Doll was cursed, and over the following years he wreaked havoc among the family.  Robert was said to be seen moving on his own, running around the house when no one was watching, and talking aloud to Eugene.[1]

Robert’s haunting legacy was eventually passed on to a little girl upon Eugene’s death in 1974, when he was purchased, along with the house, and adopted into a new family.  Robert’s new owners soon complained of similar strange happenings and with reports of the doll attacking the little girl in her sleep he was eventually donated to the museum.  Robert’s supernatural hijinks didn’t end there though.  Visitors to the museum report seeing the doll move and change its expression before their eyes and workers claim that the doll speaks in the quiet solitude of its display cabinet.

Annabelle the Possessed Doll

Annabelle the Possessed Doll

Robert is certainly not alone however.  As is detailed in Gerald Brittle’s 2002 book The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren, Annabelle The Haunted Doll was investigated by the intrepid husband and wife team of demon hunters in the early 1970’s.  Annabelle is a classic Raggedy Anne doll given to a nursing student named Donna by her mother.  On the word of a psychic medium brought in to explain some of the strange happenings associated with the doll, Annabelle was originally thought to be haunted by the spirit of a little girl named Annabelle Higgins.  But it didn’t take long for Donna and her roommate Angie to suspect that there was more to this doll than met the eye.

Annabelle was reported by Donna to mysteriously move about their apartment while they were gone.  It became a common occurrence for the two women to come home to the doll being in rooms and positions that it wasn’t in when they left. In addition, mysterious child-like writings were found around the apartment on parchment paper, the origins of which were never determined.

Lorraine Warren holding Annabelle

Lorraine Warren holding Annabelle

After two apparent attacks on Donna’s friend Lou, who suffered seven claw like scratches on his chest after his second encounter with the doll, the trio brought in the Warren’s to investigate further.  The Warren’s – famous for their self-proclaimed expertise in the area of demonology – claimed that the doll was not possessed, thinking instead that a demonic spirit was simply using the doll to manipulate Donna, Angie and Lou, in the hopes of eventually possessing one of them.

Following an elaborate Episcopalian exorcism of the apartment, described by Ed Warren as “…filling the home with the power of God”, and at the behest of Donna, the Warren’s took the doll with them.  They apparently experienced their own weirdness with the doll at their own home, where the doll remains today, but the Warren’s claim that they aren’t particularly worried about Annabelle’s haunting.[2]

Creepy creatures at the Island of Dolls

Creepy creatures at the Island of Dolls

Beyond specific cases of possessed dolls, there are stories such as the Island of Dolls in Mexico, where in the 1950’s a man named Don Julian decorated Isla de la Muňecas with hundreds of dolls as a tribute to a little girl who drowned in the area.  The dolls hang from trees and litter the island, making it look like a morbid zombie-doll playground.  Over the years the dolls are said to have taken on a life of their own, with many witnesses claiming to have seen the dolls move.

In the shadow of demonic doll cases like Robert and Annabelle, there is a growing market for the collection of haunted and demonic dolls.  A quick Google search of the term demonic doll will reveal a slew of websites offering not only to investigate reports of possessed objects, but specifically collecting and selling such possessed dolls.

Haunted-dolls.com actually offers the sale of such dolls complete with case files, investigation notes and even EVP clips related to each doll they sell.  One can, not surprisingly, find demonic dolls on EBay as well, along with all manner of other haunted and possessed items.  Robert even has his own website, www.robertthedoll.org, where the curious can purchase replicas of Robert and even ask questions of the possessed toy.

Of course, this kind of entrepreneurship brings with it some obvious opportunities for hoax and general flim-flammery.  As with everything, beware what you buy on the internet, for you may not be buying a demonic doll…it may be just a doll.

Whether you buy into the demonic or even ghosts, there are many out there who believe wholeheartedly in the demonic possession of these dolls.  In many cases the doll’s appearance does much to support these superstitions, and witnesses are adamant that the creep factor in these cases is justified.  Don’t believe?  Well you’re invited to visit Robert the Doll in Florida, to test your skeptical resolve.



[1] Moran, M, Austin, J, & Sceurman, M. Weird hauntings: true tales of ghostly places. Sterling Publishing Company (2006). ISBN-10: 1402788282

[2] Brittle, Gerald. The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren. iUniverse (2002). ISBN-10: 0595246184

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Martin J. Clemens

Writer, Canadian, Fortean Addict...and lover of science and history. "As for me...I know only, that I know nothing..." I also blog at www.dailygrail.com and mysteriousuniverse.org
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