Although this article of mine was originally published in a now-defunct British weekly magazine called Me! way back in November 1994, IMHO it remains one of the most chilling articles that I have ever written.
It was 12 August 1964, and Irene Tucker had invited two friends to her apartment in Boston, Massachusetts, for coffee and a chat. In the event, they had little time for coffee, and the subject of their conversation was very different from what they had expected. For as they were sitting there, they suddenly heard an unfamiliar female voice, oddly guttural and mature, coming from the bedroom of Irene's 11-year-old daughter, Holly Anne - but there shouldn't be anyone in that room except for Holly herself.
Frightened at what she might find, Irene rushed to Holly's bedroom, and flung open the door - but all that met her eyes was Holly, fast asleep in her bed, and her doll sitting on the bed beside her. Softly closing the door again, she went back to her friends, who were as puzzled as she was. There had certainly been a strange voice - but even as they spoke, they heard it again! And this time it was much louder - and it was calling to Holly. "Will you get up, Holly Anne - get up and talk to me!"
Rushing into the bedroom at once, they were faced with exactly the same scene as before - Holly asleep, her doll on her bed. By now, however, Irene was becoming distinctly uneasy, so as soon as Holly woke up, they told her what had happened. To their amazement, Holly was totally unconcerned - "You probably heard Betsy calling to me. She always tries to wake me up and get me to play with her." And with that, she picked up her doll, and said "This is Betsy. Say hello to Mommy's friends, Betsy".
On that particular occasion, 'Betsy' apparently decided to remain silent - at least, that is, until Holly's mother and her friends had once again gone out and closed the door. Then, only moments later, they clearly heard that strange guttural voice speak again. This time, however, it was testily enquiring from Holly why she hadn't scolded her mother and friends - "Haven't they anything better to do than snoop on us?"
During the next fortnight, Irene was driven to distraction by the voice that Holly claimed to be Betsy's - vociferous as long as Holly's bedroom door was closed, mute as soon as it was opened. Then, one of her friends who had heard its eerie tones on that first evening, hit upon the clever idea of hiding a voice-activated tape recorder in Holly's room.
This her mother did, then the following morning she took it out of Holly's room and played it in the presence of her two friends. There was no doubt - someone, or something, with a distinctly older voice and a peculiar accent had been chatting to her daughter during the night. It had been faithfully recorded by the machine - but, dashing Irene's hopes that it was nothing more than a clever example of ventriloquism on the part of her daughter, the older voice was talking about all sorts of things that Holly couldn't possibly have known.
At this point, Irene became so alarmed that she took the doll out of Holly's room, bringing it into her own instead, and placing it on her dressing table. That evening, with the doll still on the table, Irene went to bed - but not long afterwards, she awoke in terror. There had been a loud scream, and an ominous thud. What had happened? Was Holly in danger? She turned on the light immediately, ready to race into her daughter's bedroom - and then she saw it. Betsy had apparently fallen off the dressing table, and was lying on the floor - with her head smashed in. From that moment onwards, the strange guttural voice was never heard again, and Holly confirmed that Betsy didn't speak anymore.
The final twist in this chilling tale came a short time later, when out of curiosity Irene played to a linguist the tape of Betsy's night-time conversation. He was very interested, because he recognised Betsy's accent - it was German. Moreover, when the broken doll was examined, it was discovered that, sure enough, Betsy had been made in Germany!
This is just one of many reports on file concerning dolls that have somehow 'come alive' - usually to the amazement, and terror, of those around them. Indeed, some were so malevolent that Chocky, the demonic doll from the 'Child's Play' series of horror movies, seems positively playful in comparison!
The macabre episode of Holly and Betsy was among several investigated by Robert Tralins, a noted occult authority in America, and the author of an extraordinary casebook entitled Children of the Supernatural (1969). Another, equally inexplicable case that he researched was that of a real-life Pinocchio - a puppet that seemingly came to life!
Lucian Devlin and his wife, from New Orleans in Louisiana, laughed when their 7-year-old son Joey came into their bedroom one night in 1947 and said: "There are ghosties in my toy box and they keep waking me up and they won't let me sleep." Just to humour him, however, his parents went back with him to his bedroom - but even before they reached the door, they could plainly hear loud bumps and other noises emanating from inside the room. His mother cautiously opened the door, stepped inside - and to her astonishment, the lid of Joey's toy box suddenly opened, unassisted, and inside she could see a hand puppet, which was moving around all by itself. Moreover, as she watched, some of the other toys suddenly seemed to hurl themselves out of the box, and lay scattered all over the floor.
Fleeing the room in terror, she refused to let Joey go back to bed there, so Joey and his parents spent the rest of the night in their own room - until, that is, the child and his mother had finally gone to sleep. Then, Lucian Devlin quietly got out of bed and made his way to Joey's room, opened the door, and looked inside. There, to his great alarm, was the macabre marionette, moving about completely unaided by anything or anyone. After watching this bizarre toy for a time, Devlin turned the light on. Instantly, the puppet froze - but it was too late. Devlin had seen more than enough to know what he had to do. He took hold of the puppet, left the house with it, and threw it into the nearby river. Never again did "ghosties" in his toy box disturb Joey's sleep.
The case attracted so much attention that the Devlins finally denied that anything had happened. Years later, however, Joey, then a fully-grown man, spoke with Robert Tralins, and confirmed that it had all been perfectly true.
The Devlin case featured a 'bad Pinocchio' - one that seemingly came to life for disruptive purposes!
A haunted doll's house featured in a somewhat similar case - when, on 1 August 1960, 10-year-old Terri Woods, of Cumberland County in North Carolina, came to play with her dolls, and found that somehow, everything in her recently-acquired giant doll's house had been moved around. None of her family had been anywhere near her toys since she had last played with them, so her parents were at a loss for an explanation. Over the next few days, however, the same thing happened again...and again - even when the doll's house was locked by itself inside Terri's bedroom. By now, her parents were almost as frightened as Terri - who, on one occasion, had actually seen her toys moving about by themselves inside it. Even Mr Wood's decision to keep the house under lock and key in an unused spare bedroom failed to prevent the toys' uncanny animation. In fact, that only made things worse.
On the third day of the doll house's imprisonment there, Mr and Mrs Woods detected a foul, evil smell seeping from that room - and when it was unlocked, they found that the malignant odour was diffusing directly from the doll's house. There was only one course of action left to take with this bewitched building - and Mr Woods took it. After emptying it of toys, Mr Wood carried the doll's house outside, doused it with petrol, and set fire to it.
Happily, events were not repeated with a new doll's house that the Woods bought their daughter - but the way in which they had obtained the haunted version may provide an insight into its weird behaviour. It had arrived on Terri's tenth birthday, a gift from an anonymous 'well wisher' whose identity was never uncovered.
In black magic, it is well known that if people want to rid themselves of an item of evil, they must not sell it - instead, they must secretly give it away, and receive no recompense. Could that explain the mysterious arrival of Terri's doll house?
As revealed in Reincarnation International (July 1994), Barbara Bell of San Anselmo, Nebraska, produces a regular newsletter in which she documents the psychic messages that she allegedly receives via her Barbie doll - but in Australia there is a famous cloth doll that can apparently do much the same thing too. It is owned by Nicole Hart, from Melbourne, and in 1987, when she was 8 years old, it began talking to her - but quite aside from the extraordinary fact that it contained no built-in talking device to explain its sudden conversion into a veritable chatterbox, its words were very disturbing.
For this weird toy began to predict dramatic incidents that would occur in her family and elsewhere - predictions that Nicole's parents heard too, and which all came true shortly afterwards! To date, they have included the diagnosis of her grandmother as suffering from cancer, the killing of her pet cat Jinx by a car, a neighbour's death, and three motor vehicle crashes. Hardly a cheerful selection, but as pointed out by Nicole's father, architect Vance Hart: "The doll never predicts anything good. Its messages are always of impending disaster and doom. We can't take much more of its doomsday predictions."
Cabbage Patch Kids are supposed be as individual in form and personality as real children. They are even sold with detailed 'life histories' and 'birth certificate', and the buyer has to sign 'adoption papers' and to swear in front of a witness to be a good, kind parent - but in some cases, the dolls seem to have taken all of this a little too seriously for comfort!
In August 1984, Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper reported the tribulations suffered by a childless woman from Connecticut who until recently had owned one of these dolls. Often, she would inexplicably find it in a different room of her home from where she had left it, but one day events took a much more sinister turn - when the woman found the doll with a menacing expression on its face, and spouting forth what amounted to a verbal spanking for not tucking it in its crib! Chillingly, the doll also told her: "I'm not just a doll!"
Greatly frightened, the woman called in an exorcist, but by the time that he had arrived the doll had somehow managed to suspend itself in the air. Fortunately, following his gestures with a crucifix, it soon fell down into its crib. After that, he and its 'mother' swiftly buried the eerie doll in the garden, after sprinking the site with holy water - just in case!
Another Cabbage Patch Kid that was laid to rest beneath a secure layer of earth and soil with all speed had been owned by an American woman - until the summer night in 1984 when she claimed that something had tried to strangle her while she slept. According to psychic investigator Edward Warren who was called in to deal with the situation by the distraught woman, when she had woken up there was nothing to be seen - only her doll, but when she looked closely at it, she saw to her horror that in one of its specially-constructed grasping hands was a button, torn off the nightgown that the woman was still wearing!
In East Hartford, Connecticut, a life-sized Raggedy Doll allegedly attacked Tony Rossi, the boyfriend of Margarite Tata to whom it belonged and who shared her bed with it. Tony had been having nightmares about it for several days, so one morning in March 1974 he picked it up, shouted "You're nothing but a toy!", and shook it. Instantly, he felt searing pains across his chest, and when he unbuttoned his shirt he supposedly discovered to his great shock that "there were seven bleeding claw marks slashed across my body!".
Dolls can be looked upon as emotional sponges, sucking up and into themselves the concentrated outpourings of love and attention lavished upon them by their owners - and often serve as substitutes for real children. Some people may say, therefore, that perhaps we should not be too surprised when they begin to display and release human emotions themselves - but what reflection upon the darker side of humanity is it when those emotions apparently include attempted murder?
Clowns and jesters - but sometimes, toys are no laughing matter! (Dr Karl Shuker)