The Creep Factor of Dolls

Since I was very young, dolls have fascinated me. And I don’t mean that in a creepy I’ll-rip-your-head-off-pretty-dolly kind of way. I was one of those good kids who put clothes on their dolls. I felt uncomfortable if my doll wore a dress and had no underpants underneath.

I have a very large and fairly traditional doll collection, and I store them in my guest room. Many guests are completely creeped out by dolls.  You should see the looks they give me when I show them the bed they have to sleep on–with a big wall of dolls staring at them all night long!  For me, though, most of them are beautiful and not so very creepy.

But as an adult I realize that dolls have a lot more potential than I had credited them with before. They can mean all kinds of things to us: good, bad, creative, destructive.

My poetry manuscript contains a surprising amount of poems about dolls. I wrote one and then I wrote another and then the doll voices and stories kept coming at me. Through writing the poems I’ve uncovered a lot I didn’t know about dolls. As I wrote the poems, I began to realize the creep factor of dolls, as well as all the different ways dolls speak to me.  It’s impossible, though, to sum up here what is shown with more vividness in the poems.

Since I’m working on the manuscript now and in honor of Halloween, I’ll share a few creepy doll images with you.


A few years ago I found this wonderful doll art on the internet. They apparently were created by Kelley Richardson. Her out-of-date blog is found here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of those doll dioramas is the subject of a poem I am including in my manuscript. Can you guess which doll/shadowbox I wrote about?

The other day, one of my Facebook friends shared a collection of creepy doll photos which spoke volumes about how dolls can get under your skin.creepydolls8_0 (1)

Here is the link or just click the photo above.

As a nod to tradition, here is a photo taken by my grandfather’s uncle over 100 years ago of some children, presumed to be relatives. The two girls are clutching their dolls.

I guess it’s a little creepy to realize the dolls might have outlasted the girls.


Filed under Books, Creative Nonfiction, Dolls, Essay, Nonfiction, Poetry, Writing

35 responses to “The Creep Factor of Dolls

  1. OK, not at all creeped out by this. (Of course my husband and I sleep with a 33 year old teddy bear, so who am I to complain, right? LOL)

  2. I’m creeped out by the dolls in the creepy doll link These creepy dolls remind me of photos of people who are dead, for what is a dressed up, posed, and photographed dead human but the ultimate creepy doll?

    I played with Ginny dolls a lot when I was little. I cleared out a section or two of a bookcase, and it was the right size to stage plays for my Ginnies. I never imagined that a doll was my infant. I let my brother blow up (with a silver salute) a very large ballerina doll that seemed to be lording it over my Ginnies. Looking forward to reading your doll poems!!

    • Luanne

      I’m exploring that subject in a poem right now–in post-mortem photography they often posed dead children with dolls. Sometimes you can’t tell if the child is dead or alive.
      I thought of you and Ginny the other day when I found Ginny cowboy and cowgirl dolls.
      Maybe your brother wanted to blow up all your dolls . . . .
      Thanks for sharing!

  3. It’s interesting, the creep factor of dolls never struck me till i had my own children. I was never very attached to dolls, but to a couple homemade, stuffed animals. Dogs! Recently both my daughters got rid of all but one doll. They said they were creeped out by them staring at them. I get it. My dad and i discovered recently we are both toally creeped out by clowns! I have my own theory anout that.

    • Luanne

      Renee, clown fear is actually very common. My mom decorated their guest room when my son was a baby–and put a collection of clowns in it. When he stayed over he would cry until she took them all out of the room. I thought it was just him, but then I discovered that lots of people are this way about clowns. But now that I realize so many people are creeped out by all dolls, I am sort of stunned. On the other hand, it makes a sort of sense. AFter all, for centuries dolls were thought to have many supernatural “abilities.”

  4. I have always been interested in dolls not designed to be pretty. My cousin had one with its faced all scrunched up, just caterwauling. My novel has a scene where the main character window-shops; she comes across a display of dolls and is drawn to the large, out-of-place doll. Early readers wondered why it was there. I guess I have successfully revised the rest of the novel, because they no longer ask.

  5. Yes, those photos are super creepy! I’ve always hated movies with creepy dolls that turn out to be evil. But I love that commercial where a Fed Ex guy comes to pick up a creepy doll that family wants to get rid of.

  6. I only had one doll when I was very little and I loved it because it could open and close its eyes. The doll that my sisters had was big – one of those walking dolls. It stood in the corner and stared at me and creeped me out. Years later my sisters and I compared notes. Turns out that doll of theirs creeped them out too!

    • Luanne

      Anneli, that doesn’t surprise me about the walking doll. I had (still have) a walking doll my grandmother gave me when I was four. She never creeped me out, but my own kids were apparently terrified by her. They both swear that she would blink her eyes at them when I wasn’t looking.

  7. Certain dolls used to creep me out when I was little, usually the older ones. I remember my sister and I used to pull the heads off our Barbie Dolls and throw them into the swimming pool. With their heads off, they would sink to the bottom and stand. We’d watch them with our goggles. We had a pool in our backyard, so we weren’t scaring other people. 🙂 I’m not sure which doll you may have written about, Luanne…they all gave me the creeps!

  8. Yep…I think we all have creepy doll tales that we can relate to…!!

  9. Luanne- what a wonderful post, and I laughed out loud at the drowning Barbie dolls being watched through goggles !
    My dolls were precious – I think unconsciously they were an extension of me. I looked after them the way i wished my neglectful mother looked after me, and if I thought they hadn’t been ticked up properly and had a good- night kiss I couldn’t sleep till I’d tiptoed out of bed and comforted them…
    ah well, we grow up !!!.

  10. “Famous.” Perhaps, you are writing about “Famous?” My dolls had to wear underwear, too.

    • Luanne

      Grace/Lynne, what is that? I didn’t always have underwear for my dolls, so I lived with the “discomfort” haha. On the other hand, my daughter had a friend who would get punished if her dolls had any part of their body naked . . . ever.

  11. My mother had hundreds of dolls, some that were still in nice boxes, we had a hard time making any money to put in her bank account when we cleaned out her house’s attic. None were ruined so I took a few that were nice to grandchildren, fellow employees’ children and gave to one collector. I have never felt scared of dolls, but my children feared puppets and clowns. It is strange that there are so many different ways to “see” things! I liked the way you brought smiles and humor to the subject!

    • Luanne

      Robin, I hope she didn’t buy dolls when she needed other things. I’ve heard stories about that from people . . . . Thanks so much for sharing xo!

  12. Your nice and funny post made me think of The Lost Doll by Charles Kingsley,

    • Luanne

      Paula, I don’t remember ever reading this poem! It’s funny because one of my poems is about finding a doll in the mud–from an adult perspective (sort of).

  13. My SIL collects dolls and displayed them in her guest bedroom. It was known as the “creepy doll room.” No one ever wanted to stay overnight.

    • Luanne

      Hahaha, I get that. My mom had to remove all the clowns from her guest room before my son would stay in there. Nobody has told me they don’t want to sleep in my guest room with the dolls, but I can imagine what they are thinking! I’m glad when they say the bed was so comfortable so I know they weren’t lying awake all night in terror!

Leave a Reply