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10 Most Scary True Stories about Haunted Dolls

10 Most Scary True Stories about Haunted Dolls

Joliet is a doll who has stayed in one cursed family for generations. For a grand total of 4 generations, the doll has cursed all the women in my family. It seems, every woman in the family gives birth to two children, a girl and a boy. But sadly, the son always dies under mysterious circumstances on the 3rd day of his life. The curse began when Joliet the doll was given to a woman by her vengeful friend. After getting the doll, the woman gave birth to a boy only to have him die on the third day. The doll is thought to be a vessel for all the lost babies over the years. Screams and infant noises can be heard from the doll at night.

It’s hard to believe that the beloved Elmo doll could be haunted but unfortunately, an Elmo haunting was a real reality for the Bowman family. In 2008, two-year-old James Bowman had an Elmo ‘Knows Your Name Doll’. The point of the doll was that it could recite its owners name and some other fun phrases. The only problem with James’ doll was that Elmo liked to add the word kill before he said James. As a result, the doll would repeatedly sing “Kill James.” Eventually James’ mom got fed up with the whole thing and got the doll out of the house before Elmo could follow through on his threat.

Annabelle is a real doll that managed to scare others around her so much that she made her way onto the big screen. The doll was given to a nursing student named Donna on her 28th birthday. Shortly after Donna received the doll, she and her roommate Angie started to notice some strange things. The doll would move on its own, it wrote messages, and it even attacked their friend Lou. Eventually the Warrens managed to get the doll out of Donna’s house. The doll currently resides at the Warren Occult Museum if you ever want to plan a visit.

Annabelle doll

Mandy is a porcelain doll who was manufactured in England or Germany between 1910 and 1920. Mandy was donated to the Quensel Museum in British Columbia, in 1991 after her owner complained that she would hear crying in the middle of the night coming from the doll. When the doll was donated to the museum, workers began to notice their lunches going missing and footsteps when no one else was around. In addition, Mandy seems to enjoy causing all sorts of problems by messing with cameras and freaking out guests by following them with her eyes.


The creepy factor of this haunted doll is pretty self explanatory given the name and all but let me explain anyway. The legend of the doll goes that in the 1800s, an angry ex-lover sought revenge on the daughter of a wealthy Scotsman. He enlisted Marie Laveau’s help. Laveau ended up cursing the bride so that when she went into labor she died, but not before bringing a devilish creature into the world. Laveau ended up caring for the baby until its death. The baby is said to be buried next to Laveau. A lot of people were scared of the devil baby and its powers so they made their own version of the baby in doll form to ward off evil spirits. But as it turns out this wasn’t a very good idea. The doll versions of the baby are rumored to be possessed.

The Devil Doll


Although this doll isn’t thought to be haunted, its creepy factor is still off the charts. The doll belonged to Patty Reed. You may remember Patty Reed as being a member of the Donner party, a group of people travelling to California who were forced to eat each other after getting stuck in the snow. When the Reeds were making the long trek to California, Patty was told to get rid of all of her toys to lighten the load of the wagon. However, Patty managed to sneak in one of her favorite dolls to play with. The Reeds ended up surviving the horrifying circumstances of their snowbound wagon along with Patty’s doll. Patty’s doll is now displayed at Sutter’s Fort State Historical Park Museum and even though its not haunted, the doll still evokes terrifying images of the Reeds chomping down on some human flesh in order to survive.

Pupa the doll was given to her owner in 1920, and stayed with her until her death. The owner of the doll used to tell others that her doll was her best friend and confidant. However, after the owner died, Pupa began acting up. Some reports of her haunted activities included steaming the glass case in which she is kept and writing “Pupa hate,” on it, pushing things around on her own, and of course moving around from place to place presumably to scare the pants off her new owners. Her owners have even said that they caught the doll walking on her own on video, however whenever they tried to upload the video, it was covered with a white film and the words, “Pupa No!”


Robert the doll is one of the most well known haunted dolls of all time. He is even the inspiration for Chucky in the 1988 film  Child’s Play.  Robert’s creepy history goes as follows; the Otto family lived in Key West, Florida and had a nasty habit of mistreating their servants. One day, a Haitian servant was fired after Mrs. Otto saw her practicing Black magic in the yard. Before she left, she gave Robert a doll, which is now known as Robert the doll. Robert took the doll everywhere but then, some strange things began to happen. Robert was heard having conversations with his doll, objects would be found thrown across the room, and giggling could be heard throughout the house. Robert even attacked people, and locked them in the attic. Today, Robert can be seen in the East Martello Museum in Key West. Visitors claim that they have seen the doll move and scowl at them.

Robert The Doll

In 1973, Kerry Walton forced himself to face a childhood fear when he visited an abandoned house that had scared him as a child. When he went to the house he found a doll and decided to take it home. The doll is thought to have been made 200 years ago by a Romanian gypsy for his drowned son. Gypsies believed that the human spirit would transfer over to the doll. Nothing too evil has happened with Letta but there have been some strange occurrences. It rains whenever the doll is taken outside, pictures fall when he goes into a room, and people feel a sudden rush of sadness when they see the doll. And of course the doll is apparently capable of moving on his own.


Most people have some kind of collection. However, this one is a bit strange. The names above are a collection of dolls that are thought to be haunted. Apparently, a family in Pennsylvania has been purchasing haunted dolls in order to investigate them. Luckily for all of us haunted doll lovers out there, we can observe these creepy beauties as well. A camera is constantly filming these dolls to see if it can catch any creepy occurrences. One of the weirdest events that the camera captured was in 2009, when it filmed an apparition that was thought to be a little boy.  

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“Fear is the path to the dark side.”

Lily the haunted doll: whose soul inhabits her and 9 other questions.

Josef Kruger from US Ghost Adventures with Lily the haunted doll

The first time I talked with Josef from US Ghost Adventures , we left off with a tease promising a show devoted to Lily the haunted doll. Or their “Host a Ghost” as they call her. I had questions about Lily, first and foremost: Why do they advise not leaving her near mirrors?

Because, you see, Lily comes with a few rules. That’s the first thing I noticed about her when I discovered her as I was writing about the US Ghost Adventures GhostFlix tours. I said if I ever got a chance to ask about her rules, I would. Well, I got the chance.

But other questions came up too. Here’s a quick summary of everything Josef and I talked about. If you want to watch or listen to the Lily the haunted doll episode, I’ve embedded the YouTube and podcast links below. But you can also listen to the episode wherever you get your podcasts from.

1. Did anything weird happen after Josef and I last talked?

Lily joined Josef during our first conversation too. He held her up to the screen at one point and said he hoped it didn’t count as a mirror. There was that mirror stipulation again!

But before I could get to asking about that, I wondered if anything had happened. Did the screen count as a mirror after all?

Josef wasn’t sure, but the screen on the laptop he’d been using had cracked. Just out of the blue. He hadn’t dropped it or anything. He took it in for repairs and they had no explanation.

2. Why are you not supposed to place Lily by mirrors?

Josef explained that according to “mirror lore” and superstitions, the body is a reflection of the soul. When you look in a mirror, it’s not just your reflection but your soul manifesting itself in the physical world.

A haunted doll contains someone or something else’s soul. If that entity she sees its own reflection, bad things, or crazy things, can happen, because its soul is being manifested in the real world. It might not like it or might try to escape.

Also, that’s why vampires don’t cast a reflection in mirrors. They have no soul.

3. What is Lily’s origin story?

Lily has an interesting backstory. One day a package with no return address showed up at the US Ghost Adventures office. Inside was a mini coffin made of cheap plywood, and inside that was the most “grimest, ghoulish doll” Josef had ever seen. It was a white figurine, partly bandaged with the face mostly scratched off wearing Victorian clothes.

Accompanying it was a handwritten note that read: “Went to one of your tours. Thought you might be able to better handle whatever this is. Her name is Lily. Keep her on a short leash.”

4. Did they check for bombs when they received her package?

Josef said he was sure some people might’ve preferred that to the creepy doll that showed up instead!

5. Did anything happen in the office after Lily’s arrival?

They put her on the desk like she was one of the team, but then crazy things started happening.

At first, they chalked it up to people playing pranks on each other because it was little stuff going on like Post-it notes disappeared, chairs would be moved, people started missing things from their desk.

One of the tech guys was convinced someone was messing with his station because his computer kept getting reset, or he’d find it turned off or unplugged and the battery kept dying.

They had cameras in the office and could see little movements in the middle of the night. This prompted them to do some more research and they found out this same sort of stuff was what had happened to the previous owner. Lily would wind up in different places from where she’d last been put, but they could see no one was doing it.

6.  Where is the original Lily?

Josef shared a bit of a convoluted story about how they ended up finding a return address in Oklahoma that they sent one of their researchers to and that’s how they found an abandoned warehouse full of dolls that looked just like Lily. I think it’s supposed to be kind of a fun story to explain how they have so many Lily dolls, but what they did was use the Lily they’d been gifted to create a prototype for the ones they sell.

So what happened to the original Lily the haunted doll? They keep her in a back office with the door locked. She’s in her coffin box, which is in a backpack that’s covered by two blankets.

They’re not allowed to go in there or disturb her. They’re not even supposed to talk to her.

However, one of the guides did. He took a spirit box in to try and talk to her, but who knows what happened. He won’t go in that room anymore and he won’t talk about it.

The fun thing is the Lily that Josef has had on during our chats was the first one made to look like Lily. She was in the return box with the original Lily, so they shared space together.

7. Who was knocking on the window? 

I love when ghost tour guides and owners share personal ghost stories and one of Josef’s involves Lily.

He had just finished meeting with a new employee on her first day. She went to leave, but Josef had a conference call he had to hop on.

He was in a room on the third floor of the building where their office is. During his call he heard knocking on window. Did you catch the part about he was on the third floor?

Well, he was busy on the call and just sort of dismissed it –until the new employee who had just left suddenly showed back up in the doorway.

He asked if she needed anything, and she was all, “I thought you needed me for something. You were knocking on the window and waving to me.”

He was all, “No I wasn’t. The blinds are closed as you can see. But I did hear knocking too…”

As she went to get back in her car, the employee slammed her fingers in the door. Then, on the way home, she broke down. She feels Lily had something to do with it all…

Josef and I joked Lily’s in charge of new hire initiation and hazing. If you can take that, you pass and can continue working for US Ghost Adventures.

8. Whose soul inhabits Lily’s doll body?

Back to that warehouse in Oklahoma…from evidence they found there, it led them to more information that gives them reason to believe Lily might contain the soul of the notorious Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory. She’s one of history’s most notorious and prolific female serial killers, as she took the lives of over 600 young women.

And now back to the why you don’t want to put Lily in front of a mirror…you risk letting the Blood Countess out.

It’s all a bit of a stretch, but a fun one.

Or…maybe it isn’t so far-fetched?

9. What happens if you don’t put Lily away?

We also discussed the other rules on the box Lily comes in. She’s only supposed to be let out from October 1 through October 31. During Halloween season Lily is a helpful effigy who will ward off evil and protect you.

Come November 1, however, you’re supposed to put her away because then the opposite will happen and she’ll start playing tricks on you.

Of course, she might not stay outside in the garage or on the shelf in the closet you put her in.

I’m taking my chances and keeping mine out. I don’t want to deal with the wrath of Smalls. He loves his Lily too much to put her up. I’ll keep you updated on whether anything weird happens or not.

10. What’s ahead for US Ghost Adventures in 2021? Any more fun things?

Josef is such a tease. He left off with another one: “toys.”

I got the feeling he didn’t mean toys of the haunted doll type either. Guess we’ll be seeing him in 2021 to find out what that’s all about then!

If Lily doesn’t push him out of the spotlight again, that is. She sort of stole the show at the beginning of this episode

Listen to the Episode

Watch on youtube.

For More Info

One of US Ghost Adventures tours is Salem Ghosts. They wrote about the Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory, on their blog. Visit this link to read more about her: https://salemghosts.com/the-blood-countess-elizabeth-bathory/ .

To take any of US Ghost Adventures tours, either in person or virtually, visit https://usghostadventures.com/ .

Do you think souls can haunt dolls?

tilly haunted doll story

Courtney Mroch is a globe-trotting restless spirit who’s both possessed by wanderlust and the spirit of adventure, as well as obsessed with true crime, horror, the paranormal, and weird days. Perhaps it has something to do with her genes? She is related to occult royalty, after all. Marie Laveau, the famous Voodoo practitioner of New Orleans, is one of her ancestors. That could also explain her infatuation with skeletons.

Speaking of healing, to learn how she channeled her battle with cancer to conjure up this site, check out HJ’s Origin Story .

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Elizabeth Bathory was a scary woman! Gosh, I hope it’s NOT her spirit in the doll! I popped over to YT to watch the interview. Fascinating stuff!

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Yes she was! Thanks again for watching the video, btw!

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7 Allegedly Haunted Dolls

By jake rossen | sep 14, 2021.

Creepy dolls, you say?

Watch enough horror movies like 1988’s Child’s Play or 2014’s Annabelle and you’ll come to the conclusion that a creepy-looking doll is something to be avoided at all costs. Dolls and their vaguely lifelike features are unsettling at best, possessed with vengeful spirits and homicidal at worst.

But films aren’t the only place where dolls have been charged with paranormal abilities or general mischief. History has logged a number of tiny porcelain or stuffed playthings that have been said to be doing the devil’s bidding. Here's a sampling of some tiny terrors.

1. Renesmee

Twilight fans will recall that the film series concluded with the birth of the offspring of fang-crossed lovers Bella and Edward. In The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1 (2011), their baby, Renesmee, was represented by some questionable CGI. On set, she was embodied by a very peculiar-looking animatronic doll (above). That prop is now being accused of malevolent sentience by people near the Forever Twilight display at the Chamber of Commerce in Forks, Washington, where the movies are set.

“One day she might be standing up straight, and the next, when you come in on another day, she’s in a weird position,” Lissy Andros, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, told Jezebel in 2020. “It’s like, is she moving around in there? We don’t know. But we tell everybody that the [display case] cover is on her for their protection.”

Fortunately, Renesmee appears to be decomposing as a result of the fragile materials used to build her, so she likely won’t be around to disturb people for too much longer.

2. Robert the Doll

Robert the Doll awaiting his next victim.

This straw-stuffed moppet, with black eyes reminiscent of a shark’s, can be seen at the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida—though why anyone would want to is a mystery. Robert’s first owner was Robert Eugene Otto, whose grandfather bought the doll for his grandson in Germany as a gift. While residing with Otto, and with another owner after Otto's death in 1974, Robert was said to have appeared in windows, changed facial expressions, and played in the property’s attic. Recently, visitors to the museum have claimed they’ve fallen into misfortune after “disrespecting” the doll.

Even souvenirs don’t appear to be safe from Robert’s influence: Musician Ozzy Osbourne once blamed his health issues on a replica Robert doll he purchased from the museum.

3. Annabelle

Made famous in a series of films spun off from The Conjuring franchise, Annabelle herself is no work of fiction. As reported by Ed and Lorraine Warren , the famous paranormal investigators portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, Annabelle was actually a Raggedy Ann doll (a red-haired rag doll introduced in 1915) who was given as a gift to an unnamed nurse in 1970. After settling in, Annabelle began to shift around on her bed, leak blood, and leave handwritten notes imploring the nurse to “help me” and “help us.” According to Lorraine Warren, the nurse and her friends discovered that a young girl named Annabelle Higgins had died on the site of the apartment building they occupied when she was just 7 years old. The doll, then, was believed to be imbued with her spirit (the Warrens later determined the doll was being controlled by an "inhuman spirit" that was looking for a human host).

Now located at the Warrens’ Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut, Annabelle has been blamed for a visitor’s fatal motorcycle accident. The man apparently taunted her before driving off to his fate.

At the Quesnel and District Museum in Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada, visitors can come face to face with Mandy, a doll that so terrified her original owner that she was given up. As the story goes, Lisa Sorensen was given Mereanda, or Mandy, by her grandmother. Believing the doll was sinister, Sorensen gave it to the museum in 1991. Today, museum employees believe Mandy can follow them with her eyes, a possible result of having three-dimensional eye sockets that give the appearance of movement; attempts to record her have resulted in malfunctioning equipment.

Visitors to Mannenji Temple in Hokkaido, Japan, are welcome to gaze upon Okiku, but no photography is allowed. As legend has it, the doll was originally purchased in 1918 by Eikichi Suzuki to give to his sister, Kikuko. The doll had a short haircut. When Kikuko tragically passed away the following year, Okiku’s hair began to grow out. When the family moved away in 1938, they gave Okiku to monks at the temple. Today, her hair is nearly down to her knees. Some observers also report that a close inspection of Okiku’s mouth reveals erupting teeth.

6. Island of the Dolls

Residents on the Island of the Dolls hang out.

Adventurous tourists near Mexico City can make a stop 17 miles south at La Isla de las Muñecas (Island of the Dolls), a tiny floating garden which is populated primarily by creepy dolls of every type. Local lore has it that the island’s caretaker, Don Julian Santana Barrera, once came across a young girl who had drowned (though some say he simply imagined her), then found a doll in the water he believed to have been owned by the girl. In tribute, he placed the doll on a tree and added more to begin a collection that grew until Barrera was found drowned in the same spot in 2001. Today, the property is awash in dolls in various stages of creepy disrepair, with some visitors believing the dolls are possessed.

Fans of the animated hit Frozen (2013) know Elsa, the forlorn princess whose powers have relegated her to an endless winter. For a Houston family, buying an Elsa doll apparently relegated them to endless problems. The Madonias claimed that the mass-market doll inexplicably switched between English and Spanish voices, even when it was turned off. After throwing it away, Elsa inexplicably returned to the family home. The family stuffed the doll in two garbage bags and discarded it ... but Elsa returned a second time, none the worse for the wear. The family then mailed Elsa to a friend in Minnesota, where she appears to be content. For now.

The History of Creepy Dolls

Take a trip to the uncanny valley and hope you make it back unscathed

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie


Pollock’s Toy Museum is one of London’s loveliest small museums, a creaking Dickensian warren of wooden floors, low ceilings, threadbare carpets, and steep, winding stairs, housed in two connected townhouses. Its small rooms house a large, haphazard collection of antique and vintage toys – tin cars and trains; board games from the 1920s; figures of animals and people in wood, plastic, lead; paint-chipped and faintly dangerous-looking rocking horses; stuffed teddy bears from the early 20 th century; even – purportedly – a 4,000 year old mouse fashioned from Nile clay.

And dolls. Dolls with “sleepy eyes”, with staring, glass eyes. Dolls with porcelain faces, with “true-to-life” painted ragdoll faces, with mops of real hair atop their heads, with no hair at all. One-hundred-and-fifty-year-old Victorian dolls, rare dolls with wax faces. Dolls with cheery countenances, dolls with stern expressions. Sweet dolls and vaguely sinister dolls. Skinny Dutch wooden dolls from the end of the 19th century, dolls in “traditional” Japanese or Chinese dress. One glassed-off nook of a room is crammed with porcelain-faced dolls in 19th-century clothing, sitting in vintage model carriages and propped up in wrought iron bedsteads, as if in a miniaturized, overcrowded Victorian orphanage.

Some visitors to the museum, however, can’t manage the doll room, which is the last room before the museum’s exit; instead, they trek all the way back to the museum’s entrance, rather than go through. “It just freaks them out,” says Ken Hoyt, who has worked at the museum for more than seven years. He says it’s usually adults, not children, who can’t handle the dolls. And it happens more often during the winter, when the sun goes down early and the rooms are a bit darker. “It’s like you’d think they’ve gone through a haunted house… It’s not a great way to end their visit to the Pollock’s Toy Museum,” he says, laughing, “because anything else that they would have seen that would have been charming and wonderful is totally gone now.”

A fear of dolls does have a proper name, pediophobia , classified under the broader fear of humanoid figures ( automatonophobia ) and related to pupaphobia , a fear of puppets. But most of the people made uncomfortable by the doll room at Pollock’s Toy Museum probably don’t suffer from pediophobia so much as an easy-to-laugh-off, often culturally reinforced, unease. “I think people just dismiss them, ‘Oh, I’m scared of dolls’, almost humorously – ‘I can’t look at those, I hate them,’ laughingly, jokingly. Most people come down laughing and saying, ‘I hated that last room, that was terrible,’” Hoyt says. Dolls – and it must be said, not all dolls – don’t really frighten people so much as they “creep” them out. And that is a different emotional state all together.

SEE ALSO: Read about the history and psychology of scary clowns

Dolls have been a part of human play for thousands of years – in 2004, a 4,000-year-old stone doll was unearthed in an archeological dig on the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria; the British Museum has several examples of ancient Egyptian rag dolls , made of papyrus-stuffed linen. Over millennia, toy dolls crossed continents and social strata, were made from sticks and rags, porcelain and vinyl, and have been found in the hands of children everywhere. And by virtue of the fact that dolls are people in miniature, unanimated by their own emotions, it’s easy for a society to project whatever it wanted on to them: Just as much as they could be made out of anything, they could be made into anything.

“I think there is quite a tradition of using dolls to reflect cultural values and how we see children or who we wish them to be,” says Patricia Hogan, curator at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, and associate editor of the American Journal of Play . For example, she says, by the end of the 19th century, many parents no longer saw their children as unfinished adults, but rather regarded childhood as a time of innocence that ought to be protected. In turn, dolls’ faces took on a more cherubic, angelic look. Dolls also have an instructional function, often reinforcing gender norms and social behavior: Through the 18 th and 19 th century, dressing up dolls gave little girls the opportunity to learn to sew or knit; Hogan says girls also used to act out social interactions with their dolls, not only the classic tea parties, but also more complicated social rituals such as funerals as well. In the early 20th century, right around the time that women were increasingly leaving the home and entering the workplace, infant dolls became more popular, inducting young girls into a cult of maternal domesticity. In the second half of the 20th century, Barbie and her myriad career (and sartorial) options provided girls with alternative aspirations, while action figures offered boys a socially acceptable way to play with dolls. The recent glut of boy-crazy, bizarrely proportioned, hyper-consumerist girl dolls (think Bratz , Monster High ) says something about both how society sees girls and how girls see themselves, although what is for another discussion.

So dolls, without meaning to, mean a lot. But one of the more relatively recent ways we relate to dolls is as strange objects of – and this is a totally scientific term – creepiness.

tilly haunted doll story

Research into why we think things are creepy and what potential use that might have is somewhat limited, but it does exist (“creepy”, in the modern sense of the word, has been around since the middle of the 19th century; its first appearance in The New York Times was in an 1877 reference to a story about a ghost ). In 2013, Frank McAndrew, a psychologist at Knox College in Illinois, and Sara Koehnke, a graduate student, put out a small paper on their working hypothesis about what “creepiness” means ; the paper was based on the results of a survey of more than 1,300 people investigating what “creeped” them out (collecting dolls was named as one of the creepiest hobbies ).

Creepiness, McAndrew says, comes down to uncertainty. “You’re getting mixed messages. If something is clearly frightening, you scream, you run away. If something is disgusting, you know how to act,” he explains. “But if something is creepy… it might be dangerous but you’re not sure it is… there’s an ambivalence.” If someone is acting outside of accepted social norms – standing too close, or staring, say – we become suspicious of their intentions. But in the absence of real evidence of a threat, we wait and in the meantime, call them creepy. The upshot, McAndrew says, is that being in a state of “creeped out” makes you “hyper-vigilant”. “It really focuses your attention and helps you process any relevant information to help you decide whether there is something to be afraid of or not. I really think creepiness is where we respond in situations where we don’t know have enough information to respond, but we have enough to put us on our guard.”

Human survival over countless generations depended on the avoidance of threats; at the same time, humans thrived in groups. The creeped out response, McAndrew theorized, is shaped by the twin forces of being attuned to potential threats, and therefore out-of-the-ordinary behavior, and of being wary of rocking the social boat. “From an evolutionary perspective, people who responded with this creeped out response did better in the long run. People who didn’t might have ignored dangerous things, or they’re more likely to jump to the wrong conclusion too quickly and be socially ostracized,” he explains.

Dolls inhabit this area of uncertainty largely because they look human but we know they are not. Our brains are designed to read faces for important information about intentions, emotions and potential threats; indeed, we’re so primed to see faces and respond to them that we see them everywhere , in streaked windows and smears of Marmite, toast and banana peels, a phenomenon under the catchall term “pareidolia” (try not to see the faces in this I See Faces Instagram feed ). However much we know that a doll is (likely) not a threat, seeing a face that looks human but isn’t unsettles our most basic human instincts.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of a little piece of plastic, but it’s sending out social signals,” says McAndrew, noting too that depending on the doll, these signals could just as easily trigger a positive response, such as protectiveness. “They look like people but aren’t people, so we don’t know how to respond to it, just like we don’t know how to respond when we don’t know whether there is a danger or not... the world in which we evolved how we process information, there weren’t things like dolls.”

Some researchers also believe that a level of mimicry of nonverbal cues, such as hand movements or body language, is fundamental to smooth human interaction. The key is that it has to be the right level of mimicry – too much or too little and we get creeped out. In a study published in Psychological Science in 2012, researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that inappropriate nonverbal mimicry produced a physical response in the creeped out subject: They felt chills. Dolls don’t have the ability to mimic (although they do seem to have the ability to make eye contact), but because at least part some part of our brain is suspicious about whether this is a human or not, we may expect them to, further confusing things.

You can’t talk about creepy dolls without invoking the “uncanny valley”, the unsettling place where creepy dolls, like their robot cousins, and before them, the automatons, reside. The uncanny valley refers to the idea that human react favorably to humanoid figures until a point at which these figures become too human. At that point, the small differences between the human and the inhuman – maybe an awkward gait, an inability to use appropriate eye contact or speech patterns – become amplified to the point of discomfort, unease, disgust, and terror. The idea originated with Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori’s 1970 essay anticipating the challenges robot-makers would face. Although the title of the paper, “Bukimi No Tani”, is actually more closely translated as “valley of eeriness” , the word “uncanny” hearkens back to a concept that psychiatrist Ernst Jentsch explored in 1906 and that Sigmund Freud described in a 1919 paper, “The Uncanny” . Though the two differed in their interpretations – Freud’s was, unsurprisingly, Freudian: the uncanny recalls our repressed fears and anti-social desires – the basic idea was that the familiar is somehow rendered strange, and that discomfort is rooted in uncertainty.

But the uncanny valley is, for scientists and psychologists alike, a woolly area. Given the resources being poured into robotics, there’s been more research into whether or not the uncanny valley is real , if it’s even a valley and not a cliff, and where exactly it resides. Thus far, results aren’t conclusive; some studies suggest that the uncanny valley doesn’t exist, some reinforce the notion that people are unsettled by inhuman objects that look and act too human. These studies are likely complicated by the fact that widespread exposure to more “natural” looking humanoid figures is on the rise through animated films and video games. Maybe like the Supreme Court standard for obscenity, we know uncanny, creepy humanoids when we see them?

But before the 18th and 19th centuries, dolls weren’t real enough to be threatening. Only when they began to look too human, did dolls start to become creepy, uncanny, and psychology began investigating.

“Doll manufacturers figured out how to better manipulate materials to make dolls look more lifelike or to develop mechanisms that make them appear to behave in ways that humans behave,” says Hogan, pointing to the “sleep eye” innovation in the early 1900s, where the doll would close her eyes when laid horizontal in exactly the way real children don’t (that would be too easy for parents). “I think that’s where the unease comes with dolls, they look like humans and in some ways move like humans and the more convincing they look or move or look like humans, the more uneasy we become.”

At Pollock’s, the dolls that people find particularly creepy are the ones that look more lifelike, says Hoyt; these are also the ones that have begun to decay in eerily inhuman ways. “The dolls don’t age well.… I think any time that a doll really tried to look like a human being and now is 100 years old, the hair is decaying, the eyes don’t work any more. So it looks as much like a baby as possible, but like an ancient baby,” Hoyt says.

Which presents an interesting phenomenon: The creepiness of realistic dolls is complicated by the fact that some people want dolls (and robots) that look as lifelike as possible. Reborns are a good illustration of the problem; hyper-realistic, these are custom-crafted infant dolls that, reborn artists and makers say, “you can love forever”. The more lifelike an infant doll is – and some of them even boast heartbeats, breathing motion , and cooing – the more desirable it is among reborn devotees, but equally, the more it seems to repulse the general public .

Perhaps it comes down to what we can make dolls into. In A.F. Robertson’s 2004 investigation into doll-collecting, Life Like Dolls: The Collector Doll Phenomenon and the Lives of the Women Who Love Them , some of the women who collected porcelain dolls thought of their dolls as alive, as sentient beings with feelings and emotions; these women who referred to their doll collections as “nurseries” were sometimes “shunned” by other antique doll collectors who did not have the relationship to their own dolls. Women – and it is almost exclusively women – who collect reborns often treat them as they would real babies; some psychologists have talked about “reborns” as “transition objects” for people dealing with loss or anxiety. Freud may have argued that all children wish their dolls could come to life, but even so, it’s not socially acceptable for adults to entertain the same desire. If we are creeped out by inanimate things that aren’t human looking too human, we may also be creeped out by adult humans pretending that these inanimate things are real.

“We’re creeped out by people who have these kinds of hobbies and occupations because right away, we jump to the conclusion, ‘What kind of person would willingly surround themselves with… humanlike things that are not human?’” says McAndrew, who also noted that he and Koehnke’s survey on creepiness found that most people think that creepy people don’t realize they’re creepy. “We’re on our guard to those types of people because they’re out of the ordinary.”

It’s also exactly the kind of thing easy to exploit in media. Some doll makers blame Hollywood films for the creepy doll stigma , and there’s no doubt that moviemakers have used dolls to great effect. But the doll was creepy well before Hollywood came calling. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as dolls became more realistic and as their brethren, the automata, performed more dexterous feats, artists and writers began exploring the horror of that almost immediately. The tales of German writer E.T.A Hoffman are widely seen as the beginning of the creepy automaton/doll genre; Jentsch and Freud used Hoffman’s “The Sandman,” as a case study in the uncanny. The story, published in 1816, involves a traumatized young man who discovers that the object of his affection is in fact a clever wind-up doll, the work of a sinister alchemist who may or may not have murdered the young man’s father; it drives him mad. The horror in this story turned on the deceptive attractiveness of the girl, rather than any innate murderousness in her; for the 19th century, creepy dolls stories tended to be about the malevolence of the maker than the doll itself.

In the 20th century, creepy dolls became more actively homicidal, as motion picture technology transformed the safely inanimate into the dangerously animate. Some evil dolls still had an evil human behind them:  Dracula  director Tod Browning’s 1936  The Devil-Doll  featured Lionel Barrymore as man wrongly convicted of murder who turns two living humans into doll-sized assassins to wreak his revenge on the men who framed him. But then there was  The Twilight Zone ’s murderous Talky Tina , inspired by one of the most popular and influential dolls of the 20 th  century, Chatty Cathy – “My name is Talky Tina and you’d better be nice to me!”; the  evil clown doll  from  Poltergeist , cannily marrying two creepy memes for maximum terror; and of course, Chucky, the  My Buddy  clone possessed by the soul of a serial killer in the  Child’s Play  series. The 1980s and 1990s saw dozens of B-movie variations on the homicidal doll theme:  Dolly Dearest, Demonic Toys ,  Blood Dolls . In 2005, the evil denizens of the  Doll Graveyard  came back for teenaged souls (and eyeballs, it appears); in 2007, homicidal ventriloquist dummies were going around ripping people’s tongues out in  Dead Silence .

Most recently, devil worshippers inadvertently turned a smiling vintage doll into a grinning demon in last October’s  Annabelle , a film in the  Conjuring  franchise. Director John Leonetti, who did not return requests for comment,  told The Huffington Post  that dolls made exceptional vehicles for horror films. “If you think about them, most dolls are emulating a human figure,” said Leonetti. “But they’re missing one big thing, which is emotion. So they’re shells. It’s a natural psychological and justifiable vehicle for demons to take it over. If you look at a doll in its eyes, it just stares. That’s creepy. They’re hollow inside. That space needs to be filled.”  With evil .

tilly haunted doll story

But the story of Annabelle the demonic doll, however, becomes far creepier – and more titillating – when it’s accompanied by the claim that it’s “based on a true story”. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren claimed that Annabelle the Raggedy Ann doll , whose original owners frequently found her in places they hadn’t left her, was being used by a demonic spirit in its quest to possess a human soul; she now lives in a specially-made demon-proof case marked “Warning: Positively Do Not Open” at the Warren’s Occult Museum in Connecticut. Annabelle is not the only evil doll the museum alleges it houses, and there are many more such purportedly real-life possessed dolls around the world; as NPR reported in March, “Haunted dolls are a thing” . Robert the Doll , the lifelong companion of an eccentric Key West artist, glowers at people from the East Martello Museum, where he’s become a tiny, haunted cottage industry unto himself; you can even buy your own replica Robert doll to blame things on. If you are unable to visit a haunted or possessed doll in the flesh (or porcelain, as the case may be), then you can always watch a live feed of this rural Pennsylvania family’s haunted doll collection . These stories, like the stories of real live clowns who murdered, feed into a narrative that makes dolls scary.

Preview thumbnail for Annabelle (2014)

Annabelle (2014)

John has found the perfect gift for his wife, Mia: a beautiful, rare vintage doll. But Mia's delight with Annabelle the doll doesn't last long.

It doesn’t appear that the creepy stigma increasingly attached to dolls, nor the bevy of scary doll films, has done anything to really harm sales of dolls in the US. While sales of dolls in 2014 were lower than they had been 10 years earlier, the figures were still in the billions of dollars –  $2.32 billion  to be exact, outstripping sales of vehicular toys, action figures, arts and crafts, and plush toys, and  second only to outdoors and sports toys sales . it hasn’t put a damper on the secondhand and collectible doll market, where handmade porcelain dolls regularly fetch in the thousands of dollars. In September 2014, a rare Kämmer & Reinhardt doll from the early 1900s was auctioned off for  an unbelievable £242,500 ($395,750) ; the report suggested the buyer  not  see  Annabelle , which was due to be released soon after.

The creepiness of dolls sometimes adds to their appeal; some doll makers are actively courting creepy, such as this reborn artist who sells  “monster” babies  alongside regular babies, or the popular and scary  Living Dead Dolls  line. Because the fact is, people  like  creepy. The same mechanism that makes us hyper-vigilant also keeps us interested: “We’re fascinated and enthralled and little on edge because we don’t know what comes next, but we’re not in any way paralyzed by it,” muses Hogan. “We’re more drawn into it, which I think it’s that drawing in or almost being the under spell of wanting to find out what comes next is what good storytellers exploit.”

And, maybe, good doll makers, too?

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Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie | | READ MORE

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie is an American freelance writer living in London, England. She covers the weird stuff for Smithsonian.com , Boing Boing , Slate , mental_floss , and others, and she's the author of Princesses Behaving Badly.

'Friends To the End': 10 Most Terrifying Dolls In Horror History

They're cute until they're creepy!

Like big, scary slashers and creepy, little girls, possessed, haunted, walking and talking dolls have always been a thing in horror. There's nothing like noticing a doll move out of the corner of your eye or finding out it's been possessed by someone or something - or learning the doll who's been talking for weeks never got batteries put in him.

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All this and more is what happens when dolls are the stars of films - whether they're of the horror genre or not. From some horrifying dummies to killer clown faces to a bad guy trapped in a Good Guy, some dolls in films will never not be creepy.

Chucky - 'Child's Play' (1988)

When you think of scary dolls, the first one that comes to mind is always Chucky. Child's Play came out in 1988 and saw serial killer Charles Lee Ray transport his soul into a doll, later to be owned by a little boy, who he would kill everyone to sacrifice.

Chucky went on to star in several films and a TV series as Brad Douriff brought this tiny but merciless killer's voice to life. And as cute as his striped shirt and blue overalls and frizzy red hair are, Chucky will always be the most famous doll in horror.

Annabelle - 'The Conjuring' (2013)

Annabelle is a century-old Victorian China doll who has haunted six films since 2013. She possesses every family who finds her after accidentally being turned into an evil demon by devil worshipers.

But the most terrifying part of Annabelle is the fact she's based on a real-life doll. A Raggedy Ann doll is said to inhabit the spirit of a deceased girl named Annabelle, and after exhibiting strange behavior, it was given to the now-closed Warrens' Occult Museum in Connecticut.

Robbie's Clown - 'Poltergeist' (1982)

One of the scariest moments in 1982's Poltergeist was courtesy of Robbie's clown doll. This clown would sit in a chair across from Robbie's bed, staring at him with a seemingly happy face, but it seemed Robbie never bought it.

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When Robbie notices the clown go missing from the chair one night, he checks under the bed just before the clown appears from behind him, his cheery smile now swapped for a malicious grin. The doll wraps its arm around Robbie's neck and pulls the boy under the bed right in front of his little sister.

Jigsaw - 'Saw' (2004)

Jigsaw is the well-dressed and creepy-faced little tricycle-riding doll that became the mascot for the Saw movies, starting with his film debut in 2004. The doll has since appeared in eight other films, including a photo cameo in 2021's Spiral.

Jigsaw is sometimes known as Billy and ultimately known as John Kramer, the twisted mastermind behind the evil games played in the Saw films. While John Kramer is creepy as a human, the white dummy face and beady red eyes of his alias Jigsaw remain one of the scariest dolls in horror.

Brahms - 'The Boy' (2016)

You may be used to watching Lauren Cohan take on zombies on The Walking Dead, but in 2016, she battled an evil doll named Brahms in the supernatural horror The Boy.

After being hired as a Nanny, Cohan's character Greta learns it's not a child she'll be looking after, but a life-size porcelain doll that a couple treats like a son. Brahms appears to come to life and tortures his new nanny until he reveals his human form has been hiding in the walls and causing all the mischief.

Benson - 'Toy Story 4' (2019)

Toy Story 4 may not be horror, but the Pixar film is filled with creepy toys and callbacks to scary movies. Not only does the film feature several references to The Shining, but it also stars some scary toy dolls.

RELATED: Pixar Movie Jokes That Were Aimed Toward Adults

While Gabby Gabby has her terrifying moments, it's her dummy minions named Benson who take home the award for the scariest Toy Story characters. These dummy dolls resemble Slappy from Goosebumps, running wildly around the antique shop in order to catch Woody and Forky on Gabby Gabby's orders.

Young - 'Squid Game' (2021)

Technically a robot shaped like a doll, Young-hee from Netflix's Squid Game became a rising creepy character from the hit 2021 series, and her "red light, green light" game scene quickly became a fan favorite.

Young-hee stands double the Squid Game players' heights and hosts a simple round of the school-yard game Red Light, Green Light. Except in her game, when someone doesn't stop at the red light in time, they get shot to death.

Blade - 'Puppet Master' (1989)

Puppet Master came out in 1989 and spawned several films starring killer dolls and puppets, but the most famous of them all is Blade.

If his terrifying white face wasn't scary enough, Blade comes equipped with a knife for one hand and a hook for the other, possessing the soul of a German doctor who betrayed the Nazis and was eventually stabbed to death.

Slappy - 'Goosebumps' (2015)

Whether it was in the books, the films, or the TV shows, the most memorable character of R.L. Stine's children's horror series Goosebumps is, without a doubt, Slappy, the ventriloquist puppet.

Slappy takes on a different face in every version of his story, but one thing they all have in common is how undeniably creepy he is. When this puppet comes to life, he stalks whoever brought him to life and forces them to become his slave.

Tiffany - 'Bride Of Chucky' (1998)

Chucky may be a scary killer doll, but sometimes, he doesn't hold a candle to his love interest, Tiffany. When Tiffany isn't possessing the human body of actress Jennifer Tilly, she lives in a murderous doll who kills along with her man.

Tiffany is known to have just as gruesome kills as Chucky in both the films and the Chucky TV series. And it all began with her movie debut in 1998's Bride of Chucky when a fight between lovers ends with Tiffany getting killed and having her soul transported into a doll at the little plastic hands of her boyfriend.

NEXT: Spooky Scary Skeletons In TV & Film That Will Have You Jumping Out of Your Body

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Kalani Smith, 25, and a Canadian YouTuber known as Exploring with Josh performed a blood ritual sacrifice to the terrifying Robert the Doll.

Legends of the doll.

A professional ghost hunter from Nashville says he visited the “most haunted doll in the world” — and now people are convinced he’s cursed.

Kalani Smith , 25, and a Canadian YouTuber known as Exploring with Josh performed a blood ritual sacrifice to the terrifying Robert the Doll.

“Many of the people that have come here and looked into Robert’s eyes have experienced car troubles, marriage troubles, and some people have even gotten cancer,” Smith said in a TikTok last month that has scared up 36,000 views.

Robert lives in a museum in Key West, Florida. The doll, a boy dressed in a sailor suit holding a small dog, is said to have been gifted to a boy who grew to be an eccentric artist.

tilly haunted doll story

Robert allegedly has supernatural abilities that allow him to move and giggle — and he is believed to have inspired the 1988 Chucky film “Child’s Play.” One look at the toy can reportedly unleash his curse.

“The doll is rumored to curse people that film or video him without permission — and we didn’t ask. We didn’t pick [him] up, and he stayed in his case while we were outside of the room, but once we unveiled him, an electric and heavy feeling filled the air,” Smith admitted to Jam Press .

“We got some voices that came through on our voice recorder and equipment going off in the chamber. There was also something that came through the spirit box, which said it wanted us to stay.”

For his part, Josh posted an hourlong haunting YouTube video last week that showed the pair’s blood offering to Robert. Things quickly turned negative.

“We got attacked after the blood ritual was performed and felt like we caught on fire. It got insanely hot, and then we both ended up throwing up,” Smith explained to Jam Press.

“Josh was considering going to the hospital if his condition didn’t improve. He was laying [down] pouring water on himself, and we had to eventually leave the property for 20 minutes, before returning to continue our investigation in [Robert’s] chamber.”

“We got attacked after the blood ritual was performed and felt like we caught on fire. It got insanely hot, and then we both ended up throwing up,” Smith explained

Josh films himself struggling to breathe before almost throwing up.

He claimed that since shooting that clip, he has suffered bad luck that included a canceled flight, lost baggage, and inflammation and pain in his eye.

He said he apologized to Robert and plans to undergo a cleanse, as he “can’t take this anymore.”

Josh claimed that since shooting that clip, he has suffered bad luck that included a canceled flight, lost baggage, and inflammation and pain in his eye.

Social media users did their best to creep it real in the comments section.

“You don’t have to gamble yourself just to make a good video. Next time be careful [paranormal investigators],” one person advised.

“Dude this is too much, think of your own safety,” another recommended.

“Please take care of yourself Josh and be careful. I feel really worried about you,” a third chimed in.

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Museum will be closed Friday, October 20 for the Play Ball gala.

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Tots TV Tilly

Tilly was a puppet who, along with Tom and Tiny , was one of three main characters of CITV's children's television series Tots TV .

She is a Tot who lives in a house with her two friends Tom and Tiny. Unlike Tom and Tiny, Tilly doesn't speak English, instead she speaks French (Spanish in US Dub). Despite this, Tom and Tiny are able to understand her. The Tots also have a pet donkey known simply as Donkey .

She wears a recorder attached to a red ribbon around her neck, which she uses to play music, it is her cherished possession .

Tilly also has a bit of a temper in one episode .

Tilly was a French girl who speaks in basic French (changed to English in French broadcasts)

Tilly was a Spanish girl with an Mexican accent, in US version she speaks Spanish on PBS airings.

Voice Actors

Véronique Déroulède (UK) (1993-1994)

Claire Carré (UK) (1994-1997)

Alexandra Hogg (UK)

María Moscardó (US Dub)

Izabel Lira (Brazillian Portuguese)

Pile (Japan)

Kim Ji-yeong (South Korea)

Antonella Alessandro (Italy)

Appearance [ ]

Tilly is a girl with pale skin, green eyes and red hair. She wears a pink shirt, denim jumper and loafers.

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Creepy Toys / Dolls related horror movies, I have seen

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Ghost of Tilly the Kid

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Chester made up the Ghost of Tilly the Kid to cover up the fact that he found gold nuggets on Tex 's property.

  • 1 Physical appearance
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  • 4 Appearances

Physical appearance [ ]

Tilly resembled an adult female human. She has a bluish-white glow around her, which made her long hair look blue. She also has red eyes. She wore a cowboy-style clothing including a hat, gloves, shirt, and pants. She carried a gun. She also has a ghost horse.

Personality [ ]

Insert details here.

History [ ]

Scooby-doo (dc comics) [ ].

Chester made up a story about her. Where he was chased by her and almost get caught but managed to get away, to cover up the fact that he found gold nuggets on Tex's property.

Appearances [ ]

  • #99(b). Cowpoked
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San Diego County’s scariest haunted houses and trails, ranked

An actor plays to the camera at The Haunted Trail of Balboa Park.

The options for getting spooked in San Diego County this Halloween season include a haunted amusement park, scream zone, haunted trail and haunted corn maze

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Spooky season has officially commenced in San Diego, and you should be afraid... very afraid.

Across the county, haunted locales are horrifying visitors who dare to enter, including an abandoned amusement center, a chilling walk through Balboa Park and a corn maze not for the faint of heart. The Union-Tribune’s guides reporters aren’t experts in fear, but we do have a pretty good idea of the things that make us jump.

So during the first few weeks of October, we set out to rank the most frightening haunted experiences in San Diego County. At each, we were forced to confront our fears head on: darkness, claustrophobia, clowns, the roar of a chainsaw and the suspicious, inescapable feeling that someone is following you.

Visitors might not be scared at every turn, but we guarantee there’s something creepy for everyone at the locations on this list. It will be updated online as more haunted experiences open throughout the season.

1. Haunted Corn Maze

A sign outside the Haunted Corn Maze at Carlsbad Strawberry Company.

Corn fields have provided the backdrop for plenty of scary movies, but walking through one during Halloween season, knowing it’s “haunted” by various unknowns, is its own kind of terrifying. I was so scared walking through this maze — and screamed so often — that I could barely catch my breath to prepare for the next frightening encounter. The worst part is hearing the screams of other visitors, not knowing how far away they are among the tall stocks of corn, or what might be hiding around the next turn. Don’t be fooled by the pumpkin patch, food and drink stands, beautiful marigold fields, animal encounters and cute photo opportunities surrounding the entrance: an adrenaline rush awaits anyone who dares to find out what lurks within. 7 to 10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday in October. Carlsbad Strawberry Company, 1050 Cannon Road, Carlsbad. $10 for general admission, plus $25 for the haunted corn maze. (760) 603-9608, carlsbadstrawberrycompany.com/pumpkin

— Abby Hamblin

2. Haunted Amusement Park

The Haunted House is just one of several experiences at the Haunted Amusement Park.

In the late 1960s, Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park opened in El Cajon, with the slogan, “You’ll never want to leave!” After decades of attempts at renovation and redevelopment, the business failed. With the amusement park abandoned, its buildings fell apart, weeds grew wildly and tree branches twisted themselves through the remnants of an old Ferris wheel. All this is to say: on its own, the old amusement park feels pretty haunted. Combine this inherent creepiness with the Haunted Amusement Park experience — an annual scare trail that takes visitors on a roughly one-mile walk through the grounds — and you’ll be feeling a shiver down your spine. There are ghoulish clowns galore and several jump scares as visitors make their way through a circus maze, haunted house and the ride repair shop, plus more hands-on sections like walking through 3-D bumper cars and crossing through a tunnel on a swinging platform. I didn’t stop screaming and laughing for the 30 minutes it took to walk through, which, to me, was perfect: just enough scariness to have me thoroughly freaked out while still having a good time. Every weekend from now through Oct. 31. 14009 Ridge Hill Road, El Cajon. $25. scaretrail.com

— Maura Fox

3. The Haunted Trail of Balboa Park

Guests walk through The Haunted Trail of Balboa Park on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.

This Halloween attraction starts off terrific with the terrifying 3,500-square-foot eXperiment Maze that takes about 10 minutes to get through. In this dark network of twists and turns, you hear spooky music playing, evil laughs and screaming. There are also strobe lights and machine-made fog that give just enough visibility to see various childhood fairy tales turned into frighting installations, like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs.” After exiting the maze, you walk toward the Haunted Trail. The highlight for me was the dilapidated school bus where zombie prisoners, some fake and some real, scare you off the back door into a foggy graveyard. The open area of the trail is less scary since you can see what’s coming up next, so the element of surprise and the unknown is taken away somewhat. Oct. 11-15, 18-22, 24-31. Corner of Balboa Drive and Juniper Road, San Diego. $32.99-47.99. (619) 696-7227, hauntedtrail.net

— Carlos Rico

4. The Del Mar Fairgrounds Scream Zone

The Del Mar Fairgrounds transforms into "Scaregrounds" each fall.

Each fall, a section of the Del Mar Fairgrounds transforms into The Scream Zone, featuring a haunted hay ride and two immersive walk-through experiences, the first of which takes visitors past characters from famous horror movies and the second forcing them to find their way out of a trippy labyrinth. The walk-throughs were genuinely frightening, but the hay ride was more impressive as we cruised through the fairground’s stables and were confronted with elaborate and believable sets. The Scream Zone would have been scarier if it weren’t for the long lines to enter the three experiences, since each are separated by their own line. Even though horrifying characters wandered around scaring waiting thrill seekers, I felt my fear dissipate the longer I stood there — a more sustained fright would have made this haunted experience all the better. Open most nights except some Mondays and Tuesdays, now until Oct. 31, 7 to 11 p.m. 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar. $33 for general admission. (619) 231-0131, thescreamzone.com

5. SeaWorld San Diego’s Howl-O-Scream

A scene near the entrance of SeaWorld San Diego's Howl-O-Scream experience.

The appeal of this spooky experience is the amount of time and space available for absorbing every sight, smell and scare. Howl-O-Scream spans much of the SeaWorld San Diego site, with five scary outdoor walk-through zones, five indoor haunted houses and five entertaining live performances known as “vile vignettes.” There are a startling number of fears represented, including creepy dolls, aliens and even snakes and crocodiles. I did scream and slosh my drink in the air at one point, but with themed food and drinks, visually intriguing horror scenes rivaling movie quality and the opportunity to ride roller coasters, this haunt ranks higher for its entertainment than its fear factor. Open Thursdays-Sundays in October and Halloween night. SeaWorld San Diego, 500 Sea World Drive, San Diego. Tickets start at $41.99. (619) 222-4732, seaworld.com/san-diego/events/howl-o-scream/tickets

tilly haunted doll story

Strange Unexplained Mysteries

The very bizarre case of Thierry Tilly.

tilly haunted doll story

Described as the Leonardo da Vinci of mental manipulation, “guru” Thierry Tilly duped a reclusive French family out of more than $6 million, including their chateau.

In 1999, Ghislaine was looking for someone to help her update her Paris-based secretarial school’s computer system. A lawyer friend had recommended the services of Tilly to her; he said he was well-versed in such matters. In fact, the friend had wanted Tilly to get the job because Tilly owed him money.

So one day, Tilly appeared at La Femme Secrétaire on the Rue de Lille in Paris’s Seventh Arrondissement. At first, Ghislaine was impressed with the clean-cut, apparently competent Tilly, and made the mistake of confiding in him: she told him her husband, Jean, was depressed and her son, François, a failure. Other tensions were simmering in the family, to do with the inheritance of the chateau following the death of Ghislaine’s father in 1995. Tilly was all ears. Says Ghislaine: “If we’d been a unified family, Tilly would never have gained a hold over us.” Soon Marchand suspected his wife and her “guru” of having an affair.

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In mid-2000, Ghislaine invited Tilly to attend the Monflanquin Music Festival, of which she was the chief organiser. Quite naturally, she asked him to dine at the chateau and meet the family. It was during this visit that he revealed that his job at La Femme Secrétaire was nothing more than a cover. Now presenting himself as a “special agent in the service of France”, Tilly boasted to the Védrines of his NATO connections. They could call upon his services whenever they needed him.

The chateau, which was, behind its genteel exterior, a hotbed of hidden rivalries and jealousies, was fertile ground for the plentiful and imaginative lies that Tilly spun, and the Védrines gravitated towards his energy. When the young Amaury was caught smoking marijuana in the city, Tilly told him to retreat to the chateau for a few days where there would be no peer pressure to indulge. When Christine started putting on weight, Tilly instructed her to start exercising in the forest surrounding it. To the Védrines, it seemed that their new friend could arrange anything.

Then he struck!

One day, he explained the family were in serious danger from sinister forces. He told them they were the lost descendants of an ancient order, an offshoot of the Knights Templar, called “L’Équilibre du Monde” (the “Balance of the World”), an organisation only called into being when the world faces extreme evil.

All were taken in except one: Jean Marchand. When he tried to warn his wife that Tilly, who had been working for her since 1999, was a pervert and a charlatan, she divorced him on orders emailed to her by Tilly in the autumn of 2001.

Marchand was escorted to the edge of the family property, whereupon Ghislaine threw down on the lawn a glove and a bouquet of dried flowers, a sign that he had been recognised as an agent of “evil”. By the time Marchand had returned to his home at Fontenay, outside Paris, Ghislaine had emptied their joint accounts.

At the height of the scam, Tilly maintained two flats, one in London and the other in New York. Gonzalez began to collect rare and fine wines and received a Rolex wristwatch as a gift from Tilly. When Gonzalez was arrested in Paris, the police found €86,000 ($107,000) stuffed in a trunk. Between them, the men purchased a BMW 645 and rented three other vehicles to use from their bases in Paris (Gonzalez) and London (Tilly).

In the end, out of a family fortune of nearly €5 million (about $6.2 million), only €220,000 ($274,000) has been recovered and much more is suspected of being stowed in bank accounts in the Cayman Islands with, according to Picotin, very little hope of it ever being recovered.

tilly haunted doll story

Tilly’s real feat was organising the sequestration of the entire Védrines family from his home in the UK, where he resided throughout the affair. (Nobody in the village of Monflanquin remembers even seeing le gourou.) By 2003, all 11 members of the Védrines family had left the chateau and moved into Philippe’s home at Talade, north of Monflanquin, where they lived with the shutters closed between 2003 and 2008. Tilly forbade the use of all timepieces and calendars, says Marchand, to further disorientate his victims. “He wanted to cut them off from the world.”

Throughout their seclusion, Tilly telephoned, faxed or emailed the isolated family, on average, 40 times a day from across the Channel, demanding updates on their activities. The presence of a few journalists already alerted to the story by Marchand only reinforced Tilly’s assertions that the family were under close scrutiny by his conspiracy of malign forces.

Source : Sydney Herald

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