Good morning, spooky people. Today I’d like to introduce you to two prominent figures in the paranormal community. You’ve probably already heard of them if you’ve sat through Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, The Haunted, or The Haunting in Connecticut.
You know all those times that you settle in for a good scare, and the opening sequence informs you that the movie you’re about to watch is based on a true story? A few of these accounts happily point back to a couple of folks who made it their life’s work to document these cases. While the film adaptations take certain liberties to sensationalize the stories *cough* Amityville *cough*, others hit the mark dead on.
Case in point:
Yep. Today we’re talking about the Warrens: Ed and Lorraine founded the New England Society for Psychic Research in the seventies, and many of their case studies have been brought to screen.
Ed was a WWII Navy vet and former police officer who became a self-taught expert in demonology, author, and lecturer. His wife was a professed clairvoyant and medium who worked closely with her husband. Their collection of supernatural artifacts, case studies, and investigations have been filtering into the media for decades.
The latest hit the internet a few hours or so ago, and I’m happy to say that it’s not only a spinoff of The Conjuring, but it also focuses on one particularly creepy object that resides in the Warrens’ collection of haunted artifacts.
The doll’s name is Annabelle.
The filmmakers have taken a few liberties with the doll in question. The original is actually a run of the mill Raggedy Ann doll, albeit a fairly large one. When I was a little girl, I had one of these things myself. Black button eyes, triangle nose, and yarn hair. Hardly worrisome. I had many more difficulties with that random teddy bear who’s eyes used to track me whenever I went into the basement where I’d ditched it on the pile of unloved toys next to the furnace. (I might’ve been four, and I might’ve ditched the bear because it grew teeth and claws on a few occasions in the middle of the night, and I might’ve woken my parents up with my screaming until they saw fit to remove it.)
The Raggedy Ann doll, however, was perfectly bland and therefore harmless.
The Curious Case of Annabelle, the Possessed Doll
The original doll that’s served as inspiration for The Conjuring and for the forthcoming spinoff is currently held in a glass cabinet in the Warrens’ basement. It bears a little sign that reads “Warning: Postively Do Not Open.” Its origins are a little more suspect than my childhood toy-friend.
Annabelle was purchased from an antique shop in the 1970’s and gifted to a nursing student by the name of Donna by her mother, presumably as a graduation gift. Donna brought it home to the apartment that she shared with a fellow student, Angie, and unceremoniously tossed on the bed.
The doll was forgotten about for a few days, but par the course, that’s when Donna and her roommate began noticing something suspicious afoot. They would return home to find the doll shifted position slightly. At first, the movements were subtle — the girls attributed its movement to some good old mundane jostling. Life happening around it. You know — the same way that your keys sometimes turn up in the bathroom or under the couch. Normal.
Things took a turn when they returned home one day to find the doll standing upright, leaning against a kitchen chair as if in mid-step as they opened the door on it.
Donna’s account in the Warrens’ file ramps up the creep factor by a few notches:
“I put it on my bed each morning after the bed was made. The arms would be off to its sides and its legs would be straight out — just like it’s sitting there now. But when we’d come home at night, the arms and legs would be positioned in different gestures. For instance, its legs would be crossed at the ankles, or its arms would be folded in its lap. After a week or so, this made us suspicious. So to test it, I purposely crossed its arms and legs in the morning to see if it really was moving. And sure enough, every night when we’d come back home, the arms and legs would be uncrossed and the thing would be sitting there in any of a dozen different postures.”
Given that the doll began showing up in various other rooms of the apartment — the living room, Donna’s bedroom when the door was closed, etc. — The girls considered the sensible conclusion that someone had managed to wrangle a key to their apartment and was messing with them.
The girls had a man-friend who hung around a lot. A nice guy by all accounts, who swore off any sort of involvement in the strange case of the doll. “Lou” claimed the doll gave him bad vibes. He encouraged them to get rid of it; a case that was furthered when little notes began turning up around the apartment with childlike scrawl on parchment paper saying “Help Us” and “Help Lou.” None of them kept parchment in the apartment, and none could be sure where the notes were coming from.
They ruled out the conclusion of external involvement when, upon returning home after a particularly strenuous day of classes, they found the doll wearing three dots of red on its chest, with blood smeared on its hand.
Insert Bad Idea #1: Investigation
I’m not sure what drives people to overturn certain rocks. If I was in Donna’s situation, there would be garbage bag and a trash compactor involved, and that’d be that. Or lighter fluid and a trash can. Goodbye dolly. Into the fireplace with you. CHOOM. SIZZLE. Of course that’s not what happened. Donna and her roommate called in a medium.
After a little dabbled conversation the medium relayed to the girls that before their apartment complex was built, a seven year old girl’s body had been found on the property. The girl’s name was Annabelle Higgins, and her spirit had latched onto the doll when Donna had brought it home. Annabelle found the girls to be trustworthy. She only wanted to stay with them. They made her feel safe.
What harm could it do, right? The spirit made a sympathetic case.
They kept the doll.
That’s when the real trouble started.
Insert Bad Idea #2: Ignoring the Obvious
Lou began having bad dreams — the sort where Annabelle was in his bed, sitting on his chest, choking him out. He’d wake up terrified, suffocating, head pounding. Your standard variety sleep paralysis might account for this sort of thing, except that when Lou looked up he found the doll sitting at the foot of his bed. He claims it crawled up his leg and proceeded to carry out the dream. He blacked out, and when he woke the next morning, was stricken with the sense that all was not right and the doll was to blame.
A few days later, Lou and Angie were in the midst of planning a road trip. In the middle of a silent apartment with maps spread around them, a shuffling sound broke the quiet. Thinking it was a burglar, Lou went to investigate. Coming from Donna’s room, Lou entered to find Annabelle propped up in a corner. The sensation he described was that of being watched; eyes burning the back of his neck. When he turned there was nobody there, but things escalated quickly: Lou found himself doubled over in pain from a series of raked cuts that clawed through his shirt and into his midsection.
The wounds, while only surface cuts, healed in a few days. But it was enough to convince the trio: the doll was to blame.
Enter the Warrens
The girls contacted an Episcopalian priest, who in turn brought in the Warrens to investigate the strange case of Annabelle the doll. A quick assessment determined that it wasn’t, in fact, the spirit of a deceased child inhabiting the poppet, but a demonic manifestation that had latched on to the toy. Demons don’t possess things, they possess people; a clever workaround that made it look like a simple haunting when, in reality, the entity was allegedly after Donna’s soul the whole time.
The priest performed an exorcism, and the Warrens bagged the doll — popping it into the back seat of their sedan for transport. Ed elected to take only backroads home, as the entity might’ve proved too strong to contain on the trip back. Going 65 mph on a highway might’ve proved disastrous.
Sure enough, the engine cut out a few times, the power steering failed, and the brakes gave a stammer once or twice. Ed sprinkled the doll with holy water and it behaved itself for the trip home.
After a little while, though, Annabelle was back to her old tricks: disappearing and reappearing in various places around the Warren household, levitating off Ed’s desk, etc. Before things could worsen, Ed called in a Catholic priest to perform an exorcism. With only one further incident in which the priest’s car was totalled on his way home, the Warrens built a locked case for the doll.
Annabelle currently resides in the Warrens’ Occult Museum, where you might visit it should you be passing through Monroe, Connecticut.