Dolls can be very creepy. Some suggest that dolls were the first children’s toy dating back to the Egyptians. Were those Egyptian dolls creepy? Of course, they were! Since then, children have spent endless hours playing with everything from Barbie and Cabbage Patch to G.I. Joe and Star Wars dolls. Yes, those are dolls. And of course, there are famously haunted dolls. There’s Harold, the first haunted doll sold on eBay, whom psychics won’t go anywhere near. There’s Robert the haunted doll, who now lives at The Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida. And then there is Annabelle, the Raggedy Ann doll that has taken doll stardom to new heights and is known as one of the most haunted dolls in the world. Here is the true backstory of the Annabelle doll from The Conjuring films.
The Real Annabelle
The Annabelle doll was actually a Raggedy Ann doll, not what you a haunted, evil doll would look like. How could anyone ever see that smiling, brightly colored doll as a demonic menace? A young med student named Donna would find out. As well as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who have a compelling tale of horror that will make you think twice about this rosy-cheeked rag doll.
True History of the Annabelle Doll
The year is 1970 and soon to be registered nurse Donna has just received an antique Raggedy Ann doll from her mother for her birthday. She takes the doll back to her shared apartment with her roommate and fellow nurse, Angie. Both girls fawn over the cute smiling doll when it arrives but quickly forget its existence as it becomes part of the decor. However, the doll doesn’t go unnoticed long. Only days later, both girls start to notice that the doll seems to not only move from room to room but also change positions on its own. Donna would sometimes leave the doll in the living room only to come home to find the doll on her bed with the door closed. The doll was often found with its legs crossed or standing on both feet but it was never left in those positions, to begin with.
A month after the doll’s arrival, Donna started to find handwritten notes seemingly from the doll itself. Each note was written on scraps of parchment paper with the handwriting of a small child that bore the message, “Help us” and “Help Lou.” Donna, confused and scared, noted that she had never owned parchment paper and had no idea where it could have come from. Lou was a long-time friend to both Donna and Angie and at the time it was unclear why the doll had written his name specifically.
Up to this point, Donna kept what was happening to herself and didn’t feel the need to call in any kind of specialist until after one particularly unsettling event. Donna had just come home to find that the doll had moved again, this time to her bed. This time, something a bit more was off about the doll than just its changing position. Upon further inspection, Donna found to her horror that the doll had drops of a blood-like substance on its chest and hands. Nearly petrified with fear, Donna and Angie agreed they needed help and called a medium.
Who was Annabelle? Was the Annabelle doll possessed?
Through this medium, the girls would learn about the now infamous Annabelle Higgins. Before the apartment complex where the girls lived was built, there was just a field and small house. It’s said that Annabelle and her family lived there happily until tragedy struck the family when seven-year-old Annabelle would be found dead in the field where the apartments now sit. The medium relayed to the sympathetic Donna and Angie, that Annabelle just wanted to stay and be loved. Without question, Donna allowed the spirit of Annabelle to stay in the Raggedy Ann doll. Not long after accepting Annabelle’s plea to stay, the girls realized that the spirit might not be as innocent as its soft doll was make it seem.
From the very beginning, Lou had disliked the cheery doll, even saying it was evil and he urged Donna and Angie to get rid of it as soon as it arrived. Both girls continuously refused since they felt such compassion for both the doll and Annabelle. Lou, on the other hand, had nothing but terrifying experiences when it came to the Annabelle doll. One night, Lou awoke to find that he could not move his body. Panic-stricken, he looked toward the end of the bed and saw the doll standing there. Seconds later, Lou felt the pressure of hands around his throat and was choked almost to the point of asphyxiation. Lou woke the next day terrified and convinced it had not been a dream or sleep paralysis. This would not be his only encounter with Annabelle. He also received seven long claw marks on his chest, three vertical and four horizontal. Interestingly, the cuts were fully healed in two days, leaving no trace they had ever been there.
The Warrens take on Annabelle
After these violent episodes, Donna realized this was not the spirit of a little girl but something much more sinister. Donna knew she needed more than a medium, so she contacted an Episcopal priest named Father Hegan. After Donna explained what had been happening to Lou and the doll, Father Hegan decided to call a priest of higher authority, Father Cooke. Upon hearing about the horrifying events, he instantly called Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens came to the conclusion that it was not the spirit of the young Annabelle but instead a demonic presence since spirits want to possess people, not inanimate objects. It was only making the doll seem alive so it could attach to a human host instead.
Starting small, the evil spirit started attracting attention to itself to get closer to a human host. The medium also made it much easier for the spirit to manipulate the girls with a sob story. Considering how violent the spirit started to get, the Warren’s predicted that the spirit would have possessed or killed someone in a couple of weeks if they haven’t been notified. Father Cooke cleansed the apartment with a seven-page prayer and, to Donna, Angie, and Lou’s relief, the Warrens took the Raggedy Ann doll with them.
Where is the Annabelle doll now?
The doll still showed signs of violence while in the Warren’s care. As they traveled home with the doll in the backseat, the car stalled repeatedly on every corner making the power steering and brakes fail. After almost colliding with another car because of this, Ed Warren poured holy water over the doll and they made it home safely with no more strange automobile failure. Ed also reported that the doll levitated off a chair when they returned and would turn up in rooms randomly. The Warrens built a special case for the doll after Father Jason Bradford, a Catholic exorcist friend of the Warrens, got into an almost fatal car accident after tossing the doll and telling it, ”You’re just a ragdoll Annabelle, you can’t hurt anyone.” The Annabelle doll is currently in a case in The Warren’s Occult Museum in Connecticut with a sign on the glass reading: “WARNING POSITIVELY DO NOT OPEN”.
Tony Spera, curator of The Warren’s Occult Museum on Annabelle
Comparisons to the Annabelle film
While some of the above was included in the film, much of it was embellished for Hollywood’s big screen. Here are a few truths and falsities.
- The doll was indeed a birthday gift to Donna from her mother. She was a nursing student which was depicted in the film.
- The doll was never given to a pregnant wife.
- The satanic cult scene never happened.
- The owners never attempted to throw away the Annabelle doll. The activity was never really bad enough to warrant tossing the doll.
- There were messages that appeared to have been left by the doll. Another odd fact was that the paper used was parchment. Donna, Angie, and Lou did not have any parchment in the house.
- The doll never started a fire.
- Father Hegan did perform an exorcism on the doll.
- The Warrens did confiscate the doll to be held at their Occult Museum.