The Haunted Dolls of eBay

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Everyone’s been there: you’re on a first date, it’s going well, you head back to their place… only to find that their bedroom is packed to the rafters with porcelain-headed, dead-eyed, spiritually-ruined haunted dolls. It’s a boring old story. But, while fleeing in terror, have you ever asked yourself where those dolls come from?

Of course some people inherited their bewitched figurines from the late grandmother who now lives inside a Hummel, but many have to assemble their collections from scratch. On eBay!

At any given time, dozens of supposedly haunted dolls are available for purchase on eBay. As Vice UK recently pointed out, these spooky little rascals can go for thousands of dollars. But luckily for everyday possessed Raggedy Ann lovers like me and definitely you, many are available at much more reasonable price point. But price isn't the only issue.

How do you know you're purchasing an undead spirit trapped in porcelain, and not just a regular old creepy doll? Well, you can't. Sellers often include lists of unusual phenomena that surround the doll (cold spots, audio hallucinations, communication via dreams, and spectral orbs in photographs) or long, detailed stories about a cursed object's origins, but this evidence is unverifiable by men of faith or science.

Luckily, eBay user terethel published "A Guide to Buying Haunted Items" in 2008. Terethel guides users through the questions they should ask of themselves when considering such an acquisition. Questions such as "if you came to possess [an item that had power over the world around you], would you... distribute it to a complete stranger, or would you keep it for yourself, in your family?" and "Is the seller taking advantage of an ethnic slur to sell something fake?" and, implicitly, "Can I fake spectral orbs on this photo toilet paper?" (Answer: yes.)

For more insight into the world of haunted dolls, we turned to Justin McElroy. Justin is one of the three brothers who host the My Brother, My Brother and Me podcast, and the creator of their segment "Haunted Doll Watch." Justin reports on his online finds, much to his brothers' dismay. As one of the preeminent internet experts on watching haunted dolls for a podcast he hosts with his brothers, we asked Justin to illuminate these special auction items for us further.

How did you become interested in haunted dolls?

My wife actually stumbled across them on eBay and thought it might make a funny podcast bit. I immediately stole the idea from her and started accepting full credit for the discovery.

What would you say might be the appeal of haunted dolls for people who buy them? What is the appeal of haunted dolls for you?

We were all captivated by Teddy Ruxpin in the 80s, right? Imagine it: A magical teddy bear who could read bedtime stories and keep you company. Except one day we lifted up the flap behind his shirt and discovered the terrible truth: It was a tape the WHOLE TIME. Haunted doll obsession is just an extension of that initial disappointment.

Have you bought a haunted doll from eBay? If yes, where do you keep it? If no, where would you keep it? If you would never, why not?

Hell no, I’ve never bought one. They are HAUNT-ED. That means they have ghosts that live inside them. What if the ghost inside got out, do you know how to catch one, besides throwing dolls at them? I sure don’t. The Ghostbusters aren’t real. It’s one of the great tragedies of human existence: Ghosts are real, Ghostbusters are not.

Do you have a favorite haunted doll from eBay?

That would be like asking me to pick my favorite child. … Or more specifically, my favorite dead child that now lives in a doll.

Do you think dolls are more haunt-able than other household objects? And if so, is it because they look like us? (And if it is, then why are there not more haunted statues? Or haunted action figures? Or haunted life-sized cut-outs? And if not, then what is up with all these haunted dolls? Does having a doll nearby ensure that your spirit won't make it to the next realm? That would be a real blow to the American Girl people. I digress.)

Ghosts live in everything, from computer monitors to mid-size sedan cupholders, ghosts can fit anywhere. Dolls just get a lot more press thanks to movies like Child’s Play and Annabelle, but everything has ghosts in it. The Brave Little Toaster? Remember that flick? Haunted toaster. It’s just not as sexy as dolls.

If you were going to haunt an inanimate object, what would it be? If your answer is "a doll," what would you like that doll to look like?

I am never going to die.

Do you think ghosts get to choose the doll that encases their eternal spirit or is it like, you know, whatever's closest?

That’s a classic ghost mistake, I tell ghosts all the time, don’t just haunt the first desk lamp you see, you’ve got to haunt around until you find the vessel that’s right for you! I wrote a book about this topic, Ghosts Are From Mars, Desk Lamps Are From Venus, it’s worth reading.

What's the most you think someone should pay for a haunted doll they found on the internet?

Maybe you can assign a numerical value to the delight of having a dead kid’s soul living in a crusty doll that smells like spaghetti cooked in a 100-year-old washing machine, but I certainly can’t.

Finally, do you think haunted dolls can scare each other?

If you get two haunted dolls next to each other, if you think they’re doing ANYTHING other than plotting how to kill you, you’re living in a fool’s paradise.