The True Life Story of Annabelle the Haunted Doll

by JoHarrington

Demonic doll Annabelle is the subject of a box office smashing, mega hit movie, but film-makers took liberties with the story. This is what really happened with Annabelle.

What is it about doll hauntings which seems so much creepier than anything else? Or indeed ghost story toys in general?

Rationality says that toys are associated with childhood and innocence, the little ones we fell hard-wired to protect. There is no place for horror, nor the unexpected, strange and eerie in the nursery. We just want it to be safe in there.

All dolls must stay just dolls, and all teddy bears too.

To my mind, the truth is more emotional than that. No matter how old we get, and how seemingly logical, there are times in the dead of night where rationality cannot penetrate. Where problems of the day get worried over without solution, and all manner of entities may be imagined in the half-glow. Or may really be there.

In those moments of primal fear and fretful panic, there was always a friend. Introduced in the cradle, cuddled through childhood, even as adults we know that teddy bears and dolls constitute comfort. Our holders of secrets softly whispered; our allies against the darkness and all that lurks within it.

But what if the toys themselves are haunted? Oh dear. What then?

The Haunted Doll Annabelle Locked Away

The real world Annabelle doll is stored inside the museum of possessed, paranormal and otherwise supernaturally dodgy artefacts within the home of Lorraine Warren.

Image: Annabelle with the Warrens by Felipe112233The doll seems so harmless sitting inside its purpose built cabinet. Just a collection of shapes cut from fabric in jolly hues.

It's identical to any number of other Raggedy Ann dolls - that type habitually bought for children, propped upon their beds, cuddled with impunity, until the colors fade with age and the stitching wears thin. Nobody usually gets hurt.

On the contrary, Raggedy Ann dolls are there for consolation in the night. Lifeless they may be, but they receive so much love and faith in their security, that it's reflected back in kind. They cannot, and do not, move an inch. Their big eyes do not blink. But they radiate well-being all the same.

Annabelle could be cuddled. Removed from her padlocked cabinet, she could easily be taken to a child's bed and hugged until the dawn. But no-one is ever going to do that.

Even if there was no curator to keep her behind glass, there's a sign to give anyone pause: 'WARNING Positively do not open'. A large white cross sits above her head, a legacy of the exorcism performed upon her. Then there's a lock to pick. Without the story it seems like overkill, yet still would ring instinctual warning bells about ever giving her to a child. Or anyone really. Best to let lie and walk away.

For those who do know the history, the shudder is even more pronounced. The walking away is faster and turns into a sprint. The cabinet is not touched. Here then is that history, so you know to do the same.

Buy Classic Raggedy Ann Doll Just like Annabelle

Of course I am talking aesthetically. Hopefully there are some very distinct differences between this Raggedy Ann classic doll and Annabelle.

Raggedy Ann Doll That Moved on its Own

In the movie, Annabelle is a scary looking ceramic doll. In reality, it was just an ordinary Raggedy Ann.

Donna Jennings was not a child. She was a student nurse on the brink of graduation, sharing a Connecticut apartment with her friend Angie Stapleton.

With a hint of quietly suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome, it was Donna's mother who bought the vintage Raggedy Ann doll from a hobby store. She presented it to her daughter for her 25th birthday and Donna used it as a decoration.

Each morning, after her bed was made, Donna would prop the doll up against the pillow mound. It looked cheery, friendly and fun. Right up until the time when it didn't.

There was a curiosity here. Donna remarked to Angie that she was sure that the Raggedy Ann doll was moving, while they were out at college all day. It was only in small, almost unremarkable ways. Like floppy legs left dangling free were crossed upon their return.

It worried them. Not because the doll was moving per se. Dolls don't move on their own. That this one was doing just that implied that someone was entering their apartment while they were away, and messing with Donna's bed. 

However, the more they considered it, the more unlikely that scenario seemed. They set out to gain more evidence before reporting it, for fear that the warden or police would think them silly women scared by their own shadow. 

Next day, before setting out, Donna crossed her Raggedy Ann doll's legs, in the position that she usually discovered her, then carefully marked precisely where she sat. Meanwhile Angie was booby-trapping all doors and windows. Nobody would be harmed by coming inside, but they'd certainly trigger pointers to prove that they'd been there.

Returning home from classes, the women were relieved to find that nothing had been tampered with at any entrance point. But their bonhomie soon turned to wide-eyed wonder. Stepping into her bedroom, Donna couldn't help but notice that her Raggedy Doll's legs were now uncrossed and the toy was moved slightly along from its marked spot.

More Raggedy Ann Dolls Like Annabelle

There was nothing overtly remarkable about this doll. You could own one yourself.

The Doll's Unsolved Mysteries

As the weeks passed, more and more strange activity seemed to focus around that Raggedy Ann doll.

Neither woman was particularly thinking of the supernatural in the movement of the doll. Unlike Angie's fiance Lou Carlo, who declared that the thing gave him the creeps.

What he hadn't mentioned was that the Raggedy Doll had begun to feature in his recurring nightmares, though he didn't even live in the low rise apartment.

Meanwhile, Donna and Angie continued with their experiments, trying to discern the logical explanation behind its frequent position switches, whenever no-one was watching. The freakier thing was that these changes were becoming ever more noticeable.

The Raggedy Doll wasn't just having its legs crossed or uncrossed, but was being moved into another room. They'd leave with it sitting on Donna's bed and return to find it on the sofa, but with no obvious way for anyone to have entered their apartment.

Then there was the time when they opened their front door to find the doll kneeling on a chair in the hallway. Fine and all par for the course in their experience now, except that Raggedy Ann legs are too soft to kneel. After moving her once, each woman in turn kept trying to get the doll to emulate that kneeling stance. They couldn't do it. The doll's legs gave out every time.

Haunted Doll Annabelle Lookalike Raggedy Ann Dolls

See! They're cute! And they all want a cuddle!

Haunted Doll Notes and Other Strange Phenomena

Was something trying to reach out to them? Attract their attention? It was doing a good job of that!

Image: Help Me NoteNext came the notes. Words scrawled in a childish hand, in pencil on parchment, and left around the apartment. 'Help us', they read or 'help Lou', which was unsettling. It was weird enough that they didn't have a young child to write them, but neither did they own a pencil nor parchment between them. 

Donna became paranoid, tearing up the apartment in search of that stash of parchment, because it had to be coming from somewhere! But she never found a single sheet of it, but for that used to write SOS pleas for them to find.

There were other phenomena too, like the statue which rose into the air and fell with a crash while both ladies were nowhere close. Or the little chocolate boot which appeared over Christmas, though everyone swore that they'd not brought it into the students' home.

If it was worrying them, it was downright freaking out Lou. But then he had a whole new dimension occur following the nightmares, which he still hadn't told them about.

It felt a little like sleep paralysis, and Lou Carlo was sure that he was awake. He couldn't move. Only his eyes swiveled in uncertainty across the shadows of his room.

There was movement! A depressing of his mattress down by his feet. Lou peered along his own body to see it standing there - a brightly colored Raggedy Ann, which had no right to be able to support its own body, to be upright. It walked towards his head, using his prone form like a pavement. From his perspective it seemed huge - still about the size of a four year old child, but looming in the near darkness - staring at him with sewn on, unblinking circles of blackness.

It reached his head, horrifically animated, kneeling down and stretching out its arms. Stub hands pressed upon his throat. He couldn't breathe! He was suffocating! Gasping and struggling against paralysis for his very life!

Then he was alone, in his own home, where the Raggedy Ann didn't even belong, and it was gone. Lou lay there panicking in the early hours, all reason stating that it had to have been a dream. But it hadn't felt like one and his throat still hurt.

Learn about Sleep Paralysis

Had the haunted doll turned deadly, or was Lou experiencing this phenomenon? And to what exact could the two been seen as distinct?
Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night

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Sleep Paralysis: Night-mares, Nocebos, and the Mind-Body Connection (Studies in Medical Anthropol...

Sleep Paralysis explores a distinctive form of nocturnal fright: the "night-mare," or incubus. In its original meaning a night-mare was the nocturnal visit of an evil being that...

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Dark Intrusions: An Investigation into the Paranormal Nature of Sleep Paralysis Experiences

Since his late teens, Louis Proud has suffered from chronic sleep paralysis and has undergone hundreds of such episodes, many of them terrifying but ultimately transformational ...

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Bloodstains on the Haunted Doll

The two student nurses were used to seeing blood. They could certainly recognize it when it appeared where it had no business being.

There was blood on the doll. Donna found it that way, sitting sedately upon her bed, after she and Angie returned home from college. Three drops of blood on its chest, staining the whiteness of the Raggedy Ann apron; a smear of blood on the back of the doll's hand.

For six weeks, the two women had lived with the movement, the notes, the bizarre levitation and Lou's deep unease. But this seemed different. This finally signaled to the student nurses that they needed help.

Until now the intruder theory had been dominant, but they'd never once found any sign that anyone had been in. None of their markers nor booby traps had ever been triggered. Prepared finally to countenance the supernatural, Donna and Angie contacted a medium.

Enter a Psychic in the Case of Annabelle the Haunted Doll

Practical, modern women, Donna and Angie had been a long time even considering a supernatural origin. But now they were prepared to trust the medium.

The psychic visited their low rise apartment and instantly felt a presence. "There was nothing to be scared of," She told them. "It's just a little girl."

Annabelle Higgins had lived close by before any of these buildings were there. She played happily in the fields which had once been on this site. At seven years old, she'd been killed. Her ghost went on playing, and she was still here. A Raggedy Ann doll was such a delightful toy for a child.

Compassion filled the nurses. They wanted to help her. Through the medium, the ghostly girl gave her request: could she 'move into' the doll? Could she possess it?  The answer was an unequivocal 'yes'.

Thereon, it wasn't just a doll. It was Annabelle. She was seven and she wanted to play. The nurses afforded the toy a little more love and attention, but otherwise it was business as usual. Donna left Annabelle on her bed every morning. Each evening it could be anywhere in their apartment. They began to expect it. They addressed the doll by name and inquired after her well-being. Just to be polite.

It never responded verbally. Just stared with unblinking black eyes.

True Ghost Books about Haunted Possessions

Haunted Doll Annabelle's Physical Attack

It took nearly a year for their 'harmless mascot' to not seem so 'cute'. Almost inevitably, it was Lou who bore the brunt of that.

Lou and Angie were in her room, poring over maps in readiness for a trip that he was planning for the next day. Donna was away from the apartment.

Which is why it was so disturbing, when they heard the heavy tread of what sounded like footsteps emanating from her room.

Lou rose from his seat and dashed through to investigate, while Angie held back. Both were convinced he'd find a man in there - a burglar - the steps had seemed to suggest it. But there was nothing. The room was empty, but for Annabelle cast into a corner.

He made his way towards her, always uneasy in her presence. But close by he experienced the overwhelming sensation that someone was standing right behind him, their gaze boring into the back of his head. Lou twisted around. There was nobody there. Then a weight felt about his chest. A series of sharp pains slicing into his skin. He swiveled instantly around. Nobody there!

Annabelle sat undisturbed, yet every instinct rang the knowledge that she was the cause of the grid of scratches now etched into his chest.

There was this that was strange about those wounds too - they healed so fast. Angie and Donna both saw them, treated them, but by the next day they had all gone without trace.

Exorcism in a Connecticut Student Apartment

Experts in the supernatural were brought in. Their chilling conclusion was that there was not, nor ever had been, the ghost of an innocent seven year old here.

By now, everyone was concerned enough to want this finished. Donna and Angie contacted their local Episcopal priest Father Hegan, whom both women knew well. Unsure how to approach this one, he called in his superior Father Cooke, who in turn brought in Ed and Lorraine Warren.

The couple were noted ghost-hunters and demonologists in the state of Connecticut.

Donna and Angie invited the Warrens into their apartment. Along with Lou, they recounted the story so far. Lorraine Warren, herself a psychic, immediately declared that there was no Annabelle Higgins. But there was a demonic presence and they were only making it stronger with all of the attention.

The students were confused. "There's a demon in the doll?"

"No." Ed clarified. "Demons possess people, not things." It was merely moving the doll around to make it seem haunted. Mostly it was external and still there in their apartment. Upon his urging, the women called Father Cooke, who immediately drove across to join them. He performed an exorcism blessing.

Nevertheless, and perhaps understandably, Donna did not want the Raggedy Ann doll in her home anymore. The Warrens took it away.

Books about Annabelle the Haunted Doll

I've only skimmed over the highlights of this haunting story here. The Warrens own telling is in 'The Demonologist' and includes many more details.

Annabelle at the Warren's Home in Monroe, Connecticut

That may have been the end of the story, as far as Donna, Angie and Lou were concerned. But it wasn't nearly over for the Warrens and their visitors.

Image: Lorraine Warren with AnnabelleEd recalled how Annabelle sat on a chair beside his desk, so he could observe it while he worked. He caught the doll levitating on more than one occasion, and witnessed a black spirit cat apparently emerging from it.

One day, he left a police officer in his office, while he sought out files in another room. The police officer shrieked bringing them all running. Until now highly skeptical of the supernatural, he seemed shaken to the core. "That doll! It's real!"  He never said what had occurred while he was alone with Annabelle, but it made a believer of him.

The Warrens own Catholic priest was equally disdainful of the toy. Father Jason Bradford picked it up and shook it, warning Annabelle face to face, "You are just a rag doll, Annabelle. You can't hurt anything."  Filled with presentiment dread, Lorraine Warren asked him to take care upon his drive home. Father Bradford's car brakes failed upon that journey. His vehicle was a total wreck, a write off, but he survived.

Unlike the young man, filled with bravado and the wish to impress the lady at his side.

By now, Annabelle's propensity to appear anywhere in the Warren house had caused them to lock her in a purpose built cabinet.  It was placed within their erstwhile storage rooms for occult or  preternaturally tainted items, now a museum of the same. Upon hearing her story, the youth banged upon her cabinet's glass frontage. "Scratch me! If you can scratch, scratch me!"

Nothing happened.

At least nothing happened until the couple were heading home upon their motorbike. The engine seized and it seemed like something took the steering. The young woman was thrown with barely a scratch. Her boyfriend was killed outright.

Annabelle still sits in her bespoke cabinet, only now a legend has been hung upon it - "Warning Positively Do Not Open", and who now would be daft enough to do that?

A Tour of the Warrens' Occult Museum in Connecticut

You see Annabelle in situ at 14.21 mins.

Movie about Annabelle the Haunted Doll

The true story of Annabelle Doll forms the basis of a fictional account in 'Annabelle', by the makers of 'The Conjuring'.

More about the Warrens, Ghost-Hunting and Ghosts

This Connecticut couple were the most famous ghost-hunters of the 20th century. Their career has been the subject of many books and films.
Ed and Lorraine Warren were famous paranormal investigators from New England, USA. 'The Conjuring' chronicles the terrifying case of an entity in the Perron home.
It's all well and good visiting a haunted location, but for evidence you're going to need more than a story. Check out what you can take to capture proof of ghosts.
Since before Titanic sank, on April 15th 1912, there have been strange stories connected with it. Prepare for a voyage into the unknown.
Updated: 11/12/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 11/05/2014

I'm with you on that one. :)

frankbeswick on 11/04/2014

I share your fears and concerns, Jo. It should have no attention at all. Ideally, it should be destroyed.

JoHarrington on 11/04/2014

Frank - Though to what extent is containing it, while affording it much higher attention, safe in these circumstances?

JoHarrington on 11/04/2014

WriterArtist - Annabelle's story certainly seems to be about containing the unexplained, rather than understanding it.

frankbeswick on 11/01/2014

Prudence is the important virtue when dealing with such things. I believe in playing safe.

WriterArtist on 10/30/2014

I think it is prudent to accept what cannot be explained with logic and science. Faith in Almighty and the supreme powers can help you only if you want to be helped. In this case, no-one seemed to understand and solve the mystery of Annabelle - better leave it that way.

JoHarrington on 10/23/2014

Nelda - I think I'd go, if given the opportunity, despite my misgivings about it, for all the reasons that persuaded you to go there too.

JoHarrington on 10/23/2014

Frank - That question about the entity and the museum attention is precisely the one I've been pondering. It certainly seems to run contrary to the advice that Ed gave to Donna and Angie.

JoHarrington on 10/23/2014

Dustytoes - They did say that they wanted a doll which looked creepy from the outset. Personally, I think it's creepier when the doll looks so ordinary and commonplace. I guess I don't believe that evil arrives looking evil.

JoHarrington on 10/23/2014

Frank - I'll give Ember the heads up then. :)

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