Possessed to Impress: Sad Toys, Haunted Dolls Edition

baby doll missing one leg on brick street
The haunting of the one-legged baby of Brick Street. Lawrenceville

Those eyes! Haunted, possessed, staring blankly or looking right through you—take your pick. Any way one describes these quite literal baby blues, they’ll either do a number on you or you’ve got no heart. The form of this particular plastic baby doll—naked, broken, mud-stained, body caked with an unknown white substance, missing one foot and the other leg—is to elicit pathos of most primal variety.

There, on rain-soaked century-old brick paving, we find a counter to all the ghosts, goblins, witches, and boogeypeople that get the big press this time of year. These unsung, woefully innocent, and generically “creepy” children—nay, mere babies!—lay lost, damaged, bugged-out, and now seem to exist in an undead state of demonic reanimation.

baby doll left on sidewalk
Those eyes! Lawrenceville

Little child dry your crying eyes
How can I explain the fear you feel inside
‘Cause you were born into this evil world
Where man is killing man and no one knows just why
What have we become just look what we have done
All that we destroyed you must build again

Vito Bratta / Mike Tramp
face of baby doll removed from body
Face/off. Deutschtown

If we’d only listened! Sure, Denmark’s White Lion weren’t writing in their native tongue, but for ESL Rock, these 1987 lyrics proved as prescient then as they’ll inevitably be for … let’s face it, every future generation. Why, the crying children of the mid-1980s are now well into their 30s, bringing up youths to whom they’ll eventually have to “explain the fear [they] feel inside.”

Creek baby [photo: Lee Floyd]

On this perfect Hallowe’en Day—overcast and drizzling, right on cue—we salute all the lost babies, Barbies, doll parts, and broken hearts that can make any day a Hallows Eve … if you know where to look. Sure, we’ve all been born into an “evil world,” but if you’re not lying face down in the gutter, abandoned in a creek, or missing too many body parts, there’s still a bright side, right?

baby doll face down on edge of street
Coked-up and face down in the gutter. Marshall-Shadeland
baby doll face down in the woods
Sad in plaid. Munhall. [photo: Lee Floyd]
The ol’ tree baby. Lawrenceville
Barbie doll with blue hair left on leaf-covered ground
Every British detective show begins exactly like this. Blue-haired Barbie. Mellon Park
doll's legs sticking out of debris from demolished house
We’ve all been down, but have you been “buried head-first in a demolished house in Rankin” down?
doll's leg in pile of debris
Spare leg. Hill District
Barbie doll mermaid on gravel lot under car
Car mechanic pink mermaid Barbie. Hazelwood
brightly dressed baby doll on edge of road
The lighter side of sad toys! North Oakland
baby doll face down in the woods
Tenderfoot, underfoot. Munhall [photo: Lee Floyd]
doll with large weapon in tall grass
Jungle warfare. Grass warrior. Bloomfield
River ape [photo: Dan Rusnak]

2 thoughts on “Possessed to Impress: Sad Toys, Haunted Dolls Edition

  1. Claudia McGill says:

    In the 1960’s my sister had a doll (the Pat-a-burp, yes, really) and a dog carried her off the patio, mauled her so that her burper mechanism turned sideways in her cloth soft body, and left her filthy, half-scalped, and only able to burp if you squeezed her chest side to side really hard, sprawled in the back yard where my grandfather almost ran the mower over her. Well, my grandmother cleaned her up but from then on she generally mostly played a sick baby about to die if we wanted to act out a hospital drama or something similar. Face down plaid baby sure looked like Pat-a-burp (all the name she ever had, I’m ashamed to say). Really took me back. Thank you.


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