- The creator of Raggedy Ann and her brother, Andy, was John “Johnny” Barton Gruelle (1880-1938).
- Gruelle applied for a patent on May 28, 1915. The patent was approved on September 7, 1915 as No. 31,073. The patent was good for 14 years.
- Gruelle and his wife Myrtle had one daughter, Marcella. She was born on August 18, 1902. During 1915, when Marcella was 13-years-old, she received a smallpox vaccine. There is speculation that either the vaccine was administered without her parents’ consent or that a second dose was administered. Marcella suffered consequences from the vaccine. However, the vaccine did not kill her.
- Gruell had already submitted a patent application for the famous rag doll prior to Marcella falling ill. Marcella died on November 8, 1915 in Wilton, Connecticut.
- Despite urban legends, Gruelle did not create the doll after Marcella’s death. Nor did he design the doll in response to her failing health. These are inconvenient coincidences.
- Marcella did not die from the smallpox vaccine. According to her death certificate, she died from heart disease. This could mean several things, and it is possible that the vaccine negatively impacted her heart. However, this will never be known for certain.
- Johnny Gruelle experienced great stress and died from heart failure on January 9, 1938 in Miami Springs, Florida at the age of 57.
- The family is buried together in the Silvermine Cemetery, New Canaan, Fairfield County, Connecticut.
The History Center of Olmsted County (Rochester, MN) held a Creepy Doll 2019 Contest last year. The “contestants” were vintage, old, and well-worn. The contest was very popular, with a circa 1850’s handmade doll missing her right arm winning. (See https://thehauntedlibrarian.com/2019/10/25/creepy-doll-contest/) All nine dolls were placed on exhibit. This year offers nine new—well, technically old—dolls for consideration. In-person voting started on October 1st, and virtual voting runs October 14-24 (links below). The winning doll will be announced on October 28th and will be crowned on Halloween. Learn more about the dolls Thursday, October 22nd when Dan Nowakowski, Curator at the History Center, joins me on The Haunted Librarian Show.
Doll 1: Arsenic and Old Lace; Doll 2: Squeaks; and Doll 3: Stanley Kubrick are displayed above.
Doll 4: Bela Lugosi; Doll 5: Frankenstein; and Doll 6: Shirley Jackson are displayed above.
Doll 7: Victorian; Doll 8: Lady MacBeth; and Doll 9: Mrs. Danvers are displayed above.
Each doll sits in themed vignettes with information regarding provenance, materials, and information regarding the doll. It is quite exciting to see these dolls on display! The center has come up with a clever way to pass down stories of former residents while exposing the collection to a wider audience.
Toy dolls remain popular. According to The Toy Association, retail sales of dolls in the U.S. in 2019 topped $3.22 billion dollars and accounted for nearly 12% of the $27 billion dollar industry. Unfortunately, most dolls don’t make their way into historical centers. That’s why this collection is important. It chronologizes the history of the county.
Although last year, I had a clear favorite, this year is a challenge. I’m leaning toward one of the porcelain beauties. I look forward to voting!
Tune in every Thursday at 9 PM EST on Midnight.FM as I chat with people who are working in the strange and unique.
For more information and to vote, visit:
Technically, the winner of the Creepy Doll Contest was the circa 1850 handmade doll missing her right arm. However, the History Center of Olmsted County (Minnesota) announced that all 9 contestants will be on display from October 29-December 1. Joining them will be 15 additional dolls from their collection. For more information, visit https://www.olmstedhistory.com/?fbclid=IwAR3C7joW_JaVfJY_YlsKD70zbwz6oS1dPdIaJqbXTit2_wxgk74_-eq_-ak or https://www.facebook.com/OlmstedHistoryCenter/?__tn__=%2Cd%2CP-R&eid=ARAUEc0oDD__OCdpZPi7dZDIp0IjzgSzzzvAVClq1NxB5TtGKS6fWf4RzMMQvtqm0n1ikY5ZYZaSRNoY. Seems the contest was a huge success!
The History Center of Olmsted County (Rochester, Minnesota) is holding a Facebook contest: What is the creepiest doll in their collection? Nine dolls were featured, one a day, for Facebook users to vote for. The top three dolls will be on display during the Halloween Week. Personally, I think all of them should be on display.
Each doll is unique. The dolls were donated to the museum and run the gamut in terms of material and age. Curator Dan Nowakowski posted pictures and videos of the dolls, which are still posted for viewing.
My favorite is a handmade doll circa 1850. The head was made of cloth and then painted flesh tone. Over time, the paint has chipped off making the doll appear faceless. She’s also missing her right arm. How creepy is that! (Actually, she’s very sad looking, in need of the Cleaner in Toy Story 2.)
Generally, dolls were not made to creep kids out. They have been made from all types of materials. The only criterion is that they resemble human form. In 2017, news broke that a soapstone doll’s head was found in a child’s grave in the Republic of Khakassia, in southern Siberia. This doll dates back 4,500 years to the Bronze Age, thus making it the oldest doll ever discovered. Another doll that was dated 4,000 years old was found on the Italian island Pantelleria in 2004. Before then, archeologists had discovered dolls all the way back to Ancient Egypt (2000 BC). Dolls are considered the first type of toys made.
Most people are not afraid of dolls (pediophobia). Instead, dolls make people uneasy. More females (66%) fear dolls compared to males (34%). Children and teenagers, under the age of 18 fear dolls at 45%. That number drops 1 percent to 44% for people ages 18-34. The older someone gets, the least likely he fears dolls. Which is interesting since dolls were essentially made for children.
Dolls are an easy target for horror movies. But have no fear; most are harmless.
Peruse the gallery images here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/OlmstedHistoryCenter/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10156992913154263&ref=page_internal
Curious about the Ayda doll? Read my latest blog at https://www.hauntjaunts.net/the-ayda-doll/.
Annabelle: Creation Released Last Week
The next movie in the Conjuring family was released last week. Annabelle: Creation, the second in the Annabelle storyline, has grossed $72 million since debuting on August 11th. The popularity of the movie may be attributed to the highly successful Conjuring family of films beginning in 2013 by James Wan. Wan’s films are produced on low budgets (hard to believe that $15 million is a low budget film!); however, they are incredibly profitable. For instance, consider these statistics: The Conjuring (2013) cost $20 million dollars and grossed $318 million worldwide; Annabelle I (2014) cost $6.5 million dollars while grossing $252 million dollars worldwide. Next up are The Nun and The Crooked Man. And this isn’t Wan’s only film franchise. He’s got the Saw films and Insidious. Even though Annabelle doesn’t rake in the most money, it makes enough to secure a third installment. Audiences are drawn to these horror films for various reasons. One is pediophobia, the fear of dolls.
Museum collections have dolls of all types. The oldest doll is made of stone and dates back 4,000 years. The toy doll industry grew 10% from 2015 to 2016 and comprises $2.88 billion dollars of the $26 billion dollar toy industry. Dolls are popular. They serve various purposes, such as teaching how to tend to babies. They also console children. But somewhere in their evolution, they became creepy.
The horror genre has lots of creepy dolls. Think Child’s Play, Puppet Master, and Poltergeist. In 1970, Masahiro Mori theorized that people didn’t like dolls because their minds could not reconcile the fake doll face with reality. The more realistic looking the doll, the more unsettling people felt about the doll. He called this the “uncanny valley.” See the chart for a better understanding. Basically, the more strange, or creepy, the face, the more uneasy people felt around them. This may explain while Wan changed the original “Annabelle” Raggedy Ann doll and decided to use a porcelain doll. The porcelain doll is creepier on the “uncanny valley” scale.
Film audiences love creepy dolls. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, give Annabelle: Creation a try. In the meantime, read this excellent scholarly article about dolls: “The History of Creepy Dolls,” http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/history-creepy-dolls-180955916/.