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The Hanging Doll

By T. Peter Park


A good friend of mine in Norfolk, Virginia had an interesting real-life encounter with a haunted house (his own!) and a sinister "presence" there 10 years ago. I also had a brush with that same evil "presence" while visiting that house.

In 1990, my friend was cleaning out the attic of his old house (built in 1899) where he and his wife had lived for about 15 years, before selling it. While cleaning out his attic, he came across a hole in the floorboards. The hole looked like it had been "burned" around the edges, and it had obviously been chipped (rather than cut neatly with a saw) with some implement like a chisel or a knife. My friend had hired a cleaning company to help him get the house in shape, and the two women who were working on that team were curious about the hole, and started exploring it with their hands and long poles with hooks on them. They finally felt something about four feet back from the hole underneath the floorboards.

When they brought it out, they found it to be an obviously very old doll with rotting long 19th century dress, an apron. This doll was a representation of an African-American girl. The thing had a kind of creepy look about it, something hard to identify. While they were standing around looking at it, one of the girls tossed the doll to the other, and the other girl caught it, but immediately afterward screamed and threw it down. She said that she felt an kind of "electric shock" when she touched the doll.

My friend picked up the doll and placed it on old chest in sitting position. He, too, felt something eerie about the doll. It gave him the shivers, and he really didn't like handling it either. The two girls and I walked down the attic steps. He closed and locked the house; the girls went home and so did he. The doll was left alone in the house all that night.

Early the next morning, about 8:00 AM, my friend met the girls on the cleaning team, and they went up the attic together. All three of them were astonished (the girls were almost hysterical) to see that the doll had been hung up my its neck from the rafters! No one had been in the house all night, my friend can assure you. He alone had the key, and there was no sign of a break-in.

While my friend lived in the house with his wife, they learned about it from a very old woman in the neighborhood who, as a little girl, had taken piano lessons from the woman who lived there (this might have been circa 1910-1920). She said that a little girl, who was said to be retarded, had been locked in the attic to keep her out of sight, and that this little girl had hanged herself from the rafters.

A friend of theirs who was "psychic" and sensitive to such things, kept telling them over the years that they occupied the house, and long before they knew anything about the earlier occupants of the house or the doll under the floorboards, that there was an "entity" in the house, something very sorrowful and unfulfilled, and that he could feel its presence throughout the house, but particularly in the attic.

My friend took the doll to a local psychic, and, when she took it out of the bag, she screamed and threw it down (the same behavior as the cleaning maid). She told him that she wanted nothing to do with the doll, that it was evil beyond belief, and that she felt (when she touched it) suffocation and pain in her neck, as though she were being choked or hanged. She told my friend to burn it immediately to release whatever unhappy entity was associated with it.

Another psychic he consulted about the doll was less fearful, but also confirmed that there was a strong entity associated with it. He said he would take the doll from my friend and place it in his collection of strange objects upon which he had performed psychometry. About a month later, this second psychic was found dead in his apartment from an apparent heart attack. A neighbor who found him said that he was clutching a doll to his chest when they found him. Whether it was the same doll or not, my friend does not know.

This last part of the story was told to my friend by a friend of the deceased psychic, and he said that he learned about the "clutching the doll" part from his wife, who in turn had heard it from a neighbor who found the body.

My friend's theory of the whole thing was that the master of the house had impregnated a young live-in Black girl, that she died in childbirth, and that the baby girl resulting from this union was an embarrassment to the family, and kept out of sight, locked away in the attic with her little doll. She chiseled the hole in the floorboards out of boredom and frustration, and hid her doll in the hole just before she killed herself. Her spirit attached itself to the doll haunted the place over the years. Removing the doll exorcised the house, but the entity was attached to the doll, and brought bad luck to just about everybody who touched it.

Something not human hung that doll from the rafters to clearly signal its presence. Of that my friend is sure.

As I said at the outset, I myself had a brush with that same evil "presence" while visiting my friend's house. I visited my friend in Norfolk in the Summer of 1990, just before he sold the house. He and I visited the house a couple of times as he was doing last-minute errands to get it ready for the new owner. On one occasion, as I was going up the stairs to the second floor, I got a mental image of a girl hanging by her neck in the house, for no reason I could discern. I did not know about the doll story, and said nothing then about my mental image. A couple of days later, on another visit to the house, he told me about the doll, which he and the cleaning maids had found a couple of weeks earlier. Either I had been mentally "touched" by the entity from the doll, or I had telepathically picked up the image from my friend's mind as we were both visiting the house where he'd found the doll.

There does seem to be in certain old things, as H. P. Lovecraft once wrote, "a trace of some dim essence, more than form or weight, of a tenuous aether, indeterminate."

Copyright 2000