Previously: The Harlequin Entity.
Period/location of origin: Unknown. Subject, known as Charley the Doll, was discovered in 1968, locked in a trunk and wrapped in newspaper dating back to the early 1930s, in the attic of a Victorian-era home located in upstate New York. However, whether subject itself dates back to 1968, the 1930s, the Victorian era, or a different period — or whether subject originates in the state of New York or elsewhere — has not been determined.
Appearance: Subject appears to be an antique doll fashioned to resemble a young boy with blond hair, blue eyes, a red mouth, and rosy cheeks. The doll’s head, heads, and feet are hard, while the body is soft. It is dressed in a yellowing coat with a high collar, cream-colored trousers, and tall, black boots with reddish-brown bands around the tops. Subject’s face is painted on, although the head has sustained some damage over the years: The right side of its face, including the right eye and the one rosy cheek, has been partially scraped off; additionally, half of its nose is missing.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
Modus operandi: Subject typically targets families, ideally with at least one small child (although subject does seem to operate by the principal of the more, the
merrier scarier). Subject is not known to have one specific MO when it comes to gaining entry to a targeted family’s home; however, once inside, subject will begin its reign of terror.
Subject begins slowly — so slowly that targets may not at first realize that something is amiss. Targets may, for instance, place subject among a collection of other toys and playthings; subject may then begin to move around this collection of other toys and playthings, positioning itself in places other than the spot in which targets had previously placed it. Due to the camouflage provided by the other toys and playthings, targets may not at first realize that subject has, in fact, moved.
(Note that subject, despite its appearance, is NOT a toy or plaything.)
Subject will then begin to ratchet up its activity to the point where targets will no longer be able to ignore it. Subject may, for instance, begin speaking to certain members of the target family — typically its children, and especially the youngest of the children. These conversations will happen largely at night, often if or when the children get up to use to the restroom.
At this point, targeted children will likely avoid being within subject’s presence, preferring a buffer of at least five feet between themselves and it — although in extreme cases, targeted children will do everything in their power to avoid being even in the same room as subject. The precise reason for this preferred buffer — beyond simple fear — is unknown, although at least one targeted child has developed scratches as if from a physical attack they claimed to have come at the hands of subject.
Subject will typically interact with the target family’s children outside of the view or earshot of any parents or other adults. Adults would, therefore, do well not to brush reports from targeted children off, but to take them seriously — and to take additional action to contain subject as necessary.
Whether subject is haunted, cursed, possessed, demonic, or simply evil remains unknown; further research is required to make this determination, although such research may be… difficult to achieve. (See: Additional notes.)
Subject’s ultimate goal is also unknown — but whatever it is, it can’t be good.
Containment: Subject may be contained relatively simply: Place it in a lockable container — preferably one that is opaque and hides its contents from view when closed — and lock it up tight. It is possible that packing some kind of protection spell or object away with subject may aid in containment, although it is unknown whether this additional step is necessary. (See: Additional notes.) Regardless, once subject has been locked up, it is recommended that the container be placed somewhere safe and out of the way, where it is unlikely to be discovered or interacted with on a regular basis.
Additional notes: Subject’s history is quite spotty, and largely unverifiable. Indeed, its early history is entirely unknown; what is known of subject dates back only as far as 1968, when subject was uncovered in the manner previously described (see: Period/location of origin).
The trunk in which subject was discovered at this time contained only one other object: A piece of paper with the Lord’s Prayer written on it. Whether this piece of paper was intended as part of the method of containment used to subdue subject remains to be seen.
The family occupying the house from whose attic subject was uncovered did not at first see anything unusual about subject; accordingly, they gave it a name — Charley — and added it to a collection of other dolls displayed in the home. Soon, though, the family’s five children began describing to their parents certain… activity undertaken by subject. (See: Modus operandi.) After the youngest child, aged four, was discovered with scratches upon her person which she claimed had come not from the family cat, but from subject, the doll was returned to the attic and locked within the trunk found up there once more.
The family eventually moved on, and the house was sold — as were many items and artifacts recovered from it, including both the trunk and the doll locked within it. Subject was purchased by a collector of antique dolls; however, although the buyer was told of subject’s history before making the purchase, the buyer did not hold onto subject for long. Subject has reportedly changed hands several times since, although the activity reported has been minimal, possibly due to the fact that it has not spent much time around children in the intervening years.
For a space of time circa 2018-2019, subject resided at a shop in Beverly, Mass. called Local Artisan Art. Proprietor Cassandra Carr, a local artist and taxidermist, opened the shop at 34 Cabot Street around 2018; it specialized in “unique handcrafted gifts, art, oddities and taxidermy,” according to its social media accounts. Carr also taught art classes, as well as classes in taxidermy and insect pinning, onsite.
Subject was displayed on a floating shelf along one of the shop’s walls. Although subject was not for sale, it was available for public viewing; indeed, it may be seen in the backgrounds of numerous photos taken at the shop, with dates ranging from September 2018 to May 2019. There are no reports or records of subject moving or engaging in other unusual activity during this time. (It is, in fact, worth noting that subject appears to be in the exact same position in every photograph in which it appears, regardless of date.)
In addition to subject, Local Artisan Art was also home to a frequently-changing taxidermy display affectionately referred to as Mice Manor. This display, housed within a three-story dollhouse, depicted preserved mice and other rodents arranged in various scenes from both horror film and fiction and real-life dark and macabre history. Occupants of Mice Manor included, at various points, a mouse Buffalo Bill from Silence Of The Lambs, a mouse Norman Bates from Psycho, a mouse Lizzie Borden (as in, “Lizzie Borden took an axe…”), and a pair of mice done up as the Fox sisters, the (fraudulent) mediums often credited with launching the Spiritualist movement into high gear in the United States. Unlike subject, the mice of Mice Manor do appear to have been available for purchase; in an article about the shop and its proprietor published by local news outlet the Salem News in July of 2019, Carr observed, “My Mice Manor is looking a little vacant,” with the reporter, Dustin Lucas, noting that “some of its residents have been sold.”
Local Artisan Art no longer appears to be in business, although this researcher has been unable to confirm whether this is the case or determined when, precisely, it may have closed. Social media posts to accounts associated with the shop halt around September of 2019, and a Google Street View image of 34 Cabot Street dated October 2019 lacks the signage previously used to indicate the shop’s name. Additionally, WHOIS records pertaining to the website that belonged to Local Artisan Art indicate that the domain, which was originally created on July 24, 2018, expired on July 24, 2021; deletion is listed as currently pending.
Emails dispatched to the address listed on Local Artisan Art’s Facebook page bounced.
One further observation of interest: Virtually all of what is known of subject is available within an Atlas Obscura entry centered around subject. This entry was created by an Atlas Obscura user going by the name cauer, and edited at one point by a user named cassandra 1f319609. The only other addition or edits these two users have made belong to an entry for Mice Manor.
It is therefore possible that subject’s history is fabricated in part or in whole, and exists — or existed — solely as a tool meant to entice visitors to the shop.
However, this possibility has, at this juncture, been neither proven nor disproven.
Regardless, the current status and location of subject is unknown.
Recommendation: Should you happen to come upon a doll resembling subject — particularly if you find it locked within a trunk — you’d best leave it where you found it.
Better safe than sorry.
Charley The Haunted Doll at Atlas Obscura.
Mice Manor at Atlas Obscura.
Salem Resident Opens Local Artisan Shop In Beverly at Wicked Local Beverly.
Local Artisan Art on Instagram.
Local Artisan Art on Facebook.
[Photo via Hello I’m Nik/Unsplash]