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Creepy dolls entrance hundreds at Wellington Museum

With Halloween approaching, a touch of creepy – in the form of a doll exhibit – appeared at the Wellington Heritage Museum last weekend.

They are not everyone’s cup of tea. While some find the notion surely terrifying, others may not even believe a few old dolls constitutes anything remotely scary. Either way, the dose of creepy on display was for some, more horrifying than any roaming ghost or ghoul.

Kathryn Bahun and Ben Hatcher from Peterborough who founded the Creepy Doll Museum

Referred to as a home for wayward dolls, the Creepy Doll Museum is a hauntingly horrifying collection of dolls belong to Kathryn Bahun and Ben Hatcher from Peterborough who founded the Creepy Doll Museum.

“This is the first time we have truly had guest curators coming in. Often, when we get travelling exhibits, it is a static exhibit that I would then have to interpret to the public,” explained Jessica Chase, site curator, museums.

Describing the event as an experimental one for the County museums, Chase said, “This is a very short-term, pop-up exhibit where the curators of that display were on-site to interpret it to the masses.”

The dolls, unwanted, unloved, discarded, simply left behind because no one wants them, or nobody is brave enough to possess the disturbing things any longer, it is said they crave love and attention, and they like to play, but they do sometimes act out in vengeful and unsettling ways.

The bizarrely curious display was open to the public for just a few hours last Friday and Saturday nights, courtesy of the County Museums.

“Our mission is to provide the creepiest of dolls with the lovingest of homes, while dispelling myths that have stigmatized these beings for generations.”

Whether it’s the big protruding glass eyes, proportionately too large for the otherwise delicate features –or no eyes at all- the scarecrow-like hair, the odd facial expression, the sickly pale complexion or just the idea that creepy dolls, or bodyless dolls, are well, just plain creepy and spooky, intrigued many to witness the visitors.

The admission-by-donation event saw more than 400 people dare to venture into the realm of creepy doll culture to ponder a display of around 100 unusual discarded and donated dolls, curated and interpreted by the guest curators by Bahun and Hatcher.

The event was well received by locals and visitors alike, according to Chase. She said enquiries have since come from folks interested in donating dolls to the cause, as well as questions about conservation for dolls at home.

Naturally, each doll has its own story to share and came with a little information about its background.

Chase noted the sheer number of dolls the two have been able to salvage or save and give a new home. “And each doll has its own unique back story given by these curators,” added Chase.

Bahun assures the dolls are very vain.

“They enjoy all this attention, and they like having their photos taken,” she grinned.

Started three years ago, the collection which has grown significantly over a short time, where dolls have been found, picked-up at garage sales and the like, but many are donated to the museum from all over Canada, once they hear of the existence of the Creepy Doll Museum.

Hatcher says many come from families who don’t want to throw out the dolls, which may have been in the family sometimes for several generations, but they also aren’t comfortable with having them on display either. Some have simply outstayed their welcome.

Donating the items to the Creepy Doll Museum is a way for people to ensure the doll receives a good home and is appreciated by others for years to come, where the dolls get to live on in a new way with their friends, although it’s unclear if they all get along and play nicely together.

For a brave Bahun, the dolls live year-round in her home, around her home, in her kitchen, forming part of her everyday life, where they blend in with their human surroundings.

While some of the dolls look like ordinary, friendly dolls one might have played with as a child, some are clearly better suited to the set of a horror movie.

Some appear modern and newer, others are clearly much older, where condition varies, along with the level of creepiness, and those with a chipped and worn appearance only seem to increase the creepiness factor.

They came in all shapes and sizes and colours, alas some were missing body parts, and there were a few heads askew. Indeed, some bodies were horrendously disproportionate in their parts, a mismatch perhaps.

A few were legless, headless, limbless, but thankfully most came with whole bodies intact with just a few who appeared more decapitated than should be allowed. Most were clothed, a few were not.

Cracked faces, some with spaces to peer into, holes for eye sockets where eye balls must have once resided; it wasn’t a trick of the eye, yet the petrifyingly pretty figures filling the Wellington Heritage Museum was indeed a strange, macabre sight.

“This world-renowned collection contains excellent examples of creepy dolls, including specimens that are cursed, possessed and capable of astral projection,” said Hatcher.

The dolls appeared to be on their best behaviour and were quiet – perhaps just enjoying the outing, amazed by the crowds fascinated by their presence.

“Most are post-war from the late 40s, early 50s,” explained Hatcher. “The earliest date from the 1800s and are wooden and hand-carved.”

Of the 100 or so dolls in the collection, Bahun and Hatcher each have their own favourite.

Jasmine

For Hatcher, Jasmine Doyle is his favourite in the collection, found in a deep freezer in a home he had purchased.

Jasmine’s bio reads, in part: ‘Sometimes she misses Marmora and the ill-fated family she lived with there, misses the way things used to be, but mostly she’s content to be lost in her own thoughts. She appreciates the visit though, and knows she’ll be visiting you really soon.’

“The more time you spend amongst our collection, the more you come to realize that creepy dolls are just like you and I. They like to inhale the breath of the sleeping, they like to brush their mother’s hair 100 times before bed, and they like to nibble on nail clippings they find on the floor in an attempt to feel bonded with the human whose home they share.”

While they have exhibited in their home town of Peterborough previously, this is the first time the dolls have been on a road trip together, their first visit to Prince Edward County, where it is hoped they will return again next year if they are good and behave themselves, and if the brave residents of this County are willing to have them back.

Creepy doll donations are gratefully accepted by Bahun and Hatcher. Email them at creepydollmuseum@gmail.com, or search Creepy Doll Museum on Facebook.

For anyone who missed the event, or cannot resist more creepy dolls, and who plan to be in the Peterborough area next week, the Creepy Doll Museum will be letting the dolls out once again Oct. 28-29 at The Theatre on King.

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