Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a member today »

The all-scare line-up for the 2020 Creepy Doll Contest. (all images courtesy of the History Center of Olmsted County)

With the end of election season a mere week away, Halloween horror can hardly hold a candle to garden variety political and existential dread. Just as we all know the cure for depression is sad songs, the cure for horror is more horror, and luckily the History Center of Olmsted County has returned once more for a sequel to last year’s wildly popular Creepy Doll Contest. It is Spooktober, people, so get good and scared. There’s plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead, which you will be after these dolls kill you.

The HCOC calls this creepy doll Shirley Jackson, or Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty (and attracted to creepy dolls).

With so much horrific reality out here these streets, the 2020 Creepy Doll Contest has ramped up its offerings, with opportunities to vote for a whole new range of nine contestants from the History Center’s museum collection; a Creepy Doll Costume Pageant; and a Creepy Doll Cocktail Party.

This year’s contenders seek to take the title from last year’s “Cloth Doll with Painted Face,” which dates back to about the 1850s and is currently enjoying all the benefits of her title — primarily making small children cry. Images of the horrifying dolls are on the museum’s Facebook and Instagram, or can visit them “live” in Olmsted County. But beware, if you make prolonged eye contact with any doll at the History Center, it may follow you home and end up sitting silently in a rocking chair you did not previously own, just watching. Just watching.

This doll is called Frankenstein, maybe because it is constructed out of dismembered parts of other dolls? Or people? Unsure.
This doll is called Squeaks and if you want my expert opinion, smart money is on Squeaks to take the title this year. Does it squeak? No, YOU squeak. WITH FEAR.

Staff will announce the winning creepy doll on Halloween night at the virtual Creepy Doll Cocktail Party, when he or she will be crowned and interviewed. No matter what questions are asked, the winning doll will simply whisper “Murrrrrrderrrrrrrrr” and cry tears of blood.

They call this doll Stanley Kubrick, because an encounter with him will leave you as psychologically fragile as Shelley Duvall after filming “The Shining.”

So whether your thing is checking out creepy dolls, dressing up like creepy dolls, or drinking creepy doll-inspired cocktails in sufficient quantities to pass out rather than stay awake thinking about creepy dolls, the History Center of Olmsted County has you covered. If nothing else, the return of the Creepy Doll Contest will go down in history as the second-most terrifying election of 2020

Support Hyperallergic

As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever. 

Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.

Become a Member

Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit — including at the Detroit Institute of Arts....

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. I love dolls, always have. I love all of them- and I think there are very few creepy dolls. In some African traditions, dolls were given to young girls to help train them to become mothers some day- not only to learn to care for a baby but to actually make them fertile. Every time I hear the “creepy doll” narrative, to me, it’s really a story how much the world is changing. Becoming a mother is no longer a priority, and probably no one is expecting girls to take any interest in dolls. It’s interesting to see what they represent, how we see ourselves, how we see our future, our past. A toy that some child has played with, or someone made and someone else treasured does not seem creepy at all to me. When the doll is too old, or dirty, or broken, or isn’t understood any more, we can still retain some idea of what it represented to the person who made it. There is some energy of that person in each doll. We are in difficult times and the stories we are telling ourselves are hard, not comforting. Zombie movies are the ghost stories of our times- we see ourselves as we will be when we are dead, and we are scared of what that is, what that will be like. So we are playing with this reality- in our creepy doll tales. I think I understand. But it’s not easy to see dolls used in this way to make our story more real, not that it matters much; after all, the people who played with all these dolls, whose hands made them and touched them, are mostly, really, truly dead.

Leave a comment