They’re baaaaaack. (All images by Nate DeBoer, courtesy of History Center of Olmsted County)

It’s decorative gourd season, and you know what that means: the good folks at the History Center of Olmsted County in Minnesota have reopened whatever direct portal to hell they have access to and allowed a new parade of creepy dolls to emerge and compete for our affections (and the right to gnaw our faces off as we sleep). What began in 2019 as an innocent attempt to commemorate some of the museum’s collection of definitely cursed objects has evolved into a full-fledged phenomenon, where this annual pageant from the proud history of Olmsted County destroys the peace and sanctity of generations to come.

This year, there is some extremely stiff competition with a small corn husk doll, Lady Corn Husk, whose traditional construction and history serve as great distractions from her secret agenda of spreading “corn madness” to all who behold her. There is also Princess Aouda, whose toned-down demeanor is exactly what lets her get close enough to shiv you. There is T-Rex, an unfortunate baby with extremely short arms and terrible stories to tell, as well as a doll with a vacant, light-up head. Another is named for Lizzie Borden, presumably because she murdered her entire family and will murder yours too.

But all of this is irrelevant, because the obvious standout of the bunch is Professor Moriarty, a jointed porcelain clown doll whose expression does nothing to mask his predilection for the blood of the innocent. Compared to the professor, all these other dolls look friendly — even Miss Havisham, who was captured in the midst of her favorite activity: gazing through a window clouded with age to watch as you sleep. There is another doll that seems to be trapped inside a clock, and I strongly recommend leaving her in there, because it may be the only thing preventing her from going Bride of Chucky all over Olmsted County.

It’s been a spooky year, and that’s why we salute the History Center of Olmsted County and their Creepy Doll Contest, which culminates with a return to an in-person Creepy Doll cocktail party to celebrate the crowing of a new reigning demon spirit. When it comes to world events these days, I’ll take the predictable creepiness of dolls over the creeping horror of the news cycle every day of the week. So place your votes on the museum’s Facebook and Instagram, and nail all your windows shut! Not that it will help, but it’s good to stay busy.

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....