Raggedy Ann in a Box: The Annabelle Doll

October 29, 2023 — It felt like a moment of destiny for me: Finally seeing the original Annabelle doll with my own two eyes. The infamous haunted/cursed Raggedy Ann toy is the most infamous item in the collection of the late Ed and Lorraine Warren, the famous/infamous paranormal investigators/fame-obsessed charlatans (last slashie, promise).

The doll was well-known in paranormal circles for decades, but it became a household name when it was featured in The Conjuring movie in 2013 and then in its own trilogy of Annabelle movies afterward. The doll has ascended the ranks of movie monster icons like few other dolls have. Except for Chucky. And the Zuni fetish doll from Trilogy of Terror. Goosebumps’s Slappy. Billy from Saw. The whole Puppetmaster series. Okay, the bloodstained floor of the horror movie pantheon is crowded below knee-height.

Still. Annabelle is a real doll.


Her story is less creepy or dangerous than her actual reputation. In 1970, the doll was gifted to a nursing student named Donna by her mother. The doll would soon appear in places it wasn’t left, bleed, and attack Donna’s roommates with more-than-doll strength. Donna brought in a medium. The medium claimed the doll was possessed by a girl named Annabelle Higgins, who had been murdered and left in a lot that would become the site of Donna’s apartment building. Eventually, the story made it to the Warrens, who took the doll into their custody. On the way home, their car went out of control (or into Annabelle’s control) and almost wrecked them. The doll also had a propensity to levitate and attack priests, so they put it in a glass-fronted box with a handwritten admonition on it: “Warning: Positively Do Not Open.” Its only fatal victim is a visitor who made fun of the doll and then died in a motorcycle accident afterward.

Of course, the only source for any and all of this story is the Warrens. The same Warrens who concocted the supernatural chapter of the Amityville Horror with a lawyer and the Lutzes over a couple bottles of wine.


I’d been reading about Annabelle for years, and I even got to write about her in Cursed Objects. But I never got to see her. Not collagen-eyeball-to-plastic-eyeball (mine are the former).

That’s mostly because Annabelle was only ever on private display at the Warrens’ home in Monroe, Connecticut. However, after their deaths (Ed in 2006 and Lorraine in 2019), the charade of keeping the dangerous item away from the public was over and it was time to make some real cash on it.

The heirs to the Warren Occult Museum started publicly exhibiting items from the collection in 2021 at the awkwardly named The Warren's Seekers of the Supernatural Phantasma-Con. This year I finally got to see the exhibit, including Annabelle, and on the day after we’d visited another cursed object, to boot.

To boot, to boot, to boot.


The conference was at the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. For an extra fee atop the convention admission, you get to walk into an atmospherically lit room featuring two dozen items from the Warrens’ collection, interspersed with bowls of holy water. The most notable pieces to me aside from Annabelle were clothing from the Warrens, a key ring given to Ed Warren by George Lutz that held a key to the Amityville Horror house, mannequins dressed up as accused Connecticut witch Hannah Cranna and the Lady in White ghost from Union Cemetery—the grave of the former and the stie of the latter both being locations I’ve visited in my weird rambles. 

Also on display, I was happy to see, was the Doll of Shadows. I’ll quote from Cursed Objects to describe it (not because I think the passage is particularly well-written, just because I’m too lazy to write something new about the item), which is “five-foot-tall horror made of feathers, bone, and fabric created to curse enemies. Take a photo of it and write your enemy’s name on the back and the creature will appear in that person’s dreams and stop their heart.” Seemed slightly irresponsible to display it in a place that encouraged photography. Also, it wasn’t five feet tall. Maybe with three-and-a-half-foot heels.

The Doll of Shadows

And then there was Annabelle, a doll whose display case has made her more famous than the doll itself. Seriously. That’s the secret. The doll is just a 70s-era Raggedy Ann doll. That’s it. Tens of thousands of children, perhaps hundreds of thousands, owned one of these red-yarn-haired things. It was based on a children’ book character that became a pop culture icon, complete with merchandise and a couple animated series. But stick that doll inside a custom wooden box labelled, “Warning: Positively Do Not Open” and you’ve got yourself something special.
Check it. Just this year, I saw a replica of the doll in the box at the Perron House (site of the events that inspired The Conjuring movie) when I toured it. I saw another replica (both doll and box) used as a spooky decoration at Haunted Overload. The convention even had a oversized box set up so you could get a photo of yourself inside of it. Mark my words, within three years, Michael’s will be selling Annabelle Halloween tchotchkes.

Unlike most of the items in the room, which you could get pretty close too, Annabelle was set farther back—maybe 20 feet—from the protective ropes. She was also flanked by an Annabelle prop from the movie. The movie version (which didn't use the Raggedy Ann IP), was an actual creepy doll designed by professionals to look creepy. And she looked less creepy than Raggedy Ann…but only because of that box.

Now time to focus on the next item on my lifelong bucket list: The Elephant Man’s skeleton.

Wait a second. The medium said that the doll is haunted by a girl named Annabelle? And it's a Raggedy Ann doll? Raggedy Annabelle? It's like one of those sitcom scenes where you make up a name on the spot based on items around you. Geezus.

As if my family hasn't been through enough.