Humanity has always struggled with the fear of inanimate objects coming to life and stalking us. We have always suspected that there are forces from the great beyond reaching out of the unknown blackness, interacting with our daily lives, and causing pain and suffering. Today we’re going to take a deep dive into the true story of the possessed doll named Annabelle.
Our story begins with two lifelong paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. A self-professed demonologist, Ed Warren always had an interest in the supernatural. When life brought him and his future wife, Lorraine, together, it was a perfect match. Because she was someone with rare abilities and gifts a clairvoyant. She was also a practitioner of the ancient art of being a light trace medium.
The Warrens toured the country, investigating supernatural happenings, documenting ghost sightings, and attempting to prove that the spirit world does, indeed, interact with the corporeal plane. During their time spent investigating various hotspots of ghostly and demonic activity, the Warrens experienced many shocking and harrowing trials.
In 1952, the Warrens founded the New England Society for Psychic Research, which would become the oldest and most prominent ghost hunting group in New England.
Over the next three decades, wherever there was a publicized paranormal happening, the Warrens were there. They used special cameras, psychic mediums, and elaborate seances in their efforts to contact tormented spirits who were stuck between realms.
The Warrens investigated and documented numerous notorious paranormal events, from the Amityville horror to the Enfieldpoltergeist, the Snedeker house, to the 1983 devil in Pennsylvania case. Ed and Lorraine Warren made a name for themselves by charting bold sojourns into the murky depths of the borders between our world and the next.
Their exploits became something of a cultural sensation in the mid-1970s. And the Warrens, in turn, became cult celebrities to those curious and fascinated by all things otherworldly.
The cases the Warrens were involved in were even adapted into feature films. 17 films in The Amityville Horror series, eight films in The Conjuring series, and more than a few prime time specials were all inspired by the fearless exploits of this husband and wife team of midnight adventurers.
In 1968, the Warrens took on a harrowing case that would define their legacy. The story of Annabelle the doll that was possessed. The Warrens encountered a young woman whose tale would forever change their lives, and scare the American populace for generations to come.
In Hartford, Connecticut, Deirdre Bernard a young woman, who was studying to be a nurse, was gifted with a Raggedy Ann doll by her mother as a birthday present. Deirdre accepted the doll and returned home. Initially, her roommate Lara Clifton was slightly confused about the presence of the children’s plaything but just brushed her concerns aside. She would soon deeply regret this decision.
Initially, Deirdre spent almost every waking moment around the doll. She would carry it from room to room with her. She would sleep with it. And when she left for work, she would place it in the exact same spot on her bed every day, with the dolls’ arms splayed wide.
This is where things take an unnerving twist. When Deirdre returned from work at the end of the day, she would make a rather disturbing discovery.
The dolls’ arms and legs were indistinctly different positions than she’d left them in. Deirdre quickly went and asked Lara if she had moved the doll. Lara said she hadn’t touched it. Deirdre wondered, how did the dolls arms and legs move during the day? This creepy event was just the beginning of a long line of inexplicable happenings involving the doll.
Regularly, Lara would find the doll in different rooms. Initially, she didn’t think anything of it, picking up the doll and putting it back on the bed. But as time went on, Lara and Deirdre continued to find it all over the house.
It was as if the doll had a mind and a will of its own. Deirdre grew uneasy. She felt a dark presence in the room whenever the doll was close by. Becoming fearful for her safety, Deirdre took the doll and put it in the living room, where both women could keep an eye on it. They didn’t notice anything strange happen for the rest of the day.
However, the next morning, they discovered a piece of paper in front of the door that had the words help me scribbled on it. Even though they were frightened, both were reluctant to believe that an actual supernatural event had transpired within their home. They concluded that someone must be playing a practical joke on them.
So the two women decided to try and get to the bottom of the matter. They would set a trap. They placed objects around the house in very specific ways. They affixed scotch tape to the windows and doors. They took their entranceway rug and placed it at a very specific angle to tip them off if someone walked over it.
As night came, they waited anxiously to see the true identity of their potentially other-worldly visitor. But if someone or something had written the note, they didn’t return the next night, leaving the two women with more questions than answers. As a last resort, they took the doll to a psychic medium. After inspecting the doll, this clairvoyant informed them that it was possessed by the spirit of a young girl named Annabelle Higgins, who had passed away mysteriously.
According to the clairvoyant, the girl’s spirit had wandered the field where their apartment complex was now built. And now, suffering from crippling loneliness, the possessed doll just wanted someone to play with. The medium asked if the women would allow Annabelle to live with them. If they would be her playmates. If they would share their lives with this poor lost soul.
Deirdre and Lara felt sympathy for Annabelle after hearing her backstory. They decided to take the girl in an attempt to help her heal. They thought perhaps their love and attention would free Annabelle from the mortal coil. They were wrong. This was the biggest mistake either woman would ever make.
The day after the women agreed to take Annabelle in, they woke in the morning to discover dry blood on the backs of the dolls’ hands. Terrified, Deirdre called her fiancee, Cal Randall, and asked him to come to spend the night in the apartment. The women did not want to be alone with Annabelle.
Before Cal entered the apartment, Deirdre told her fiance that she didn’t want him going anywhere near the doll. But as soon as he entered, Cal became enraged and burst out yelling and screaming. He ran across the room, grabbed the doll, and threw it across the room.
Simultaneously, four large lacerations appeared across Cal’s chest, as if his torso had been slashed by some invisible blade or claw. Lara, Deirdre, and Cal decided they’d endured enough and fled the apartment.
Their story caught the attention of the media and captured the public’s imagination.
It wasn’t long before news of the women’s plight and their unwanted visitor reached Ed Warren. He decided to drive down to Hartford, Connecticut, and investigate their situation for himself. Before making the journey, though, he contacted a local priest.
Lara and Deirdre agreed to meet Warren and the priest at the apartment so they could inspect the doll. As Ed Warren remembers, when he arrived at the apartment, the sky became gray and overcast. A sense of foreboding filled the air. The experienced paranormal investigator felt uneasy.
The two women, Warren, and the priest greeted each other in the apartment complex parking lot. Deirdre and Lara looked pale and nervous. They hadn’t been sleeping well. Ed Warren attempted to comfort them, saying that he dealt with many supernatural occurrences before. And that he’d protect them.
As the small group approached the unit, Ed Warren and the priest were given strict instructions do not touch the doll. Both Warren and the priest solemnly agreed. But in a mirror image of the experience with her fiance, Cal, as soon as the priest set foot in the house, he was driven into a wild rage. He lunged at the doll and threw it across the room. He began chanting, God is more powerful than any demonic force! God is more powerful than any demonic force!
Ed Warren was barely able to physically restrain the priest, but he managed to pull him out of the apartment. Deirdre broke down crying, and said,
I just wish someone would take this doll off my hands. I don’t want this responsibility anymore. I don’t want to deal with any of this.
Taking pity on Deirdre, Ed Warren offered to take the doll home with him. She agreed. And after some innovative problem solving, Warren managed to get the doll into the trunk of his car. He began the trek home back to Monroe, Connecticut. But Warren wasn’t out of harm’s way, yet.
On his drive up Route 84, he lost control of his car. It careened off the road and crashed. Ed Warren climbed out of the wreck, grabbed the doll from the truck, and narrowly escaped the mangled mass of twisted steel with his life.
Upon returning home with the doll, he told Lorraine that the last thing he saw before the car crashed was Annabelle’s face in the rearview mirror.
Years later, after the doll had been on display in Warren’s museum for some time, a young man heard about the strange doll and became obsessed with the idea that the Warrens had faked the whole story.
He and his girlfriend traveled along the way on a motorcycle to see the doll. The Warrens showed them the room where Annabelle now lived, alongside many other supernatural objects they’d collected over the years.
Upon seeing the doll, the young man lost his composure. Like others before him, he burst out yelling and screaming. He pointed at the doll’s glass case saying that it wasn’t real. That it wasn’t possessed. And that it was all just a sham. He then spits on the ground in front of Annabelle and cursed the Warrens.
After storming out of Warren’s museum, the man and his girlfriend left on the motorcycle for the long drive home. They never made it. Both died in a tragic and mysterious motorcycle crash.
Although the Warrens have passed away, Annabelle still lives in the museum in the back of their home. Don’t worry. She still has many friends. There are many supposedly haunted items on their property to keep her company.
The Warren’s son-in-law Tony Spera currently maintains the grounds, but the museum itself is not open to the public.
ANNABELLE ON THE SCREEN
The Conjuring film universe is primarily based on the exploits of Ed and Lorraine Warren. In fact, in 2012, when asked about what he was working on, James Wan the producer of the films revealed that he was shepherding a project titled The Warren Files, which would eventually be re-titled The Conjuring.
There are eight films in The Conjuring universe– three Conjuring films, three Annabelle films, The Nun, and The Curse of La Llorona. There are also two announced, but unproduced films in the series, as well– a sequel to The Nun and a film titled The Crooked Man.
The films take place from 1952 to 1981. Some of them feature Ed and Lorraine Warren as characters. Some of them simply connect tangentially to the universe in which the films take place.
Annabelle first appeared in The Conjuring which was released on July 15, 2013. It was then quickly announced that there would be a spin-off movie exclusively focusing on the mysterious doll. The project began filming in January 2014. For the feature film adaptation of the doll that Annabelle Higgins possessed, James Wan and his team changed the appearance of Annabelle from a Raggedy Ann doll to a porcelain doll.
Needless to say, the story of Annabelle has taken on a life all its own.
Annabelle’s nightmarish story shows us that sometimes it’s important to respect the otherworldly, while not actually trying to become friends with it. The harrowing tale of gloom and darkness that surrounded Annabelle Higgins and her manifestation inside of the Raggedy Ann doll has now become the stuff of urban myth. While the real-life doll is locked away in a glass case in Connecticut, the film version of the character will no doubt rear her head and frighten us all, again, very soon.
So what do you think? Is the Annabelle doll possessed? Or is it all an elaborate hoax? Let us know in the comments below if you have the courage.