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Watch at Your Own Risk: The Seven Shows that Made us TERRIFIED of Dolls

Watch at Your Own Risk: The Seven Shows that Made us TERRIFIED of Dolls

By Melissa Albert

Why are dolls so reliably, goosebumpily, neverendingly TERRIFYING? They're second only to clowns on a list of "allegedly beloved things that actually make us pee our pants with fear." Aside from an inborn aversion to things that look just like humans...except their faces don't move...and they just stare at you for all of eternity...and OMG, DID THAT THING JUST WINK, there's the fact that pop culture has spent decades force feeding us the idea that we're all just one ill-fated carnival visit or witch's spell away from being murdered by a baby doll. Here are some of the scariest humanoid hellbeasts dolls in pop culture (with the glaring omission of Chucky, because I refuse to even acknowledge something that scary):

Talkie Tina (The Twilight Zone, "Living Doll"). "I'm Talkie Tina! And I'm going to kill you." Whoa. Whatever happened to "Mama"? Among the more famous Twilight Zone eps, this one stars a creepy talking doll and her almost equally creepy little-girl owner (honestly, why were child actors SO DARN FREAKY in the 50s and 60s?). After the little girl's mean stepdad gets on Tina's bad side, it's only a matter of time before she makes good on her promise to take him down. She gets inside his head with increasingly scary threats, all delivered in a cute doll voice, and only when nobody else is around to hear her. The show ends chillingly, with Tina finally revealing her expanded vocabulary to someone other than the evil stepfather: "I'm Talkie Tina! And you'd better be nice to me."

Chinga (The X-Files, "Chinga"). You don't want to make little girl Polly Turner mad. Because when Polly gets mad, her doll, Chinga, gets madder. And that's when the knives (and hammers, and broken records) start flying. This standalone X-Files episode takes the classic "scary kid and her scary doll" trope and adds in witchcraft, nightmarish visions, and Agent Dana Scully. Pro tip: If you're thinking of bringing home a dilapidated doll you find in a lobster cage at the bottom of the ocean, maybe...don't do that.

Unnamed zombie dolls (Doctor Who, "Night Terrors"). A little boy is so scared of whatever's inside his closet that his plea for help crosses space and time to reach the Doctor's psychic paper. While the Doctor investigates, discovering that the boy has a very strange secret, Amy Pond and Rory are sucked into a mysterious elsewhere, populated by shambling, oversized dolls—who have the power to turn anyone they touch into another one of their kind.

Mr. Wood (Goosebumps, Night of the Living Dummy). This cover haunted my childhood. In the most frightening installment of the Goosebumps series, sisters Lindy (owner of seemingly nice, normal dummy Slappy) and Kris (owner of evil, murderous dummy Mr. Wood) argue over who has better ventriloquist dummy skills, which, first of all, what a ridiculous thing to fight over, and secondly...well, Lindy is obviously the better ventriloquist. But in her quest to beat her sister, Kris ignores the obvious Evil Doll warning signs (spewing green vomit, saying horrible things to adults, attempting to enslave her) and continues to perform. All's well that ends well...and this book does not end well.

Just a serious buttload of frightening dolls (Dolls). This low budget, semi–cult classic features another beloved horror movie cliché: that of the victims' deserving what they get. In this case, a meanie dad and stepmother pay the ultimate price for not appreciating childhood (or their child) at the hands of two seemingly kindly dollmakers—or, to be specific, their horde of justice-seeking dolls.

Zoltar (Big). After geeky kid Josh's attempt to impress a hot older girl is ruined by his being too short for a carnival ride, he takes his sob story to fortune-telling doll Zoltar. "I wish I was big," he says, in a classic movie moment of "be careful what you wish for." Demon-eyed, openmouthed gypsy doll Zoltar grants his wish, and Josh has to spend the rest of the movie undoing it. The fact that Zoltar doesn't really have a body and lives in a box limits his menace, but not by much. It's those eerie red eyes.

Susan Henderson (Are You Afraid of the Dark, "The Tale of the Dollmaker"). "Submitted for the approval of the midnight society," we have this somewhat scary story of an enchanted dollhouse. This one is about a thousand times less spine-tingling than everything above, but you'll need something to watch after "Chinga," lest you never sleep again. It's practically an enchanted doll comedy in comparison to that, a romp featuring a missing child who ends up stuck in a dollhouse world, where her body's slowly turning into white porcelain. But at least she's not getting punched in the stomach by Mr. Wood!

Are you scared of dolls? A. Yes, of course! B. No, but I'm lying right now.

Topics: Life
Tags: movies, halloween, scary things, pop culture, dolls, doctor who, the twilight zone, goosebumps, the x files

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About the Author
Melissa Albert

Melissa Albert reads books, worries about other people’s dogs (they look thirsty), and eats horrible candy for fun and profit. When not wearing her extremely tasteful Sparkitor hat, she’s an editor for the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. You can find her on Twitter @mimi_albert, or in the hot pretzel section of your local cafeteria.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.