By Christopher Balzano and Tim Weisberg
When Jill was 8 years old, she was given an old porcelain doll by a dear family friend, Miss Marian. The kindly old woman was always dropping by Jill’s home and leaving her gifts, and this doll was the last thing she gave her before she passed away.
Jill was never really into dolls, but was delighted to have a new keepsake from her beloved friend. She gave the doll a place of honor, seating it in a child-sized rocking chair beside the nightlight.
The doll was rather pretty, with pink lips, brown eyes and rosy peach cheeks. Dark brown hair hung in slightly frizzled and now-loose curls. It wore a peach and cream-colored dress with apron and petticoats and little black Mary Jane shoes that, when removed, showed delicately painted toenails. The doll’s body was soft fabric, and its head, forearms, hands and legs from the knees down were porcelain.
The doll looked almost like Jill. In fact, Miss Marian made a point of saying the doll reminded her of young Jill, and that’s why she gave it to her. While there was definitely a strong resemblance between the girl and the plaything, perhaps Miss Marian had other reasons for wanting the doll out of her own home.
Jill named the doll Claire, and from the moment it entered her house, frightening things began to happen.
“I was always uneasy with Claire,” Jill said. “I never wanted to touch her, and when I played in my room, it was as if she was watching me. It wasn’t anything to panic about, but I do remember feeling like if I did something wrong, she might actually tell on me. How ridiculous does that sound?”
The activity surrounding Claire began one night when Jill was reading in her room – a book of ghost stories, perhaps not coincidentally. She was jarred by the sound of the carousel horse that sat on her dresser springing to musical life. It wasn’t just a few odd notes, like an old mechanical music box is known to emit from a slight vibration to its pedestal, but the entire song, as if it was fully wound.
Jill sat there in disbelief, watching the little horse move up and down in time with the music. This couldn’t be happening; even her 8-year-old mind knew that. She wasn’t afraid as much as she was shocked. Then, as quickly as it had started, the music and the horse just stopped.
“I was a pretty brave kid. I didn’t run and tell my mom,” said Jill. She’d seen a figure she called the Shadow Man throughout her life, but her parents never believed her, so she simply stopped talking about it. “If [Mom] wouldn’t believe me about that, she wouldn’t believe anything as mundane as a music box, so I just let it go.”
Not long after that incident came the voice. For several nights, Jill was awakened by a woman several inches from her face, shouting, “Jill! Wake up!” Jill instantly jumped out of bed, only to find her room empty.
Although the woman shouting her name died down after a few months, the phenomena moved on to her younger brother. After they were both grown and out of the house, the woman started screaming in her father’s face while he slept, and she still does to this day.
But even with the woman no longer shouting her awake at night, other little things began to happen. Jill would put an item in a certain place, only to find it later on the floor right in front of the doll. Any item that went missing – and many did – would end up near Claire. One time, Jill even found a missing ring in the pocket of the doll’s apron. Other strange things occurred around the doll as well – books fell off shelves and a perfume scent enveloped the room without any verifiable cause.
The night that changed Jill’s opinion of Claire from benign trickster to malevolent force sounds like something straight out of a horror movie. She awoke to thumping sounds coming from near her closet. Her sleepy eyes were drawn to the nightlight in the corner of the room, and to the rocking chair in which Claire sat. Terror gripped her as she saw where the thumping sound was coming from – the rocking chair was swaying back and forth on its own.
Staring at the doll, Jill saw its feet, which had previously been pointed in opposite directions, slowly straighten themselves until they were both pointing up. In a moment of horror that still haunts Jill’s nightmares to this day, the doll turned its head toward Jill (which should have been an impossibility, since it was affixed to her cloth body), its lifeless eyes staring straight into her soul.
At that exact moment, all four music boxes in Jill’s room began to play in a full-out cacophony of creepiness. Jill was frozen with fear and screamed out for her parents. As soon as she did, the music boxes all stopped at once, although Claire continued to stare at Jill.
Yet even after that, Jill couldn’t bring herself to get rid of Claire. She stuffed the doll in a box in the back of a storage closet and never allowed another one in her room.
Even though Jill thought about Claire over the years, it wasn’t until she shared this story with me that she realized a connection between Claire and Miss Marian that might explain the spirit attached to the doll.
Miss Marian had sworn that the house she lived in was haunted by the spirits of the victims of a horrendous train accident that happened less than a mile from her home in 1900. Thirty-eight people died, as the train plunged into a flooded creek.
Miss Marian was never quite sure where the doll came from. She found it while cleaning out a closet and had no recollection of ever buying it or receiving it as a gift.
Miss Marian placed the doll on a shelf, and soon weird things began happening – cigar smoke materializing and blowing in her face, disembodied voices and footsteps coming from the basement, and glass breaking with no shards to be found. Perhaps the strangest incident following the doll’s arrival was the day Miss Marian found a set of gold teeth in her toilet. Miss Marian also reported nights in which she would be tucked into bed by unseen hands. The doll was known to move on its own throughout the house, from shelf to stool to sofa, all with no explanation as to how it got there.
The doll could have been possessed by the spirit of one of the victims of the train wreck, or maybe it was even on the train when the accident happened. Perhaps it was the cause of the accident. If a doll can tuck an elderly woman into bed and make music boxes perform on command, who is to say it couldn’t also force a train to plunge into the murky depths of a swelled creek?
Dolls are meant to be a thing of beauty, to be treasured and played with and loved by the little girls who care for them. Claire, however, was probably meant to be right where Jill put it – in a box in the back of a storage closet. Forever.
After sharing this story with me and after a great deal of convincing, Jill agreed to send Claire to me for experimentation. On the day the doll arrived, packed neatly in a cardboard box and delivered by UPS, I asked the driver if anything strange had happened while the package was in transit. He said nothing out of the ordinary occurred.
I took the box to my kitchen table and removed Claire. I had an EMF detector on the table as well, ready to measure any potential disturbances in the electromagnetic field. The needle on the meter spiked as soon as I lifted the doll out of the box and placed it on the table, but quickly returned to its base reading. Frequent testing with the EMF meter for the next few weeks produced no further spikes.
That first night, I brought Claire with me to record the sports show I produce. I took the doll into our studio, placing it on the edge of a long conference table out of the camera’s view. Yet during the show, we experienced strange double-exposures of our video while it was recording, something that had never occurred before. It only happened on one of the three cameras we used, and I couldn’t duplicate it again after the show was finished.
I attempted numerous EVP sessions to see if I could record any ghostly voices coming from Claire, with no results. I did, however, once hear a conversation coming from my home office where I kept the doll. It sounded like two distinct voices, male and female. When I got to the office, they stopped talking.
A few other strange occurrences took place as well. There is a wall separating my home office from the living room. While working on this book late one night, I heard a scratching sound coming from the corner of the room, along the wall that connects to the living room.
I searched all around but found nothing. A few nights later, my wife was home alone and told me she, too, heard a scratching sound but could not discover the source. As far as we know, there are no pests in our walls, attic or basement, and the scratching noises stopped when I moved Claire to another part of the office.
Also, there were a few instances in which the heat in my office mysteriously turned on. The office is on a different heating zone than the rest of the house – the room was an addition to the original structure – and it has its own thermostat. I never turn the thermostat up in the office because heat from the main zone is usually enough to warm the room.
During the last few weeks of writing this book, we were enjoying a warmer-than-usual late autumn in the Northeast, and the 60-degree days and 40-degree nights required no additional help from my oil burner. Yet one day we arrived home to be blasted by warm air; the thermostat in the office, which is behind a computer desk and hard to reach, was turned to its highest setting. I turned it off. A few days later, it seemed warm in there again, and when I looked at the thermostat, it had been turned to about 70 degrees. Nobody in our family had touched it. I began to wonder if perhaps Claire, who spent all those years tucked away in a closet, was feeling a bit chilly.
So I gave her a blanket and a lecture about the high price of heating oil, and asked her to stop the shenanigans. The thermostat has remained turned off ever since.
Christopher Balzano is the founder and director of Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads, an online collection of legends and ghost stories from Massachusetts and the surrounding states. He has been a contributor to Jeff Belanger’s “Encyclopedia of Haunted Places” and “Weird Massachusetts” and was one of the writers behind “Weird Hauntings.”
He has appeared in more than a dozen other books, often called in to offer insight into the paranormal perspective of certain cases. Christopher is the author of several books about regional hauntings, including “Dark Woods: Cults, Crime, and Paranormal in the Freetown State Forest” and “Ghosts of the Bridgewater Triangle,” as well as the collection of true ghosts stories, “Ghostly Adventures,” and the how-to paranormal books, “Picture Yourself Ghost Hunting” and “Picture Yourself Capturing Ghosts on Film.”
Tim Weisberg is the host of “Spooky Southcoast,” one of the world’s most popular radio programs dealing with the subject of the paranormal, and is one of the foremost authorities on the hauntings at the world-famous Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast in Fall River, Mass.
Tim has appeared on “MonsterQuest” on the History Channel, “Ghost Adventures” and “Most Terrifying Places in America,” both on the Travel Channel, “My Ghost Story” on the BIO Channel, LIVING TV in the UK, and “30 Odd Minutes.” He has also co-founded Legend Trips, a paranormal events company.
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Want to read more?
Haunted Objects: Stories of Ghosts on Your Shelf
By Christopher Balzano and Tim Weisberg
You’ll Love This If:
- You love creepy and spooky tales
- You have an object you think is haunted
- You want to hear other people’s odd and bizarre stories
In this ghost tale of everyday objects, Christopher Balzano and Tim Weisberg take you on an entertaining journey through a collection of stories involving haunted objects. Hear the mysterious events and activity people have experienced with objects that won’t give up the ghost.
In Haunted Objects You’ll Find:
- Odd and freaky experiences people have had with ‘haunted’ objects
- Unexplained activity and occurrences centering around eerie items
- Hair-raising tales in ‘ghost story’ fashion
Are the spooky noises you hear at night cause by something on your shelf? Maybe not, but then again…