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Who's the creepiest of them all? Olmsted County holds scary doll contest

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A video of a doll opening its eyes when sat up.
The History Center of Olmsted County has been posting a photograph of a vintage doll each day this week on their social media channels as part of a "creepy doll" contest. They posted this video on their Instagram account.
Courtesy of the Olmsted History Center

Update: The winners have been announced. Watch the big reveal here!


The dolls in the History Center of Olmsted County's collection have been let out for Halloween and these miniature terrors are vying to be named creepiest doll in Olmsted County.

For the last week, the History Center has been posting pictures and videos on social media of its most unsettling dolls, seeking votes on which one is the most nightmarish.

The winner and runner-up will be on display over Halloween.

"The doll I disdain handling is the one with human hair,” said curator Dan Nowakowski as he holds up a doll from the 1800s with an impressive braid and a dead-eye stare.

A doll with a long white dress and long hair with a pink bow.
This vintage doll was made around 1880 with human hair.
Courtesy of History Center of Olmsted County

Nowakowski said it was common for dolls to have human hair in the 1800s. It was one sign that the doll's buyer had money.

Other dolls are homemade and showing their age.

One creepshow contender was made with cloth for the head and limbs. "And then it was painted with a facial tone color, but the paint has chipped away,” Nowakowski said. “And now, unfortunately with the paint chipping, it looks like a mummy."

A doll with a cloth head and white dress with small red flowers.
This 169-year-old hand-made doll features a cloth head.
Courtesy of History Center of Olmsted County

The faceless doll is also missing an arm.

Nowakowski said that for a lot of the collection's dolls, the unsettling freakiness is all in the eyes.

"We have some dolls that have moveable eyelids. And when you lift them up, they snap,” he said. “You can hear the click from the eyes moving up."

The center’s doll collection comes from multiple sources, including several large donations of memorabilia, Nowakowski said. Many weren’t well preserved until now.

Nowakowski said these dolls were not intended to be frightening when they were made. The passage of time, and quality of the materials they were made with are responsible.

"Over time, paint cracks and peels if you don't manage it properly. Also then you have the kids playing with the dolls for a number of years, they get damaged. So we have some dolls that unfortunately have lost limbs,” Nowakowski said. “But it goes with the story of the doll - that the doll was played with."

Voting for Olmsted County’s creepiest doll continues through Thursday, Oct. 24.