How to Effectively Dispose of a Cursed, Possessed, or Haunted Doll

You always think you won’t believe in a haunted doll until one finds its way into your home...

Not So Deep Thoughts
How to Effectively Dispose of a Cursed, Possessed, or Haunted Doll
Photo:Getty Images

When you’re a millisecond away from falling into a deep slumber, what is the recurring thought—a regret, an embarrassing moment, a chance not taken—that barges into your brain and makes it impossible to hit your REM cycle? For me, it’s the lingering mystery of the current whereabouts of a gaggle of haunted antique dolls I once used for a film shoot. I don’t believe that they’re in my home any longer, but I don’t know for sure…

About four years ago, I needed said gaggle of dolls but didn’t want to spend too much money acquiring them. A Twitter mutual I followed, because we shared a recently deceased ex-lover (spooky!), tweeted that she was gifted a bunch of dolls because an older woman in her history lecture club had misheard her saying that she “loved dogs” as “loved dolls” and offloaded a collection of old dolls onto her. I sent a DM, and a different friend secured the box of dolls in Los Angeles and shipped them cross-country to me in NYC. The box contained about eleven dolls in varying levels of deterioration, all with intact eyes that bore straight into my soul. They were perfect for my low-budget comedy horror. Thank you, girls (and one weird boy doll you can see below that looked like Tim Blake Nelson).

Here they were in their pivotal scene. Photo:Kady Ruth Ashcraft

On set, we all joked that they were the haunted remains of industrial-age child laborers and that they were keeping an eye on us to make sure no one was violating labor laws. Crew members teasingly passed the box of them back and forth, no one wanting to keep this particular set of props with them overnight or in their car. After wrapping the film, trashing them with leftover crafty and other cheap disposable props didn’t feel quite right. I took them home and kept them in a misshapen Home Depot cardboard box in my hallway closet.

As the months passed by, I stuffed them further and further to the back with each seasonal closet switchover. I knew I had to eventually get rid of them but…how? Marie Kondo didn’t prepare me for how to discard of items that filled my soul with a chilling fear.

Tossing them in the trash felt like putting a target on my back. These dolls had lent themselves to my art. And unfortunately, no one in my life was in desperate need of a dozen or so antique dolls who I could charitably offer up my newfound collection. But keeping them in my small New York City apartment wasn’t just ominous, it was impractical.

I’ve since moved apartments and the box of dolls did not make it with me to my new residence. I understand that’s sort of an anticlimactic reveal, but I also find it pretty unsettling because I actually do not know what happened to them. I remember worrying about what to do with them and thinking about how I would explain to my new partner that I would be bringing a doll dowry into our new home. But ever hesitant to kick them to the curb, I know I didn’t do that either. Perhaps they were left in the U-Haul truck or burrowed themselves into the walls of my last apartment, refusing to leave the home they’d adjusted to. Maybe they did make it into my new home and have done the same here. Whatever happened to them, no one who helped me move remembered seeing them…and no one has seen them since.

It’s a problem that in a way solved itself, but like I said, it certainly remains on my mind. I’m also still curious as to what you’re supposed to do to actively get a haunted item out of your home. So I did some poking around ye olde Internet to see how the cool kids are unburdening themselves of cursed objects they no longer want around. Here’s what I found.

Off Load It on Anyone

Perusing Craigslist, there is no shortage of haunted dolls for sale. Usually, the seller discloses that the doll seems haunted. In the case of “Charlie the haunted doll,” we get a whole backstory on how Charlie (the real boy) died and what he likes to do now that he has inhabited doll form (hanging out with other spirits, listening to music). This feels like a respectful way to get rid of haunted dolls, by advertising their lovely haunted qualities.

Off Load It on Someone Who Doesn’t Believe in Ghosts

One Reddit forum on how to discard a cursed object suggests just giving it to someone who doesn’t believe in ghosts. This was by far my favorite answer. Hours into researching what to do with a haunted doll and it’s always healthy and good to be reminded that there are people with a grasp on reality out in the world. Though, you always think you won’t believe in a haunted doll until one finds its way into your home.

Politely Ask the Haunted Object to Chill Out

No one really recommended this but it feels to me like something worth trying. Just say, “Haunted object! I see you! I appreciate you being here. But the vibes you’re giving off are bad and we would all appreciate it if you adjust accordingly.” I realize now I never tried this with my haunted dolls. Imagine the hours of sleep I’d get back if I had…

Give It a Salt Bath

If you want to keep the haunted doll (or object) around but just want the evil-ness to stop lingering, a good option seems to be encircling it with salt. A number of TikToker’s seem to believe this will do the trick but a 2008 New York Times interview with celebrity medium Bonnie Vent explained that that trick has “no effect in the long term” and that “you really have to get to the root cause” of what’s making an object haunted. That usually entails finding out what is possessing it and what you can do to appease that spirit. Needless to say, this tactic takes a lot of work.

Send It to a Cursed Object Museum

Author of Cursed Objects: Strange but True Stories of the World’s Most Infamous Items, J.W. Ocker told Vice in 2020 that one can donate their haunted or cursed object to a museum that collects them. You can’t throw a woman’s soul trapped in a stone in New Orleans or Savannah without hitting a spooky museum. But almost every state has some sort of oddity haunt you could probably hand over your unwanted object to.

And of course, you can always go the route I took, which is to wait for the dolls to take care of themselves. I suppose I was lucky that they came and went without much fanfare. However, even just typing that out feels like I’m tempting fate. I’ll keep y’all updated if some dolls reappear in my life in a dramatic fashion any time soon…

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