Monday, January 3, 2011

Mrs. Peck

Is it possible for a spirit to attach itself to a doll or even to invade and "possess" a doll?

There's just something about dolls that give a lot of us the "creeps".

This is especially true of antique dolls who have a lot of history behind them. What have these old dolls seen and heard? What influences were they around?

For reasons unknown, dolls seem to attract spirits. While haunted doll stories are not uncommon, the case of real haunted dolls are unique in that so many claim to have witnessed their paranormal and haunted movements first-hand.

This seemed to be the case with a certain doll named "Mrs. Peck" who once "lived" at The Audubon House in Key West, Florida...

(Copyright Sun-Sentinel Co. Oct 26, 1997)


Again and again, an electronic sensor was tripped in the middle of the night, yet when the police and the caretakers arrived, they found nothing more than a locked, empty house.

No one lived there anymore, but someone or something was moving about in the dark of night. The alarm system was repeatedly adjusted, and still it detected a wave of heat moving through the room, among the toys, the skates, the Italian puppet theater, the dolls with their eyes wide open.

Perhaps it could be shrugged away as just the creaks, groans and ancient vapors of an aging wooden structure, but this was the Audubon House, one of the most historically significant buildings in old Key West. Moreover, these things didnt happen in the dim, misty past. They occurred within the last year.

The Audubon House has stood on the corner of Greene and Whitehead streets, a sentinel gazing toward the sea, for 150 years. It bears the name of John James Audubon, the celebrated painter of birds, even though he probably never set foot in the house.

Today, it has become a main stop on the Key West tour circuit. Its restoration in 1960 helped launch the cultural revival of Key West, and the house may be in better shape now than in its heyday.

Each day, dozens of visitors pass through the three-story house decorated with 19th-century furniture and with prints of Audubon's birds. It's a charming place, somewhere between quaint and magnificent, set amid lush gardens behind a white picket fence.

The tourists move on at 5 p.m., but there are people who believe the house remains mysteriously occupied long after closing time. Rumors have circulated for years about the phantoms, spirits and dead souls that inhabit the stately old place.

It's true that no one lives there today, but it's just as true that many people have died there in the past. And since the late 1980s, when a wax-faced doll took up residence, there has been something especially peculiar about that children's room, high up on the third floor among the treetops.

Donated by a local woman, the doll was made in England in the 1850s and was classified as a "Mrs. Peck" doll. It was about 22 inches high, with a wax head, arms and legs and a cloth torso and an odd, sickly appearance.

"It had the pallor of a cadaver," says Tom Green-wood, the manager of the Audubon House shop. It had dark circles under the eyes. It had little yellow teeth. We've often heard how creepy the doll was."

Before the Mrs. Peck doll came on the scene, the Audubon House hadnt had any unusual problems with the alarm system or lights. Afterward, the staff noticed all sorts of strange things, particularly in the children's room. Light bulbs left burning at night were unscrewed in the morning.

The doll was notoriously difficult to photograph. A TV cameraman taking still pictures openly joked about whether the doll was haunted. When he put his camera down, the back opened and the film popped out. Another time, a photographer was documenting the contents of the house for an insurance company. When the film came back, a diagonal black band slashed across the image of the doll.

"They took over 300 pictures that day, and that was the only one that came out that way," says Teresa Ashley, the administrator of the house.

"That doll was morbid," adds Greenwood. "It was beyond morbid. It was sinister."

Some people have claimed that its eyes followed them around the room. Visitors have commented on feeling a disturbing sensation in the children's room. Antique toys and clothing are arranged around the room, but the mood is hardly carefree.

"I always feel the toys are getting ready to move in that room," says David Sloan, who leads a nightly tour of Key West's haunted places. "A lot of that has to do with the way the toys are laid out, like the children just left to go outside."

Several times, nighttime strollers have looked up and seen figures dancing by candlelight behind the third-floor windows. Some people have called the police, but no intruders have ever been found. Through it all, the alarm companies could never explain why their heat sensors were set off so often.

"When you get a call at 2 in the morning, saying that body heat has been sensed in the children's room, and there's nobody there, says Greenwood, "what would you do? In the four years I've worked here, this has happened at least six times. That's pretty strange."

Early this year, the Audubon House decided to change alarm companies. On Jan. 6, the alarm in the children's room was turned off at 1:30 p.m., repaired and turned back on at 5. There was only a 31/2-hour period in which the doll could have been taken by human hands. When the staff came in the next morning, the Mrs. Peck doll had vanished and hasn't been seen since!

Whether it's because of a new alarm system or because the doll is gone, electric sensors no longer go off in the night.

To read the rest of the story, you can visit Mrs. Peck's facebook page here:!/pages/Mrs-Peck/277996715842

And stay tuned to this blog over the next week, as we explore the mysterious world of HAUNTED DOLLS...


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