Minnesota is entering the uncanny valley of the disturbing dolls this Halloween.
The History Center of Olmsted County in Rochester is repeating its popular Creepy Doll Contest, where a collection of some of the spooky historical dolls owned by the museum are on display for online and in-person public voting for the creepiest doll of 2020.
Some of this year’s batch of nine dolls, which date back to 1800, were obviously victims of some hard play by their child owners, resulting in gruesome loss of body parts.
Add unsettling nicknames like Lady Macbeth or Mrs. Danvers and some atmospheric photography, and you have a rogue’s gallery of playthings you wouldn’t want to be alone in a dark room with. (See and vote here: facebook.com/OlmstedHistoryCenter.)
The History Center is also sponsoring a virtual creepy doll cocktail party with live music and cocktail recipes on Halloween night and a creepy doll costume pageant.
Meanwhile in Minneapolis, Leonardo’s Basement was trying to figure out what do with about 1,000 fashion dolls donated to the nonprofit makerspace workshop.
The unsold surplus toys were Happy to Be Me dolls, originally developed in the 1990s by Twin Cities entrepreneur Cathy Meredig as an alternative to Barbie, with a figure that wasn’t so wasp-waisted and feet that weren’t permanently ready for high heels.
Leonardo’s Basement decided to turn the dolls into the Doll-O-Ween Challenge, inviting local creators, crafters and tinkerers to costume, decorate or repurpose the dolls for the season.
For a $20 entry fee, entrants got up to 10 dolls, plus an extra head and some clothes. The results have been nightmarish with dolls turned into warring gnomes or outfitted to look like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock or Guillermo del Toro movie.
Tracy Nielsen, program director for Leonardo’s Basement, said about 50 teams participated in the Doll-O-Ween challenge, so they still have plenty of dolls left.
“Maybe we’ll do a holiday challenge or a snow sculpture challenge,” she said.