Do you ever wonder about the origins of your secondhand items? That 100-year-old doll may look harmless enough, but what would the people who owned it before you have to say? I’ve always had an interest in a good mystery, so when I came across this first entry a few years ago, it triggered a passion for finding “haunted” or “cursed” objects that hasn’t stopped since. In the spirit of the season, I’ve rounded up 13 objects with great (and sometimes unexplained) background stories, that will have you thinking twice about the history of your next thrift store score.
Robert the Doll
Ah, the creepy little fella who started it all. Now under the watchful eye of the Key West Art & Historical Society, Robert began his life—among rumors of a voodoo presence—as a handcrafted replica of his owner, Robert Eugene Otto. Robert was a constant throughout all of Otto’s life, with people claiming to hear running footsteps, giggling, and even movement of the doll when left unsupervised. See what other mischief Robert has gotten into over the years, and why he remains a fixture of paranormal discussion to this day.
The Dybbuk Box
When Kevin Mannis bought a small wine cabinet from the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor at an estate sale in the early 2000’s, she seemed oddly insistent about getting rid of it. Her grandmother said that the box housed a dybbuk, believed in the Jewish culture to be the malicious, displaced soul of a dead person. Despite warnings that it should never be opened, Mannis did open it anyway, and the list of owners that followed reported horrific nightmares and physical ailments after coming in contact with the wine cabinet. Learn more about the dybbuk box’s effect and see where it ended up today.
Jacob Cooley’s Conjure Chest
In 1840’s Kentucky, Jacob Cooley ordered his slave Hosea to build a custom chest for his son. After being displeased with the finished product, Cooley brutally murdered the slave. Hosea’s family retaliated by placing a curse on the piece of furniture, sprinkling dried owl blood and enlisting the help of a local “conjuring man” to avenge Hosea’s death. The bizarre series of deaths and accidents that followed for generations, resulting in 16 victims and holding the family accountable for Cooley’s deeds. Track the path of the conjure chest and see what’s remained inside.
The Baker Wedding Dress
While Pennsylvania’s Baker Mansion draws crowds of paranormal fans all on it’s own, one particular attraction seems to be the most sought-after: the “haunted” wedding dress of Elizabeth Bell. Bell, the daughter of a wealthy Blair County ironmaster, was married in 1830, and her dress was put on display in the mansion’s Bell Room (though it has since been put in storage for safekeeping). The strange happenings that have been reported since hint at a life going beyond “til death do us part.” Learn more about the dress and the odd activity surrounding it.
Thomas Busby’s Chair
In 1702, Thomas Busby—a petty thief with a quick temper—killed his father-in-law after he sat on Busby’s favorite chair without permission. Before he was put to death for the crime, Busby requested a final drink and rest in his beloved chair. He cursed death on anyone who sat on it in the future, and the events that followed make it seem like the curse may have worked. Follow the trail of the chair’s victims and see where it resides now.
The Cursed Delhi Sapphire
Looting treasure from a temple is generally frowned upon, if only for the huge potential to rouse some angry spirits or karmic retribution. When that said temple is devoted to a major Hindu god, chances are high that there’s a curse attached. This particular gemstone has brought about unfortunate circumstances for anyone who comes into contact with it, all dating back to the original theft. Do you think the curse is real? Start at the beginning and decide for yourself.
Rudolph Valentino’s Ring
When silent film star Rudolph Valentino bought a silver ring from a jewelry store, he ignored the owner’s ominous warnings that it was haunted. Maybe he should have paid more attention to the man’s words, since wearing the ring may have brought about his early death and the deaths of several people who ended up owning it after… See what misery the ring caused and why it’s still missing to this day.
James Dean’s Car
Like Rudolph Valentino, James Dean was once one of the biggest movie stars in the world. So it makes sense that after he died in a car accident in 1955, people were clamoring to own his Porsche 550 Spyder. Unfortunately for those that came into contact with it, it seems like the beautiful machine did not want to be tamed: a string of misfortunes followed the owners around. Follow this vehicle’s road trip, ominous curse and eventual disappearance.
Annabelle the Doll
Let’s get one thing out of the way: old dolls seriously creep me out. Horror movie fans are probably familiar with 2014’s Annabelle, the story of a doll possessed by a demonic presence. While the cinematic version looks a lot different than the real one, paranormal investigators Ed and Elaine Warren attest that a lot of Annabelle’s frightening tendencies and powers are true. Read the Warrens’ personal account of dealing with Annabelle, and maybe even plan a visit to their occult museum to see her in person.
King Tut’s Tomb
The discovery of Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 was celebrated worldwide news: who wouldn’t want to stumble upon a (literal) treasure trove of history? But with the good comes the bad: since the discovery, a series of strange events and sudden deaths have come to those close to the excavation. It’s believed to be a post-mortem curse. Read up on some skepticism around the tomb and decide if you believe in this king’s curse.
Cursed Petrified Wood
I first heard about this case while listening to Criminal, an essential podcast for true crime fans. Despite the explicity illegal warning signs, patrons of The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona have been sneaking out wood samples for years. But as the seemingly endless piles of “conscience letters” and returned rocks prove, these thefts seem to come with their own supernatural punishments. Listen to this episode and check out the book Bad Luck, Hot Rocks to hear more about the individual “curses.”
The Hokkaido Doll
When a Japanese toddler named Okiku died in 1919, her beloved doll was placed on the family altar in remembrance of her. As is often with the case of creepy dolls, things got even creepier. Family members soon reported that no matter how often the doll’s hair was trimmed, it continued to grow on its own. Even all these years later, people are reporting that the doll’s hair acts like that of a real human being…one has to wonder if Okiku’s spirit lives on? If you find yourself near the Manneji temple where the doll resides today, plan a trip (and see if it’s hair looks a little too long).
Myrtles Plantation Mirror
When the outside of your home is famous for ghostly apparitions, it’s safe to assume that there’s also some spooky business happening indoors. Legend says that a slave at Myrtles Plantation got revenge on her captors by poisoning the lady of the house and her two children. Their souls are thought to be trapped inside this infamous mirror, and plenty of strange sightings have been reported since. Check out the plantation and see if you spot something suspicious.