Dolls. They have been a source of fear for years and years in horror fiction, TV shows, movies, and our own minds. Why do they make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you feel their deadpan gaze on you? We explore these types of questions and fears at Halloween Horror Nights every year. In 2014, we introduced you to a haunted house where we created every horrific form a doll could be and made you face them. It’s time to relive those nightmares with the latest chapter of our horror nights stories…
Dollhouse of the Damned
Jane reaches up from the backseat and lightly slaps Mac on the cheek with her cassette tape. Mac grabs the cassette, looks at it, and then throws it over his shoulder into the backseat. His girlfriend Karen yelps as the cassette hits her in the forehead.
“None of that electronic crap will be played in Miss Red,” says Mac. “Only metal music in my turbocharged beauty.” He pats the dashboard and cranks his stereo louder. The chunky guitars serenade the rumbling V-8 engine of the muscle car.
“Whatever,” Jane pouts. “You seem to love this car more than Karen.”
Karen shrugs and puts her lipstick back into her purse. Jane glares at Karen, then turns her head back to the front passenger side and glares at the back of her boyfriend’s mullet.
Dan feels the glare and shifts uncomfortably in his leather seat. He mumbles, “When do we get to the fair? Gotta win Jane a doll, ASAP.” Dan looks out the window at the collecting fog and notices how the car slices through it like cotton candy. He wanted some of that fairground cotton candy and could almost taste it. Jane was rough, but he never had to guess what was going through her head. To be nineteen-years-old and this in love with a girl felt good.
A large shape crosses through the headlights beams. The muscle car smashes into the stunned deer. The buck flips up over the hood and into the windshield. Miss Red swerves and drives over the embankment and flips into the thin forest, smashing into trees, saplings, and boulders. The car settles on its hood. The four tires pointing toward the cloudy night sky like a dog waiting to have its belly rubbed.
The sharp pings and creaking metal break the silence every few seconds. The seconds stretch into minutes before the sounds of painful life emanate from the twisted wreckage. Jane kicks open the rear passenger door. She pulls out her friend Karen whose closed eyes and limp body look like a worn rag doll. A cry from within the crushed car reminds Jane to softly drop Karen and move back to the vehicle. She pulls at the front passenger door and says, “Dan, are you OK?”
The whimpering sounds coming from inside the bent car answer her question. She braces her left foot on the frame and pulls again at the door. It slowly creaks open, creating a gap, and then swings open wide. The door pauses suspended and then falls to the ground, connected by a few strands of metal. She leans in and begins to pull Dan out, who responds with a wet gurgling scream, “Careful… careful my leg.”
Karen begins to come to and pulls herself up off the ground. She slowly crawls to the evacuation scene. She peers past Jane with her arms under Dan’s shoulders. Her eyes grow wide with the carnage just past Dan. She screams once Dan is clear and the scene comes into full view.
The once obscuring clouds pull back and moonlight shines, highlighting the deer carcass, which has caved in the windshield. The mule deer’s head is twisted and rests cheek to cheek with the distorted face of Mac. His long rocker mane is matted with blood and traces along his jawline. It is as if the two bodies are tied up in a tango. Their lifeless black eyes are both locked on Karen, who skitters back with a crab walk.
Grunting, Jane finishes dragging Dan to a thick tree. She leans him against the broad trunk. He cries out, “Damn, I think… no I know it is. My leg is broken.” He coughs and flinches. Jane wipes blood from his face. His eyes begin to grow glassy and his eyelids droop. Jane gets in his face, “Stay awake. Stay with me, Dan!”
Karen, breathing hard, grabs at Jane’s pant leg and tugs while pointing toward the wreck. Jane lifts her leg and slaps Karen’s arm away. “Snap out of it! We need to get to a phone.”
Karen snaps her head up toward Jane, “We are in the middle of nowhere! What are we going to do?”
“Flag down a car or walk down the road until we see a house?” Jane cries. “I don’t know, but we have to move fast, Dan is bleeding bad.”
“Dan… Dan… Did you see Mac?” Karen begins to sob.
Jane climbs past the wreck, avoiding looking at Mac’s demolished body. She looks back and forth along the dark country road. “Don’t look, Karen. Just don’t look. Damn there is nothing around here. We are going to have to walk.”
“Don’t go… look,” Dan coughs and points. Jane slides back down the embankment, starts to console Dan, and then follows the direction of his shaking finger. Just beyond the trees in the foreground, on top of a small rise, the fog peels back and a small colorful house appears.
“OK Dan, we are going to call for an ambulance and get you help,” Jane says as she grabs Karen’s arm and pulls her up. Dan watches as the two girls wander deeper into the forest toward the materializing salvation. The fog curls back into place covering the girls and the pathway toward the distant house. Dan begins to fade back into unconsciousness again with the reds, greens, and blues of the small house burned into the back of his eyelids and memory. He continues to bleed slowly and dreams of the multicolored house, but now it has a hungry mouth for a front door, and windows that are slanted down like a furrowed brow.
Jane doesn’t look too closely at the house or doesn’t seem to care about its weird appearance as she approaches the front door. A slower moving Karen takes in the frightening house, as Jane bangs on the front door. Each oddly angled window has a shutter that is filled with baby doll parts. Glass baby bottles hang from the eaves like wind chimes. Bordering the front porch, a row of baby dolls sit, nestled in-between broken-out sawn balusters, under milk-white handrails. Karen pulls her focus back to the front door and the bellowing Jane.
A small latch-clicking sound precedes the red-washed door slowly creaking open. Dark clouds blot out the moonlight, but the door still unnaturally glows. Karen turns her head back toward the sitting dolls who are staring at her, as Jane pulls her into the house. Weren’t those dolls facing forward and staring out a moment ago? Karen knows that her head hit hard during the accident, but she still has that little part of her psyche that cries out a warning. The odd house is wrong. It smells wrong. It smells like the old attic where her grandmother used to store her old newspapers and trunks of clothes. This place is real and dangerous.
It takes a few moments for the girls’ eyes to adjust to the darkness of the house interior. The tall shapes along the walls come into focus. Piles of filthy fabrics and old sewing machines fill the corners of the small foyer. Karen reaches forward in the gloom and grabs Jane’s hand. Jane squeezes back. They continue forward, slowly and together. They step over things in the darkness, moving toward the edge of the room and the only source of light. Flickering light rests against the wall like the spill of a sickly lantern running low on fuel. The light suddenly moves. It quickly traces across the wall and vanishes around a corner.
“Hello,” Jane calls out. Karen squeezes Jane’s hand so hard that her nails dig deep into Jane’s palm.
Karen quietly growls, “Shut up!”
The giggle of a little girl trails away with the light. Jane pulls free of Karen’s hand and races toward the hall where the light vanished. “Do you have a telephone we can use? We were in a car crash and our friends need help. Is your mommy home? Can we talk to your—”
Jane’s words stretch and turn into a scream as the floorboards under her creak and give way. She lands hard and all the air is forced from her lungs. As she slips into unconsciousness she sees a small face appear over her, looking down. It makes no sense to her slipping mind. It is the face of a tiny passive doll, crudely embedded with large staples and thick thread, into the countenance of an old woman.
The old mutilated woman, with the help of another larger shadow, begins to drag Jane away into the darkness of the basement. “So pretty,” the old woman’s muffled voice mutters, “So preeeeee-teeeee.”
Karen stands in shock as the floor under Jane collapses. The house seems to grow just a bit brighter as Jane disappears into the void below. It’s as if Jane is fuel for some machine that controls the lighting temperature. She screams after Jane, but no noise escapes her dry mouth. What kind of bad luck is following her tonight? She slowly moves closer to the hole and peers into the darkness. She tries to call out again but only coughs, as dust mushrooms up into her face. She sees nothing, but hears a slow dragging sound and a small intense voice muttering something. It must be Jane talking. She must be alive.
Karen looks around at the house layout as she backs away from the jagged pit.
What kind of layout is this house?
From the outside it was like a tiny house with faded colors that were unsettling, but the interior is much larger in depth. There was the indication there could be a small attic but no basement, at least not the depth that she perceived beneath the floor.
Karen moves away from the hole and moves down a second hallway to the right. Her thoughts race as she tries to make sense of the house.
There had to be stairs if there was a basement.
She would get Jane first, and if she found a phone along the way, she would call 911, but Jane needed her. Dan needed her, too. Why did she have to be the hero? She just wanted to follow. Nothing wrong with that. She wasn’t an organized person and did not do well with anything medical. Her mind felt torn. She notices the torn wallpaper along the narrow hallway that stretches, impossibly, too long. The once opulent wallpaper hangs in sections, peeled away from the wall like burnt skin. If the wallpaper was skin then the tissue beneath was just as, if not more, disturbing. The walls were constructed with rows of baby doll limbs.
A chill runs down Karen’s spine as an old tune from a victrola begins to creep down the hall. The lyrics talk about lollipops and ships. The juxtaposition of the cheery song and the sounds that accompany the tune make Karen begin to sweat. The shrieks of a man screaming and the sounds of chopping slam panic into Karen’s already fragile frame. She bolts down the hall and passes the room from where the macabre sounds emanate. A little girl, with blonde curls and an ancient face, raises and slams down a cleaver, separating the leg from an old man in overalls.
“Wanna play doctor?” she giggles at Karen. “Quiet dolly!” she screams at the man on the table, “surgery is not done.”
Karen finds her voice. She bellows an agonizing noise like a wounded animal. She enters a kitchen with no appliances. Oversized baby-doll cribs line the walls and the smell of feces makes her heave as she frantically moves in between the pink cribs toward the exit. Large
muscular arms reach for her as deep slurring voices cry out, “Momma!”
She finds a door and yanks it open, leaving behind the crying behemoths and their rattling pink prisons. She stumbles down the stairs and almost falls to the bottom, but catches herself. She calls out for Jane as she reaches the bottom of the stairs. The darkened room is made harder to see through by the mass of hanging marionettes and dolls. Each one moves independently, as if by an army of unseen puppeteers or a swirling breeze. She screams again as she forces herself to run through the strings and moving dolls. Little doll limbs caress her face and grab at her hair as she thrashes through the mass.
She trips and her arms and head slam into a large crate. Stunned, Karen looks up to see it is an oversized circus box. Within the open box, a figure looms. It looks like a life-sized doll, with red circles painted on the face and lifeless red-rimmed black button eyes. Karen turns and vomits onto the floor as she views the upper torso of her friend Jane. Her entrails dangle and wrap around the stake below that props up her incomplete doll body.
Suddenly, large and sharp scissors pierce Karen’s back. She screams as a voice whispers in her ear, “Pretty… so pretty.” As the scissors leave her back, she falls to the floor and looks up. A little baby doll face, cramped and recessed in an old woman’s head, slowly approaches with scissors raised. Karen kicks her legs out and the woman falls. Karen crawls and slowly pulls herself up. She scrambles out of the room, slamming unbalanced, against the baby doll arm and mortar walls, seeking salvation.
She hears the cooing of baby dolls from all directions. The walls transition into worn and smelly sheets. Pushing out of the sheet walls, forms of bodies begin to appear, as if mummified in the bedding. The further into the tunnel-like hallway she moves the more formed the mummies become. The sheet mummies hold dolls, like caring mothers. The cooing grows louder and Karen hears herself screaming for the dolls to stop. In response, all the doll heads turn in unison and begin to screech louder. Underneath the cacophony, a deep booming begins, like tribal drums.
The hallway dumps into a room, and she falls to her knees, as if in supplication. Her back aches as if on fire and the dizziness from lack of blood begins to worsen. The sounds of the drums grow and she gazes up. The room looks like a strange temple made up of carved stone columns and arches. A slow twitching shadow moves at the top of the arch she is kneeling in front of. She lifts her eyes to see two legs twitching and dangling out of the mouth of a giant baby doll head. The head sits above the archway, like an angry plastic idol. The drumming crescendos and then suddenly stops as the last bit of the twitching legs are gobbled up by the angry face.
In the quiet of the room, Karen begins to sob. She lays down, prone and pleading. The sound of many little plastic feet scurry across the stone floor. Bewildered by the insanity of the situation, Karen begins to mingle in laughter with her sobbing, as tiny arms begin to lift her. Like ants at a picnic, the dolls carry their prize to another archway. Karen begins to drift in and out of consciousness and her head lolls back and forth, marveling at how she is being lifted up by the swarm of plastic minions. The drums begin again and the eyes of a second giant crying doll head begin to glow red. Karen smiles and chuckles as her head is inserted into the large mouth. She knows this nightmare will end soon and she will wake up. A small part of her mind, the last seed of sanity, tries to push up through the dirt of her madness, and screams in agony as the mouth begins to gobble and slurp.
Dan sits against the large tree, staring at the distant house, as the fog begins to gather again. The tendrils of fog encompass the house as it begins to fade. Whatever hope Dan had for help fades along with the house. The house glows red for a moment and then fades away like a mirage. Dan exhales, turns his head away from the place where the dollhouse once stood, and places his gaze on the side of the road where the mangled muscle car, Miss Red, smokes. At least he could spend his final moments with something real. Like a wind up doll on its final rotation, his life winds down and stops.
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