The chilling true story of the real doll behind ‘Annabelle’

The supernatural realm. The home of ghosts, demons, and hauntings. In this realm, there exist few characters and stories that elicit such a combination of fear and recognition as her – Annabelle.

Her name and likeness became famous through the Conjuring film series. She has now become synonymous with tales of dark, supernatural encounters. Annabelle is now almost a household name. She is famous for her terrifying, unsettling gaze.

Beneath the lights and cameras of Hollywood, Annabelle blurs the lines between reality and imagination. The history of the real Annabelle doll is just as strange and chilling as what you see in the films.

The original Annabelle doll on display. Warrens’ Occult Museum

The Haunting of Donna & Angie

The real story of the haunted Annabelle doll begins back in 1970s America. In 1970, a mother purchased a vintage Raggedy Ann doll named Annabelle as a birthday gift for her daughter, Donna.

Little did they know that this innocent-looking doll would soon become the source of both fascination and terror. Donna was a student nurse living at college with a roommate, Angie. She took the doll thinking nothing of it.

Things began to get weird soon after. Supposedly, Annabelle started to mysteriously move around Donna’s apartment. She left peculiar messages on parchment paper, even though Donna didn’t have any parchment paper in her possession.

Some of the messages were directed at a friend of Donna’s, Lou, who hated the doll. He sensed something seriously off about it.

Perplexed and concerned, Donna sought out a medium for help. They made a chilling revelation. According to the medium, Annabelle Higgins, a young girl who tragically passed away at seven years old, was believed to possess the doll.

Donna and Angie both felt uneasy. They were caring and compassionate nursing students. So they decided to allow Annabelle to stay. It wasn’t long, however, before the situation took a horrifying turn.

Allegedly, one day Annabelle attacked Donna’s friend Lou. This was the same friend who Annabelle directed her cryptic notes to. She attempted to strangle him and she left what looked like claw marks across his chest.

They feared for their safety. They were unable to comprehend the strange occurrences. Therefore, Donna and Lou reached out to a priest. This priest contacted paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren for assistance.

Demonically Possessed

Donna and Angie accepted the aid of the Warrens. They knew they needed someone more experienced and knowledgeable about such strange and threatening circumstances.

The Warrens quickly realized that the doll was not merely haunted by a ghost. They deduced that she instead harbored something much more sinister. An inhuman and malevolent spirit.

According to their assessment, the doll acted as a conduit for a demon. They said it was demonically possessed. And its target was Donna. To address the escalating danger, the Warrens decided to perform an exorcism on the doll.

Their attempts to free Annabelle from the demon’s grip proved unsuccessful at first. Undeterred, the Warrens took custody of the doll. They recognized the urgent need to contain its malicious influence.

They placed Annabelle in a bag and embarked on a cautious journey home. They avoided highways to minimize the risk of any further interference from the malevolent force.

As they traveled on back roads, the Warrens encountered a series of harrowing incidents. The car’s engine malfunctioned, power steering failed, and even the brakes posed a challenge.

Fearing the demon’s interference, Ed resorted to sprinkling the doll with holy water. This provided a temporary respite from the disturbances. This eerie episode underscored the powerful grip the demon had on Annabelle. It left the Warrens acutely aware of the dark forces they were dealing with.

Annabelle is Moved to the Warrens’ Occult Museum

After acquiring the doll, the Warrens realized that Annabelle’s presence was too powerful to be contained within their home. They recognized the doll’s capacity to evade locks and wreak havoc. 

Therefore, the Warrens constructed a custom case to confine Annabelle’s influence. Annabelle found itself in a new home. She was put in an exhibit in the Warrens’ Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut.

Visitors to the museum were met with a chilling warning that taunting the doll was not without consequences. Numerous individuals who dared to disrespect Annabelle faced alarming fates. Many had near-fatal or fatal accidents shortly after leaving the Warrens’ presence.

The doll’s reputation as a harbinger of misfortune grew. It instilled fear in even the most skeptical observers. Despite being encased within the secure confines of the museum, Annabelle’s malevolent energy persisted.

Even within the locked case, the doll managed to maintain a sense of unpredictability. It would occasionally resurface in different rooms of the Warrens’ home. It defied any notion of containment.

Sensing the doll’s resurgence, the Warrens sought the assistance of a Catholic priest to perform an exorcism on Annabelle. But they underestimated the danger they faced. In a twist of fate, the priest’s brakes failed. 

This resulted in a horrific accident that totaled his car. Though he survived, it served as a grim reminder of the relentless power connected to the doll.

Today, Annabelle supposedly remains within her secured case at the Warrens’ Occult Museum, although it closed some years ago.

Controversies and Skepticism

The real Annabelle doll, as presented by Ed and Lorraine Warren in their Occult Museum, has long faced its fair share of skepticism and controversies. 

Many critics dismiss Annabelle as an ordinary object, with nothing supernatural about it. But some suggest that the demonically possessed doll trope, popularized by movies like Child’s Play and The Conjuring, may have been influenced by earlier legends and stories.

They argue that the ‘real’ story of Annabelle is just another construction along those themes. They claim that finding supernatural evil in everyday objects allows modern demonologists to see malevolence in any average, creepy-looking object.

Science writers and academics have long criticized the Warrens’ Occult Museum. They stated that many of the myths surrounding the exhibits may have been self-generated. They believe Ed and Lorraine Warren aren’t reliable, truthful sources.

Many doubters question the lack of concrete evidence for Ed Warren’s supernatural claims about Annabelle. They emphasize that their history relies solely on his accounts.

Despite the controversies, the Annabelle story continues to captivate. It blurs the lines between fact and fiction in the realm of the supernatural. And ultimately, it’s up to each of us to decide for ourselves – is Annabelle real? Or is she just a doll?


Annabelle. Accessed May 18, 2023.

Eidell, Lynsey. “The Real-Life Story behind Annabelle Is Even More Bone-Chilling than the Movie.” Glamour, October 7, 2014.

Ryan, Joal. “How the Real Doll behind ‘Annabelle’ Became Even Freakier for the Movies.” Yahoo!, October 3, 2014.

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