One of the creepiest parts of the truly scary The Conjuring is the evil possessed doll Annabelle, who makes up the cornerstone of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s spooky museum of trophies. Director James Wan redesigned Annabelle for the movie, giving her a much more disturbing appearance, but in real life Annabelle was just your run of the mill Raggedy Ann doll.
Donna got Annabelle from her mother in 1970; mom bought the used doll at a hobby store. Donna was a college student at the time, and living with a roommate named Angie, and at first neither thought the doll was anything special. But over time they noticed Annabelle seemed to move on her own; at first it was really subtle, just changes in position, the kinds of things that could be written off as the doll being jostled. But the movement increased, and within a few weeks it seemed to become fully mobile. The girls would leave the apartment with Annabelle on Donna’s bed and return home to find it on the couch.
Their friend Lou hated the doll. He thought there was something deeply wrong with it, something evil, but the girls were modern women and didn’t believe that sort of thing. There must be an explanation, they reasoned. But soon Annabelle’s actions got even weirder – Donna began to find pieces of parchment paper in the house with messages written on it. “Help us,” they would say, or “Help Lou.” Just to make the whole thing that much creepier nobody in the house had parchment paper. Where the hell was it coming from?
The escalation continued. One night Donna returned home to find Annabelle in her bed, with blood on her hands. The blood – or some sort of red liquid – seemed to be coming from the doll itself. That was enough; Donna finally agreed to bring in a medium. The sensitive sat with the doll and told the girls that long before their apartment complex had been built there had been a field on that property. A seven year old girl named Annabelle Higgins had been found dead in that field. Her spirit remained, and when the doll came into the house the girl latched on to it. She found Donna and Angie to be trustworthy. She just wanted to stay with them. She wanted to be safe with them.
Being sweet, nurturing types – they were both nursing students – Donna and Angie agreed to let Annabelle stay with them. And that’s when all hell broke loose.
Lou started having bad dreams, dreams where Annabelle was in his bed, climbing up his leg as he lay frozen, sliding up his chest to his neck and closing her stuffed hands around his throat, choking him out. He would wake up terrified, head pounding like all blood had been cut off to his brain. He was freaking out. He was worried about the girls.
A few days later he and Angie were hanging out, planning a road trip, when they heard someone moving around in Donna’s room. They froze – was it a break in? Was there an intruder in the apartment? Lou crept over to the door, listening to rustling within. He threw open the door and everything was as it should be – except Annabelle was off the bed and sitting in a corner. As he approached the doll Lou was consumed with that feeling, a burning on the back of the neck that indicates someone was staring at you and he spun around. Nobody was there. The room was empty. And then sudden pain on his chest. He looked in his shirt and saw a series of raking claw marks, rough ditches in his flesh that burned. He knew Annabelle had done it.
The weird claw marks began healing almost immediately. They were totally gone in two days. They were like no wounds any of them had ever seen before. They knew they needed more help, and they turned to an Episcopalian priest, who in turned called in Ed and Lorraine Warren.
It didn’t take the Warrens long to come to their conclusion: there was no ghost in this case. There was an inhuman spirit – a demon – attached to the doll. But they warned that the doll wasn’t possessed; demons don’t possess things, only people. It was clinging to the doll, manipulating it, in order to give the impression of a haunting. The target was really Donna’s soul.
A priest performed an exorcism on the apartment and the Warrens took possession of the doll. They put it in a bag and began the long drive home; Ed agreed to stay off the highways because there was a concern that the demon might fuck with the car, and at 65 miles an hour that would be disastrous. And sure enough, as they drove on the back roads, the engine kept cutting out, the power steering kept failing and even the brakes gave them trouble. Ed opened the bag, sprinkled the doll with holy water and the disturbances stopped… for the moment.
Ed left the doll next to his desk; it began levitating. That happened a couple of times and then it seemed to just quit, finally laying quiet. But in a couple of weeks Annabelle was back to her old tricks; she started appearing in different rooms in the Warren home. Sensing that the doll was ramping back up the Warrens called in a Catholic priest to exorcise Annabelle. The priest didn’t take it seriously, telling Annabelle “You’re just a doll. You can’t hurt anyone!” Big mistake: on his way home the priest’s brakes failed, and his car was totaled in a horrible accident. He survived.
Eventually the Warrens built a locked case for Annabelle, and she resides there to this day. The locked case seems to have kept the doll from moving around, but it seems like that whatever terrible entity is attached to it is still there, waiting. Biding its time. Ready for the day when it can again be free.