The History of Creepy Dolls

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Pollock’s Toy Museum is one of London’s loveliest small museums, a creaking Dickensian warren of wooden floors, low ceilings, threadbare carpets, and steep, winding stairs, housed in two connected townhouses. Its small rooms house a large, haphazard collection of antique and vintage toys – tin cars and trains; board games from the 1920s; figures of animals and people in wood, plastic, lead; paint-chipped and faintly dangerous-looking rocking horses; stuffed teddy bears from the early 20th century; even – purportedly – a 4,000 year old mouse fashioned from Nile clay.

And dolls. Dolls with “sleepy eyes”, with staring, glass eyes. Dolls with porcelain faces, with “true-to-life” painted ragdoll faces, with mops of real hair atop their heads, with no hair at all. One-hundred-and-fifty-year-old Victorian dolls, rare dolls with wax faces. Dolls with cheery countenances, dolls with stern expressions. Sweet dolls and vaguely sinister dolls. Skinny Dutch wooden dolls from the end of the 19th century, dolls in “traditional” Japanese or Chinese dress. One glassed-off nook of a room is crammed with porcelain-faced dolls in 19th-century clothing, sitting in vintage model carriages and propped up in wrought iron bedsteads, as if in a miniaturized, overcrowded Victorian orphanage.

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