Autumn is upon us, replete with all things paranormal and pumpkin spice. Hollywood once again offers us an opportunity to be terrified for the cost of a movie ticket and large popcorn. Annabelle (2014) isn’t the first “playful” villain that has captured our collective attention: for a half a century, scary toys have come alive in books, on television, and on the big screen.
“Who Hates Ya, Baby?”
A 1963 episode of The Twilight Zone featured Telly Savalas and a doll that looked and sounded eerily like the popular Chatty Cathy. The dolls sound alike for a reason: June Foray, the original Chatty Cathy voice, recorded Talky Tina’s lines for the episode. In “The Living Doll,” Savalas’ ill-tempered character is livid when his wife buys his stepdaughter a Talky Tina doll. When his wife and step-daughter are out of earshot, Talky Tina expresses her displeasure: “My name is Talky Tina, and I am going to kill you.” Twilight Zone host Rod Serling gives the audience this “reassuring” epilogue: “Of course, we all know that dolls can’t really talk, and they certainly can’t commit murder. But to a child caught in the middle of turmoil and conflict, a doll can become many things: friend, defender, guardian…”
Meddling Mothers Beware
In 1975, the ABC Movie of the Week featured Trilogy of Terror, starring Karen Black. In “Amelia,” one part of the trilogy, a meek woman buys a Zuni hunting doll for her anthropologist boyfriend’s birthday. Amelia’s domineering mother harangues her for breaking their long-standing Friday night date to meet with her boyfriend instead. After the confrontation, the gold necklace that keeps the Zuni warrior spirit trapped inside breaks off of the doll. Despite a valiant struggle, Amelia succumbs to possession. In the final scene, we see her lying in wait for her mother, teeth bared and knife at the ready.