So, hey, here’s something fun to spook you out this afternoon: Queen Elizabeth II’s childhood dolls just sold at auction, and they low-key terrifying. Look! I have pictures! That way, we can all tremble in fear together! Good thing the auction already happened, right? The dolls went on the block at Burstow & Hewett — an auctioneer and valuer in East Sussex, UK that was originally established in 1790 — on Wednesday, Sept. 20; that means that, alas, if you were planning on throwing your proverbial hat into the ring, the only way you’ll be able to do that is if you’ve got a time machine. (Do you have a time machine? Can I ride in it? Please?) It also, however, means the dolls can’t accidentally find their way home with any of us. Right?
The collection, which also included royal baby clothes and a nanny uniform, came from the family of Clara Knight, who had nannied both the first Queen Elizabeth, known as the Queen Mother, as well as Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister, Princess Margaret. Matt Ellin, a specialist at Burstow & Hewitt, told the Telegraph, “Clara lived and worked extremely closely with the royal family and was given these clothes and dolls from time to time which she would then send to her family.” The dolls in particular are all estimated to have been gifted to Knight in the ‘30s; Queen Elizabeth II, who was born in 1926, would have been between the ages of four and 14 during those years. Knight died in 1946 (the Queen Mother, Princess Elizabeth, and Princess Margaret all attended her funeral), although the artifacts that made up the lots of this auction are believed to have been in the family for over 70 years.
While I’m not really sure the four dolls included in the auction are strictly “haunted,” I get what Jezebel’s Kelly Faircloth was getting at by describing them as such; even if they have displayed no signs whatsoever of possessing otherworldly powers (which, as far as I can tell, they have not), they are, as antique dolls are wont to be, creepy as heck. They include this lady in red:
Who is a pressed felt doll likely from Dean’s Rag Book Company, which was founded in 1903 and specialized in making “rag books” — a book for children printed on cloth rather than paper. They were also known for their teddy bears and dolls, however, of which this one is thought to be a specimen. Valued between £200 and £300, she sold for £250.
There were also these two gals:
Both of whom are thought to have been made by doll designer Norah Wellings for the company Chad Valley. Chad Valley was in operation from around 1897 to 1978, according to Doll Reference; the company began making cloth dolls somewhere around 1917, while in 1938, it was granted the Royal Warrant of Appointment as “Toy makers to her Majesty the Queen.” These two dolls were each valued at £200 to £300; the first sold for £250, while the second went for £120.
And lastly, there was… this:
Like the doll in red, this pair of Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls were made by Dean’s Rag Book Company; valued between £300 and £500, they sold for a whopping £880.
I also find them to be the most terrifying selection of the bunch, but maybe that’s just me and all the baggage I tend to bring to things like this. For the curious, this is what Mickey looked like around 1930:
These dolls were obviously well-loved, and although Queen Elizabeth II is many things, I wouldn’t consider “creepy” to be one of them. So what is it about her toys that causes us to shudder involuntarily and click over to another tab so we don’t have to look at them anymore? There are a lot of reasons why some people find dolls scary; my own personal theory centers around the uncanny valley.
Although the term was originally coined in reference to robots, it describes how humans react to humanoid objects — that is, things that look human, but which aren’t actually alive. We’re OK with — and even like — objects that appear humanoid in form, but only up to a point. When things start to look too human, they inspire in us feelings of the uncanny — that is, they’re the familiar made strange. A humanoid figure that really creeps us out instead of making us love it has plummeted due to its specific characteristics into the uncanny valley, as illustrated by this handy-dandy chart.
Also, history is scary. We can read about it, but we can’t experience it once it’s past, so we don’t really understand it in any way other than intellectually. And I think old items — artifacts from another time — remind us of that fact. They make us square with how unknowable the universe can be.
In any event though, all of these dolls and toys have since found new homes. I hope they make their owners happy — and that they do not start scratching them in the middle of the night.