When most people think about the paranormal, there’s a very good chance that the first place their minds go is a dark and scary one. It’s an honest and uncontrollable initial reaction, but one that can, and should be overcome. Ruby the Haunted Doll is a great reminder of why the paranormal doesn’t have to be a dark and frightening subject.
Ruby has been a part of the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and the Occult since the very beginning. Long before we’d ever decided to take our supernaturally-influenced objects on the road to haunted locations across the country, Ruby was a much-loved piece of our personal collection of strange artifacts.
Ruby was given to me by my good friend Meghan, who, at the time of our conversation, had the doll hidden away in an old attic, stuffed into a cardboard box with some board games and books. As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. Meghan told me that the doll had been a strange point of contention among her family members for decades. This doll, she said, was haunted, but because of its complicated and uncomfortable history, dealing with the haunting wasn’t as simple as calling a priest or burying the object.
Ruby had been a family heirloom for a handful of generations, though as the years wore on, Meghan’s family had become less and less welcoming of having Ruby as a houseguest. One look at her and it’s easy to understand why they might not want her on display in their homes, but her appearance wasn’t the only reason that Ruby had spent the last several decades stored away in boxes, storage units, and musty basements.
According to the family, the well-worn heirloom came with all the usual features of a creepy haunted doll. It moved around the room seemingly of its own accord, produced strange sounds, and generally terrified and disgusted anyone with the slightest belief in the supernatural. Ruby, though, had another unique ability: she seemed to make anyone in her immediate vicinity feel ill. Meghan said that the antique doll had a knack for causing headaches, allergies, exhaustion, and most commonly, overwhelming nausea.
As it turns out, Ruby belonged to a very distant member of Meghan’s family, a very ill little girl who died when she was quite young. In fact, the family maintains that the girl died while holding Ruby in her arms. The uncomfortable and often unspoken feeling that Ruby gave the family was that their long-dead relative is likely still attached to her favorite doll.
What do you do when you believe that a family member, one with whom you have no tangible connections to other than blood, refuses to move on? It’s a complicated situation, for sure. No one wants to believe that they’re discarding the spirit of a relative, and yet, few want to deal with a haunting. Meghan admitted that her family, who were all church-going, born-again Christians, had at one point even gone against their beliefs about “dabbling in the occult” and hired a psychic medium to help the girl pass on. It didn’t work, and so they fell back on passing Ruby around from house to house, a trail of bumps in the night and chronic illness following her.
Knowing that I’d spent the better part of my life investigating paranormal activity, Meghan asked me if I would be interesting in giving Ruby a home where she, and her family, knew she would be safe, respected, and potentially even helped. Of course, I said yes. Ruby the Haunted Doll officially became a member of our strange family that day.
At first, Ruby didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, and we credited her tales of apportation and sickness to a group of people having worked themselves up over an old family legend, a sad situation, and a creepy doll. It’s understandable, and it happens more than you might think.
Eventually, Greg and I founded the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and the Occult, bringing a rotating collection of our most interesting haunted items to events in some of the world’s most haunted locations, and Ruby’s story was one we felt needed to be told. It seems like all Ruby needed was a crowd to get her to come out of her shell, because that’s when the really strange events started to occur.
Most who come into contact with Ruby walk away having felt no headaches, no nausea, no onset of a chronic illness. Many, though, have a different, more unusual response, one that was hard to ignore. What we began to notice was that close to half of all the people who took the time to actually hold Ruby reported being overwhelmed by familiar, maternal feelings. In fact, most people who held her began to rock her back and forth, treating Ruby as you would a living child, with a number of them actually breaking down into tears due to an overwhelming, sudden affection for her.
Stranger still, is the fact that museum visitors will be performing these motherly actions without even realizing what they’re doing. I’ve had full conversations with people who have been bouncing Ruby, rocking her, even burping her the entire time. It’s not until I point it out their actions that they even remember they’re holding Ruby. As you can imagine, the shock tends to hit them fairly hard, especially if their initial reaction to Ruby was to recoil in horror from the “creepy doll”. It’s as if she’s sending a message: “I’m not scary.”
For the most part, despite her stained clothing and cracked face, Ruby has never done anything particularly frightening, and that’s the lesson I love to teach to visitors to the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and the Occult. Not everything that looks creepy is out to terrorize you, possess you, or drag your soul to the depths of hell itself. In fact, it’s very rare that any entities, human or otherwise, are trying to get you to do anything but understand them. All you need to do is overcome your ingrained fears and listen closely for the message these items are trying to send. Deciphering that message is another story entirely.
A few weeks ago, Ruby sent one of her strongest messages yet, and it’s one we’re still attempting to understand.
Ruby’s interactions with the general public have always been contained to emotional events. That is, until the 20th Anniversary Haunted America Conference. After the event, Lisa Taylor-Horton, author and Haunted America Conference organizer, contacted us with a strange report that accompanied a mysterious photograph on her phone, one she swore she didn’t take. That photo was of Ruby.
Haunted America Conference founder and prolific history and hauntings author Troy Taylor summarized the strange event on his Facebook page:
Strange things happen at the Haunted America Conference, especially when the Planet Weird Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult is involved. Even though she never touched, handled or photographed any of the objects from the museum, my partner in crime Lisa Taylor Horton ended up with an unwanted souvenir from the museum.
On Saturday night / Sunday morning, long after the conference had ended and the museum had been packed away, a very strange event occurred. Following the Ghosts of the River Road dinner tour (Lisa forgot her phone in her room for this one), the late evening seance and cocktails with friends, Lisa plugged her phone in and went to sleep. It was a little after 2:00 AM.
The next morning, Lisa checked out and started for home but we stopped along the way for lunch. That’s when she noticed that her phone was almost dead, even though it had been plugged in all night — and that’s when she looked at the photos on her phone.
The latest photo was the weird one. It was a photo of “Ruby,” a doll and one of the artifacts in the museum. A couple of problems, though… The time stamp on the photo was 2:46 AM, and stranger, Lisa didn’t take it! She was asleep at the time and Ruby had been packed away hours earlier!
What happened?? We don’t know. So far, there is no logical explanation for what occurred, or at least we haven’t come up with it yet. All that I can say is that if you’ve ever wondered about the authenticity of the objects in the museum — I think you can stop.
Perhaps it’s possible that Ruby has become aware of the kind of attention that some of the museum’s objects like The Crone, The Idol of Nightmares, and The Dark Mirror have been getting, and, in her very sweet fashion, Ruby picked the least terrifying way to make contact with someone whom she felt a connection with. If the young, sickly girl who died all those years ago is still attached to her favorite doll, maybe there was something about Lisa that drew her attention and made her want to reach out and make contact.
For now, we’ll continue to bring Ruby with us to events around the country, and we’ll continue to let people have their own special experiences with her, because I believe she’s a shining example of what real paranormal activity can look like. For many of us, we’ve become so accustomed to expecting haunted objects to be terrifying, aggressive, and “demonic”, likely due to what we see on television and in movies, but there’s nothing scary or creepy about Ruby.
If we’re to believe what Meghan’s family believes, there’s a sweet little girl still holding on to Ruby’s cracked hands, and maybe today, that little girl is finding comfort in the people who interact with her. In her own way, she’s just reminding us that she’s still here, wanting to be loved and respected, just like anyone else.