Ah, creepy dolls. They seem to be a staple part of every museum, horror movie, antique shop, and spare bedroom in our grandmother’s house. But what makes these old dolls so utterly terrifying? Despite dolls being a part of any child’s toy collection in the last 4,000 years, ancient dolls tend to carry a certain horribleness about them. It’s hard to decide if it’s their worn-down clothing, their beady eyes, or their peeling makeup which makes them so spooky. However, the terrifying toys have been a significant part of culture and anthropology from the beginning of time. So, why the heck are old dolls such a terrifying part of the 21st century?

They’re just like us… but not

Many vintage dolls tend to represent the human form to a tee. Porcelain dolls were originally produced for adults instead of children; they were made to model high-end clothing. As a result, many looked uncannily like people. There something pretty unsettling about lifeless toys that look like just like us, right? Psychologists seem to agree. However, the reason why isn’t because they look like the empty shells of tiny humans. Rather, it boils down to the dull faces which are often fashioned on old dolls. Humans use the evaluation of other’s faces to pick up on their emotions, mannerisms, social cues, and more. Our brains never stop piecing apart the faces of those around us. Pretty cool, right? Well, when it comes to dolls, they don’t have many expressions to offer.

The main reason that dolls are so unsettling is that most of them lack any sort of facial expressions. Their hollow eyes and lackluster/nonexistent smiles tend to invoke terror in humans who rely on the changing expressions of people. These classic toys fall into what is called the “uncanny valley.” While we’re able to recognize that dolls are inanimate and lifeless, their human form says otherwise. Yet, their never-changing faces are a major contradiction to their human bodies. Porcelain, wax, and other types of kitschy, haunted, vintage dolls tend to offer rather flat facial features and they’re pretty creepy as a result.

Alternatively, some dolls look freaking demonic

Before the era of dolls as models, many dolls didn’t resemble humans at all. While adults tended to feel discomfort from human-like dolls, children didn’t give much regard to what their dolls resembled. Some pretty odd toys came out of their indifference. Additionally, early dolls often represented culture and resources in certain communities. As a result, many early dolls were created in the assumed image of people without many doll-making resources at hand. Dolls produced with sticks, clay, and stray pieces of clothing could be quite terrifying in their final form. Yet, even communities with resources to produce normal-looking dolls found ways to twist up some pretty wicked toys.

The Amish community created a line of what is arguably the most horrifying strand of half-human dolls ever produced. Amish faceless dolls are cloth dolls created with mouthless, eyeless, and noseless faces. They are supposed to represent that all people are equal in the eyes of God. However, they take the cake for being the most frightening toys in the eyes of the human population. These dolls, along with other mutated, twisted portrayals of the human form, strike fear in humans by creating an “alienated” copy of the human body. Dolls fashioned with animal heads, oddly shaped bodies, bizarre human functions (they can pee?), and other toy abnormalities are extremely jarring for the typical human.

They were made from actual humans

In the present day, dolls are constructed of plastic, cloth, fibers, and other artificial materials. However, back in the Victorian days, the Barbie plastic mold wasn’t a part of the doll making industry. Rather, dolls often casually included the body parts of human beings and animals. Could you imagine playing with a doll that has hair from a human head? What about a porcelain one made from “bone china,” a mixture between clay and bone ash from cows? Yes, this may sound super twisted, but it’s been happening for centuries.

In the olden days, people didn’t think much of using human and animal parts to construct their toys. After all, what else could create the appearance of real hair and milky skin other than the real deal? Many of the toys from the Roman era even utilized raw bone and fur to produce their dolls. Now, you’re unlikely to find any dollmakers who finish off their creations with human parts. However, you might want to think twice before picking up a stray bisque doll from an antique store. It’s certain to give you the heebie-jeebies and it also might have a bit of human included.