A Catalog of Disturbing Dolls

Staff PicksSoutheast Library

A Catalog of Disturbing Dolls

In case you needed more nightmares.

Glass eyes, rag dresses, and yarn curls. There's nothing like a haunted doll to make even the bravest readers shiver. Forget that old Stephen King X-Files episode and read on for some thrilling tales that will leave you frightened, but not in pieces.

Older Children Grades 3-6
Doll Bones by Holly Black
Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been great friends for ages, but are growing out of their old make believe games. When Poppy tells the others that she has been having nightmares about the china doll that they used as the queen in their games, the trio decides to go on one last quest to lay the doll to rest; but nothing goes as planned, leaving them wondering if they will ever get home to their families.

The Doll's Eye by Marina Cohen
Hadley and her mom are finally moving in with Hadley's new step-father and step-brother. Frustrated by the changes she is facing she delves into exploration of her new home and discovers a family of dolls as well as a glass doll eye that doesn't seem to fit any of them. Feeling alone and upset, Hadley starts making wishes, and soon learns that she should be careful what she wishes for.

Took by Mary Downing Hahn
When Daniel and Erica's parents lose their jobs in Connecticut, the family moves out to West Virginia. Erica is heartbroken so prior to the move they buy her a doll customized to look just like her. The West Virginia house is run down, but it's the best they can afford, so when kids at school start telling stories about a girl who lived in the house fifty years ago and disappeared, Daniel does not believe him. But with Erica retreating from her family and spending an increasing amount of time whispering to her doll, Daniel can't help but think that something is amiss.

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright
When Amy spends a week with her Aunt Claire, she can't help but notice that something is amiss with the elaborate dollhouse in the attic which is accompanied by custom made dolls of Aunt Claire, Amy's dad, and their grandparents. After a night when Amy thinks she has seen the dolls move, Aunt Claire discovers that the dolls have moved to where her grandparents were found after their grisly murder many years ago. This slightly dated classic is not for the faint of heart.

Teens and Adults
​Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Triss wakes up from a traumatic experience and something doesn't seem right. She's hungry all the time, her sister Pen is acting strange around her, and she can't shake the feeling that her dolls are watching her. As she slowly recovers from her amnesia she realizes that something truly is wrong, and that something is more than she could have ever imagined. Lovers of fantasy and historical fiction will enjoy Hardinge's riveting tale and be left to wonder whether our clear world isn't so clear after all.

The House of Small Shadows by Adam Neville
As an appraiser, Catherine is used to seeing collections of dolls, but is stunned when she has the opportunity to appraise a collection belonging to the famous deceased taxidermist M.H. Mason. Upon visiting Mason's aged niece Edith, Catherine begins to feel that she is in over her head. Perhaps it is Catherine's recent breakup, Edith Mason's eccentricities, or an event caught in her past that won't leave her alone. Neville's relaxed pacing takes a sudden terrifying turn three quarters through the book, and for Catherine, there is no looking back.

The Small Hand and Dolly by Susan Hill
In her slow lyrical style reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, Hill winds two tales of gentle horror. While The Small Hand is unrelated to this theme, in Dolly, a beneficiary to an estate is haunted by the memory of a doll he buried as a child during a summer with his cousin.

The Miniaturist  by Jessie Burton
Burton's debut fiction novel was entirely inspired by Petronella Oortman's famed dollhouse, which is housed in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. The novel borders between historical fiction and fantasy, as Nella marries a wealthy merchant in Amsterdam and he gives her a doll house as a wedding gift. When Nella orders pieces to fill the house from a mysterious local miniaturist, she begins to receive pieces she never ordered which prophetically mirror her life in her new home. While not quite horror, Burton's bestseller is full of mystery and is completely non-formulaic, keeping readers continually guessing at where the story will take them next.