A few months ago, a "very haunted" laptop went up for auction on eBay. Obviously, my co-workers and I wanted to buy it immediately, but it was too pricey. Shockingly, we were not granted permission to expense a $3,000 haunted laptop.
That was how I started a search that led me to Mary.
You can buy a lot of haunted things off the internet. Or, if you're a skeptic, you can buy a lot of "haunted" things off the internet. I try to be a skeptic, but if I'm being totally honest, I'm very afraid of ghosts. I can't sing the Ghostbusters theme song without lying. I realize that makes a lot of people think I'm a huge idiot, but I'm not the only idiot. According to a BuzzFeed poll, 55% of respondents said they believe in ghosts. (Just kidding, guys, I know we're not idiots.) And if you don't believe in ghosts, congratulations. You don't have to deal with the stress of walking past a mirror at night and worrying you might see a horrific face. MUST BE NICE.
When the laptop didn't work out, I went looking for a more affordable ghost. One of the easiest to find comes in the form of the classically terrifying haunted doll: eBay has dozens of creepy haunted dolls for sale — many at reasonable price points! You can even get a haunted Beanie Baby. See below for a haunted Beanie Baby frog.
I decided to buy a haunted doll, but I had to choose the right one. While browsing eBay's vast selection, I learned a lot about the doll-collecting world. Apparently, a problem that arises for people with large collections of dolls is that at least one will be haunted. But it can be impossible to tell which one, leading many doll enthusiasts to sell off their entire collections to try to eliminate the ghosts in their homes.
"I am having way too much paranormal activity in my home as I have collected over 400 dolls," said one eBay listing.
Another doll listing stated, "I started buying dolls online and in antique stores and shortly after started experiencing things like my doors opening and closing on their own, my bedroom door knob jiggling when I'm home alone, and hearing whispers."
One seller even said her daughter threatened to move out of the house unless she got rid of the dolls.
This doll below also came with some guidelines.
"This is Buddy. Buddy is a 4 year old little boy that is anchored to this nice clown doll… If you are afraid of the paranormal, please do not bid on him. Fearful people tend to not make good homes for spirit children."
Hold up, "NICE clown doll"? Come on.
I knew I wanted to find a doll that seemed haunted but not TOO haunted and definitely not too scary-looking.
So, not this one.
Or this one.
That's when I came across Mary.
She didn't look horrifying. The eBay listing insisted she was a "positive spirit," which seemed nice. There was also an incredibly detailed backstory about how the ghost anchored to the doll was a teenager in the 1950s who lived in Ohio and liked to paint. How did the seller know this? Well, naturally, the ghost of Mary came to the doll's owner in a dream and revealed this information. The listing stated that if you bought the doll, she would come to you in your dreams too. Compared to doors slamming on their own, a dream haunting actually seems quite pleasant. I was sold. (For $33.99.)
Do I really think all the "haunted" dolls for sale on eBay are actually haunted? Ehhh, probably not. But would I keep one in my home? Hell no. Instead, I had Mary shipped to my office.
On the day she arrived, my co-workers looked on with skepticism as I unboxed my new haunted doll. I immediately felt like I had to treat her with respect or risk the wrath of a ghost. "I feel bad that she's wrapped in bubble wrap," I said as I freed her. "It's a doll!" replied a co-worker, who would likely regret taking that tone with Mary the haunted doll. The doll smelled musty, wore a tasteful plaid dress, and had some weird yellow gunk on her eyes.
My co-workers were largely not thrilled to have a haunted doll in the office. The negative reaction was stronger than I anticipated. The phrase "el diablo" got thrown around a lot. People wanted to burn sage. Our workplace harassment training did not cover paranormal activity, so I wasn't sure if I was creating a hostile work environment or not. Mary was supposed to be a positive spirit! How could anyone be afraid of something wearing such a jaunty velvet hat?
I polled BuzzFeed readers to see if they thought the doll was scary. Readers ended up being braver than BuzzFeed employees — only 35% of respondents thought Mary looked haunted. But to be fair, they did not have to spend time with her.
I sent an email reminding everyone not to touch my haunted doll. My warning was promptly disregarded. I'm not sure what part of "don't touch my haunted doll" is so difficult to understand, but people couldn't quite grasp it. Needless to say, people moved the doll. And took selfies with it.
Some people obviously didn't fear the potential consequences of mocking a ghost. (By the way, Mary does NOT need a boyfriend. Her ghost is only 16 years old and would rather focus on her painting, I assume.)
So I put up a sign to make sure everyone knew that this was a haunted doll and not just some regular, non-haunted doll.
In spite of R.L. Stine's assessment, nothing ghostly seemed to be happening around the office, though it's possible all of the haunting occurs at night when no one is around (thank god).
Things got more interesting when I started using a ghost-tracking smartphone app called Ghost Radar. The app claims to make it possible for paranormal energies to manipulate your phone. As a result, the app tells you when a ghost is allegedly nearby, and also translates words that a ghost is trying to communicate with you.
Any time I used the app around Mary, it said it detected a ghost. One of the first words the app detected around Mary was the word "loving." (So maybe she IS a positive spirit.) I took Ghost Radar for multiple strolls around the office to see if it detected ghosts in other places, but it rarely detected anything. There was almost no activity on the app unless my phone was around Mary — except for one other corner of the office containing a water cooler and a life-size cardboard cutout of Ryan Gosling, which also seemed particularly haunted according to the app.
The words the app picks up from the spirit world seem very random, though sometimes disturbing. The first time I felt scared of Mary was when the ghost app detected the word "incubus" in her presence. I was also not a fan of the word "nightmare." Another disturbing sequence of words was "cave," "earthen," and "bones." Had Mary been murdered and buried in a cave? It seemed likely.
The most relevant thing the ghost app picked up from Mary was the word "Ohio." Mary's seller on eBay said the ghost had lived in Ohio when she was alive. Another ghostly coincidence occurred when I skipped a kickboxing class to go to happy hour. I pulled out my ghost app at the bar, and the spirit world said "exercise" and "tonight." Apparently ghosts will not miss an opportunity to shame you for your life choices.
Plus an added benefit of having a ghost app on your phone is you can pull it out during awkward silences at a bar when you've run out of things to talk about and just start hunting ghosts until people decide to stop talking to you completely because you're being too weird.
The eeriest thing the app picked up from Mary were the words "fear," "astral," and "release." Was her spirit trapped inside the doll? Did we need Jennifer Love Hewitt from the canceled CBS show Ghost Whisperer to help her spirit cross over and finally be at peace? This was getting intense, and I was starting to grow fond of Mary. Maybe too fond. Some of my co-workers theorized that Mary had possessed me. I found myself saying things like "I am her keeper and I'll do as I please," which was a little disturbing, but not necessarily paranormal.
The only notably weird physical thing that happened was the time I was talking about Mary and a piece of plaster fell off the ceiling. People nearby blamed Mary. But my office building is pretty old, and that just didn't seem like her style.
In the time that has passed since Mary's first day in the offices, attitudes toward her have shifted. One co-worker who threatened to quit when Mary first came out of the box recently hugged her (even though she still smells musty as hell) and said, "We love and respect Mary." Either this doll is not haunted at all, or she's managed to possess us all.