Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Dark History Of Annabelle

Annabelle. You know the name. If you've seen any of the films that this creepy, sinister doll appears in, then you can probably see her soulless face in your mind's eye right now. There's a primal fear of the supernatural that this doll evokes — whether it's her cinematic rampages or the mysterious real-world stories behind her demonic presence, Annabelle is no doubt a horror icon in her own right. Director James Wan introduced Annabelle at the start of his "Conjuring" universe — a film franchise that has connected multiple horror stories, some of which are based on real events. This doll set the stage for a world of frights that has built on Wan's masterful and simple introduction.

Whether in film or real life, Annabelle has a rather dark history. In film, she holds significant roles in four movies and has made a few cameo appearances in others. While the cinematic version is highly recognizable, some may not be familiar with the real-life doll her movie counterpart is based on. The actual Annabelle isn't a vintage porcelain doll at all. Instead, it's a stuffed Raggedy Ann doll. While Raggedy Ann may not be horrific on the surface, looking at her can still conjure an unsettling feeling in your gut, simply by knowing what we've seen regarding her legend. Let's look at moments in the history of Annabelle — both fictional and real — that are shrouded in mystery or terror.

The demon was invited into the doll by grieving parents

The cinematic Annabelle doll has pretty dark beginnings. Of course, the entity that inhabits the doll is of infernal origin. But the circumstances surrounding the demon's hold over the doll arise from the worst inner turmoil and despair that human beings can possibly endure. Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) is a dollmaker by trade. The Annabelle doll is, in fact, his creation. Some time after he puts the finishing touches on it, he and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) experience an unimaginable tragedy: Their daughter is killed before their eyes as she is struck by a car in the road.

As one could expect, the couple retreats emotionally and puts up walls to deal with their grief. Soon a spirit enters their home pretending to be their late daughter, asking to inhabit the doll so that it could be with them. Blinded by their own sadness, they agree, simply to feel the presence of their daughter near them once again. But they quickly learn that they have made a terrible mistake. Once the entity gains a foothold in the Mullins' home, it clamors for their souls. Esther even loses an eye in a daring attempt by the entity to take her soul. The throes of grief are often a pit of emptiness and loss, but only a demonic entity would take advantage of such pain solely to inflict more.

She stalks the DC Extended Universe

Annabelle's presence is overwhelming. Why else do you think the Mullins had to create a room covered in pages from the Bible and sanctified with holy water before locking her in a closet within a locked room? In the cinematic world, Annabelle has even become something of an icon outside of her own horrific movies, appearing in another line of big budget films from the studio she happens to call home, Warner Bros. Pictures.

The DC Extended Universe is apparently no stranger to Annabelle, who seems to get around the DCEU. She appears in the David F. Sandberg-directed "Shazam!" in the opening moments of the film. As young Billy Batson enters a pawn shop, the doll can be seen perched on a shelf on the left side of the screen. Of course, this connection makes even more sense considering that Sandberg also directed "Annabelle: Creation." The doll also appears at the bottom of the ocean in "Aquaman," perhaps intending to take a stab at haunting the Atlanteans. Additionally, in the most recent trailer for "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," Annabelle can be seen sitting at a child's table in a pediatrician's office. One Easter egg is a cameo, but three appearances to date must really mean she exists within the DCEU, right?

The first Annabelle film is an homage to Rosemary's Baby

"Annabelle" features a young couple with a baby on the way who are eventually tormented by the idea that a demon is after their child's soul. It's a harrowing story that takes some cues from horror movies of the past. In fact, if the set-up of the story feels familiar, then you might have "Rosemary's Baby" on the brain. The 1968 movie is one of the all-time classics of horror cinema, so it's not surprising that "Annabelle" might take a few cues from it.

Along with a couple living next door to a family that's connected to a Satanic cult, and an infant targeted for demonic possession, there are actually many other homages in "Annabelle" to one of the most iconic films in the horror genre. For starters, the names of the couple in "Annabelle" are John (Ward Horton) and Mia (Annabelle Wallis). These are direct references to the two stars of "Rosemary's Baby," John Cassavettes and Mia Farrow. There are also striking visual cues, such as the vintage baby stroller visible during the scene in which Mia descends to the basement. It's a moment that solidifies the demon's goal of taking her child's soul. The setting of "Rosemary's Baby" is an upscale apartment on New York City's Upper West Side, while the majority of "Annabelle" occurs in John and Mia's new home — which is also a luxury apartment, only in Pasadena, California.

Annabelle is a beacon for all things sinister

There's no mistaking that Annabelle is evil. There's nothing happy about the spirit that inhabits the porcelain tot. In the first "Annabelle" film, Mia learns very quickly that the demon-possessed doll intends to take her newborn. But not everything is black demonic visages, levitating objects, and teleportation with Annabelle. In fact, she has other purposes that are revealed as her saga goes on.

"Annabelle Comes Home" actually portrays the doll as a beacon that attracts other supernatural beings. Despite having a demon swirling around inside her, she also can induce multiple hauntings from several different specters. One such spirit that gravitates toward Annabelle's power is the Ferryman, a horrific, ghostly apparition with coins over its eyes. A tormented bride, something inside a Feeley Meeley board game, and a werewolf-like spirit known as the Black Shuck are other spirits that come out to play when Annabelle comes calling. The demon hardly needs to do much work after all. If summoning other spirits to haunt vulnerable victims mercilessly is an option, it's a wonder that the demon didn't use this method to begin with.

The demon behind Annabelle can eviscerate victims

Just how much damage can an otherworldly spirit do? Demons have been known to possess their targets, but aside from levitating and tossing items around the house, do specters really ever physically maim or kill their victims? It's often a game of frights and a test of wills. But can a demon physically destroy a victim?

The "Annabelle" series seems to answer that question. In "Annabelle: Creation," the demon doll torments her creators, the Mullins. The demon seems to aggressively pursue Mrs. Mullins' soul more than any other previous target. At first, the demon scoops out Esther's eye with its fiery claw. Unfortunately, it isn't finished with poor Esther either. 

Years later after the orphan girls are invited to stay with the Mullins, they unwittingly unleash Annabelle upon the household to continue her reign of terror. After the demon possesses one of the girls and begins to prey on the rest, it targets Esther and seemingly rips her in half after nailing the top of her corpse to a wall — pretty grisly stuff. While we don't know the ins and outs of how demons work, one must wonder why the demon didn't start with that level of carnage.

A mysterious death was connected to the real-life Annabelle doll

The real-life doll that the cinematic Annabelle is based on is nowhere near as menacing as her movie counterpart. What sort of horror films would we have if Hollywood didn't take plenty of creative liberties to ensure that we're totally scared out of our minds? Regardless, real-life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren would still tell you that Annabelle is not to be trifled with. In fact, they claimed (via The Sun) that it was the most haunted item in their collection of occult artifacts.

If the evil within Annabelle is truly to be believed, then she may have one real-world death on her hands. According to Tony Spera, the Warrens' son-in-law, the Warrens specifically instructed all who viewed Annabelle not to get too close or touch the glass case that contains her. One person allegedly disregarded the warnings and, after mocking the doll, was asked to leave. A short while later, he was killed in a motorcycle accident. Is there a connection? Apparently, this demon has very thin skin if it can't take a little light ribbing from the likes of a human. Whether it's a ploy to truly build up the mystique of the doll, or there is actual danger, is for you to decide.

The Conjuring opening is closer to the real Annabelle's actual origin

In the "Conjuring" universe, Annabelle is quite the prolific haunter. She's been around for a few decades making her way from rural farms to antique stores before finally landing in the Warrens' Occult Museum. The films would have you believe that Annabelle's life as a doll began with her creation in 1943 by a lowly dollmaker. However, her origin story as told in "Annabelle: Creation" doesn't line up with reality.

In fact, the story given to the Warrens in the introduction of "The Conjuring" is the closest depiction of how the hauntings actually began. A young girl and her roommates explain to the Warrens that the doll is a gift from her mother. Soon, they notice peculiar happenings occurring, such as the doll shifting around their apartment at random. Initially believing it to be a friendly spirit, the girls engage with it before realizing it's a malevolent force.

In real life, according to The Sun, it was a 28-year-old woman who reached out to the Warrens. She did receive the doll from her mother as a birthday gift. All the same events as described in the film began occurring, including the doll leaving messages scrawled on parchment. One of her friends also felt like he was being strangled by an unseen force and received scratches on his body. Sounds like the Annabelle we all know and fear.

A rumor started that the real doll escaped

We all know that 2020 was an awful year. The COVID-19 pandemic and unrest across the country seemed to coalesce into one horrible experience for everyone. There really wasn't much else that could occur that would make it any worse — unless the Annabelle doll that's creeped us out through four theatrical films escaped its confines in the Warrens' Occult Museum. For a short while, internet search engines would have you believing that this was the case.

Thank our lucky stars that this didn't actually happen. Instead, this event was conjured up (see what we did there?) through a series of unfortunate miscommunications and internet rumors. According to Snopes, the rumor originated from an interview with Annabelle Wallis in the Hollywood Reporter, in which the actress — who played Mia in the first "Annabelle" film — discussed running with Tom Cruise while filming "The Mummy." The article was accompanied by a scene of the title monster escaping its confines. When this information hit foreign language social media sites, it morphed into "Annabelle escaping" — which fired up the rumor mill about a certain doll.

Other Annabelle concepts for the films were more terrifying

We know, it's hard to believe that a more terrifying doll than the one in the films could exist. Beneath that pale face and pair of glass eyes lies an infernal presence that hails from the darkest abyss imaginable. It's a soul-piercing gaze and one that viewers won't soon forget. Yet somehow the "Annabelle" concept artists tried even harder to totally scare us out of our wits with even more frightening designs for the evil little doll.

You can view the pictures at Dread Central. One of the concepts shows a fractured porcelain doll that's missing an eye and has its paint faded. Another idea depicts a doll in a wedding dress and veil with eyes that are seemingly removed. Somehow, the gaping black holes in the sockets are even creepier than the glass eyes of the Annabelle doll that showed up on camera. While scary, these two concepts would be hard to sell in the story — after all, what kind of psycho parent would purchase one of these two dolls for their child? At least when it's all cleaned up, the final version of Annabelle featured in the films is believable as a collectable doll that antique connoisseurs might want in their collection.

Surprisingly, Annabelle only kills four people in the movies

There are four movies that feature the horrors of the Annabelle doll, including "The Conjuring." After four films of terrifying and stalking human beings, you'd think that Annabelle has claimed a handful of souls by the end. However, that's not entirely the case. There are only three people that the demonic entity inhabiting the doll kills directly, while a fourth victim is claimed as a result of the person's own choice. 

After the demon is unleashed in "Creation," it targets the Mullins with a vengeance. It seems like it's a little bitter for being locked away for several years. It kills Samuel Mullins even while he is standing strong with a crucifix firm in hand. As we've already covered, it completely eviscerates Esther Mullins. The demon then possesses young Janice and takes the name of Annabelle before landing in another orphanage. Once Janice/Annabelle is all grown up, she attacks her parents and then ends her own life, seemingly so the demonic spirit can repossess the doll. At the end of "Annabelle," Mia's newfound friend Evelyn sacrifices her soul so that the demon will leave Mia and her child alone. "Annabelle Comes Home" is full of terrors, but no casualties.

The real Annabelle doll really does reside in a protective case

Are Ed and Lorraine Warren worry warts? Or is there really a vital need to contain relics they deem as haunted? Annabelle is, perhaps, the most popular item in their entire collection. "The Conjuring" only furthered her mystique. The film attempted to underscore the power that Annabelle holds, as an object linked to a demonic entity, by having the Warrens take great care to ensure she is locked away.

Believe it or not, the actual Annabelle doll is locked away in a very similar case to the one shown in the films. It also features the same warnings on its glass door. Spiritually speaking, it's been blessed and protected with a tarot card. That seems to do the job, as the doll hasn't caused any trouble for quite some time. The Warrens' son-in-law, Tony Spera, has shared that despite its terrifying history, many folks still reach out to him regularly and attempt to purchase the doll. To date, despite having some high numbers thrown his way, Spera has remained stalwart and undeterred in his responsibility to keep Annabelle locked up. We can't say we blame him.