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History Center of Olmsted County’s ‘creepy dolls’ are back to save Halloween

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Old, dusty and creepy dolls sitting in a back room at The History Center of Olmsted County want to try to save Halloween.

The center is launching its second annual "Creepy Doll Contest." It was a huge success last year and even basked for a while in the national spotlight.

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing many to cancel Halloween celebrations, the contest allows for safe celebration.

"We weren't sure if we were going to have our 'Creepy Doll Contest' this year because of the pandemic," Olmsted County History Center Executive Director Wayne Gannaway said. "Then, some of our staff heard voices coming from this room, coming from some boxes. And lo and behold, it was some more creepy dolls that demanded to be let out of their boxes so they could save Halloween."

The center is inviting people to join in crowning the winning "Creepy Doll" virtually on Halloween night. To help the dolls and humans celebrate, a live band will be playing scary music as each doll is honored with its own special cocktail.

Viewers can join in by making the drink at home and toasting each doll.

There will also be a creepy doll pageant for humans. People are encouraged to dress up like a creepy doll and make a video of themselves walking a runway in their own fashion show. Staff will vote on the best video and the winner will also be announced on Halloween during the livestream.

The dolls are from the early 1800s to the 1960s. Some are made out of wax and stuffed with hay and sawdust, some have ceramic heads and there is one that is painted with lead paint and preserved in arsenic.

They all have a local connection.

"These dolls do have ties to Olmsted County," History Center of Olmsted County Curator Daniel Nowakowski said. "I know from doing research that a couple of these came from big early family names. We're going to do some more digging so we can include that family history along with the doll when they go on display."

Voting on this year’s nine contestant dolls will take place on Facebook and Instagram on Oct. 14 to 28. People can also see them in-person at the history center and cast an in-person vote beginning Oct. 1.

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Megan Zemple

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