Dollopween October 3: John Lawson House

I may earn money from the participating companies linked in this post: (supporting my nearby independent bookstore Bluebird & Co, in Crozet, VA) and/or Audible. My podcast is sponsored by Audible and Care/Of.

Ask people what frightens them. Dolls usually make the top of the list, right? If people don’t collect them, they are horrified or at least ooged out by them. (I’m on the cusp, if you care. I own some, but have “met” some I don’t ever want to see again, thank you).

This doll story could be paranormal, it could be the bizarre pet project of a very special doll collector. Both options are creepy. Listen to me. Either option is creepy. Someone playing house with man-sized dolls in an abandoned home is not somehow more soothing than a haunting. Nope, that person lives in Nopetown.

So, let me introduce you to the John Lawson House, of New Hamburg, Wappingers Falls, New York.

Looks relatively harmless. right? Needs some paint and fixin', that's all. HA, I say to you, HA.
Looks relatively harmless. right? Needs some paint and fixin’, that’s all. HA, I say to you, HA.

From Atlas Obscura:

Two townhouses before the trains leading south into New York City lies a home whose guests are of an uncanny nature…a porch occupied by a changing number of life-size female dolls dressed in different trends from the twentieth century, whose number, position, and theme vary from day to day.

While all the other houses on Main Street are somewhat modern, the Greek Revival wood frame structure of the John Lawson House, built in 1845, is one of the only surviving structures on the block from an 1877 fire. On the day that the first four of the photographs above were taken, two of the three dolls were facing an abandoned building down the road that is well known as the only other surviving historical house on the block. The remaining doll was facing the Hudson River to the west.

Notice “on the day”. They move and change clothes. They move and change clothes.

But why this house?

In 1871, amidst a two-week record-breaking cold wave, a train wreck occurred in which 22 people were killed less than two hundred feet away from the house.

Oh. OH.

Who wants to bet this house was used as hospital triage?



Often times the dolls are found pointing towards the area of the crash site. Other times, they’re discovered with their heads looking towards the only other historical house left of the street, which has sat abandoned for many years.

The dolls have…um…toys. A slingshot, a milk carton, a stool with a scrub-brush and towel, bowls of potpourri, books, a spinning wheel, a bird cage, a well-kept garden

They go inside on rainy or snowy days, and turn on lights at night.

And they are wearing makeup and white gloves. Isn't that...horrifying. I want my mom.
And they are wearing makeup and white gloves. Isn’t that…horrifying. I want my mom.


The less creepy option is that it’s ghosts. Why, you ask?

Because if it’s people, it’s someone like this guy. This guy dislocated living humans’ joints and made marionettes out of them. Still think ghosts are scarier? Foolish mortal:

the Criminal Minds human puppeteer: Season 8, episode 10
the Criminal Minds human puppeteer: Season 8, episode 10
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