Rochester’s most deeply cursed October tradition is back.

The History Center of Olmsted County has unleashed nine more playthings to haunt your Facebook, Instagram, and dreams in this year’s Creepy Doll Contest.

Events coordinator Abby Currier said voting is open at the history center and online -- and soon, one doll will be named the spook supreme.

At one point, the dolls in the annual competition were well-loved children’s toys. Their owners might even be surprised to see them in the running.

One contender this year, nicknamed “Mrs. Havisham,” was donated in the 1960s with a note, “belonged to Ella Graff about 1880, which she has treasured all these years.”

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“There’s really not an awareness of their creepy factor -- we’ve just decided and applied it to them,” Currier said.

A doll on display at the History Center of Olmsted County in Rochester on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, as part of the center's creepy doll contest. The dolls will be on display for in-person voting through Oct. 22. Voters can also participate online on the center's Facebook page. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
A doll on display at the History Center of Olmsted County in Rochester on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, as part of the center's creepy doll contest. The dolls will be on display for in-person voting through Oct. 22. Voters can also participate online on the center's Facebook page. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Some of the atmosphere is created by shadowy displays and photographs, she added, as well as staff-chosen names (“Lizzie Borden,” “Miss Abyss, “Cloudy Eye”).

Choosing each year’s contenders is more art than science, Currier said, with some obvious criteria (“Do I find this doll creepy?”) and some more esoteric -- she went for a variety of mediums (ceramic, corn husks, fabric), sizes, and types -- baby dolls that have seen better days, a wicked-looking clown and an assortment of eerie porcelain dolls.

“Our collection spans from basically fossils all the way up to 2018,” she said. “The 21st-century dolls, I do not find particularly creepy.”

Of course, the History Center has begun to reap what it sows in nightmare material -- dozens more creepy dolls shipped to the organizers.

“Since the contests started, we have been seeing an uptick in doll donations,” Currier said. “Not always helpful ones, since all of our donations have to be tied to Olmsted County in some way.”

A doll on display at the History Center of Olmsted County in Rochester on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, as part of the center's creepy doll contest. The dolls will be on display for in-person voting through Oct. 22. Voters can also participate online on the center's Facebook page. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
A doll on display at the History Center of Olmsted County in Rochester on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, as part of the center's creepy doll contest. The dolls will be on display for in-person voting through Oct. 22. Voters can also participate online on the center's Facebook page. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Not to worry, though -- there are enough unsettling playthings lurking in the History Center’s archives to last for years.

There are no repeat contenders in the Creepy Doll contest. There are, however, repeat doll-donors, including one creepy doll connoisseur whose collection is featured in 2020 and 2021’s contests.

Online voting has started on Facebook and Instagram, and the dolls are at the History Center at 1195 West Circle Drive SW for viewing and in-person voting.

All nine of this year's creepy contenders and the two past winners will oversee a “Creepy Doll Cocktail Party” at 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at The Castle. See the center's website for more information and tickets, www.olmstedhistory.com.