The Origin of Annabelle

We have already looked at the haunting of the Perron family that inspired the original ‘Conjuring’ film and the story of Arne Cheyenne Johnson that served as the inspiration for ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.’ Now it’s time to dig back into the case files of self-proclaimed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren and inquire into the story behind everybody’s favorite haunted doll, Annabelle.

In ‘The Demonologist,’ it is indicated that the now infamous Raggedy Ann doll was purchased as a birthday gift for a young nurse named Deirdre Bernard by her mother in 1970. (Other sources have identified the woman as Donna.)

These specific details were contradicted by Ed in an interview with Tony Spera on an episode of ‘Seekers of the Supernatural.’ During the interview, Ed claimed that Deirdre had received the gift in 1971 as a Christmas present.

This will not be the only time the details of Annabelle’s origin will be contradicted, leaving one to question what is real and what is a fabrication.

Below is a combined story of the events listed in ‘The Demonologist’ and the events described by Ed during the interview.

Shortly after receiving the doll, Deirdre started to notice that it would be in a different position than the one she left it in. She would place the doll on her bed with its arms off to its side and its legs straight out before leaving for work. But, when she would come home, the doll’s arms would be folded on its lap and its legs would be crossed at the ankles.

This reportedly went on for a week before Deirdre came up with the idea to leave the doll with its arms and legs crossed in the morning to see what would happen. When she returned to the apartment, she found the doll in a completely different position.

Soon, Deirdre would come home to find the doll not only in a different position, but in a completely different room from where she had left it. It wasn’t uncommon for her to find the doll on the sofa despite the fact she had left the doll in her room before she left for work.

It wasn’t just Deirdre who started to notice the strange happenings that surrounded the doll.

Deidre, who worked at the Hartford Hospital, shared the apartment with fellow nurse Lara Clifton. (Other sources have identified the woman as Angie.)

On one particular night, both women returned home from work to find the doll kneeling in a chair by the front door. When the girls tried to recreate the position, they found it was impossible to keep the doll from flopping over.

The situation only got stranger from here. Soon, the two would come home to find handwritten notes, with writing which resembled that of a small child, on parchment paper with the messages, “Help Us” and “Help Cal.” The latter referred to Cal Randall, Lara’s fiancé. (Other sources have identified the man as Lou.) Upon searching the apartment, neither woman could find any parchment paper, or even a pencil, which is what the messages appeared to be written in. Convinced that someone had to be playing a practical joke on them, the two put marks on the windows and doors, and also arranged the rugs, so that no one would be able to enter the apartment without them knowing.

Perhaps feeling like its notes were not getting its message across, the doll continued to bid for the two girls’ affection. It went so far as to give them a present. Supposedly, on Christmas, the two found a chocolate boot on top of their stereo. Neither of them had bought the item and they had no idea how it had got there. Cal/Lou also claimed not to know how this particular item got into the apartment.

It would take Deirdre six weeks from the time she first received the doll to finally decide to contact somebody. According to ‘The Demonologist,’ the official moment she decided something was seriously wrong with the doll was when she came home one night to find blood on the back of the doll’s hand, along with three drops of blood on its chest.

This particular breaking point is later contradicted by Ed in his interview with Spera, where he claimed that on one particular morning, Deirdre decided to bring the doll into the kitchen as a joke and put it in one of the kitchen chairs. Finding this funny, Deirdre brought the doll out again the next day. The two young women would interact with the doll, speaking to it and treating it as if it was a real person.

Wanting to keep up the game, Deirdre brought the doll to the kitchen for the third day in a row, but it was on this day that, while sitting in the chair, the doll raised its arms on its own and placed them on the table. Instead of instantly frightening them, the duo were intrigued by what had just happened and wanted to find out how this innocent-looking toy had been able to move on its own.

Whatever the motivating incident was, this led to the girls contacting a medium, who came to the apartment and conducted a séance to attempt to make contact with whatever was moving the doll.

Introducing Annabelle Higgins

According to ‘The Demonologist,’ during the séance, the medium managed to make contact with a spirit that identified itself as seven-year-old Annabelle Higgins. She revealed that, when she was alive, she used to play in the fields where the girls’ apartment complex now stood, and that it was also in this field where she had been murdered.

When asked why she had chosen the two nurses, she stated that, due to their younger age, she thought they might be more inclined to want to play with her; that’s why she started moving their doll.

This is where the girls reportedly learned that the doll itself was not actually possessed but, rather, was being manipulated by this alleged spirit of Annabelle.

While this is the origin provided in the Warrens’ book, Ed would once again contradict himself on ‘Seekers of the Supernatural.’

On the show, he gave a completely different version of Annabelle’s origin, stating that Annabelle had been a six-year-old girl who was killed in an automobile accident just outside the girls’ apartment.

Whatever version of the story you choose to believe, the end goal appears to be the same: the spirit that had identified itself as Annabelle Higgins wanted permission to possess the Raggedy Ann doll.

As explained by Ed, this should have been the first clue to the girls that the spirit was not actually who or what it claimed to be, for God does not allow the soul of a child to enter a doll.

Unbeknownst to the girls at the time, they agreed to allow Annabelle to stay with them and take up permanent residence inside the doll.

The young girls soon began talking to the doll, taking it with them when they left the house, and they also began to buy it clothes and jewelry. To them, the doll was no longer just an inanimate object; it was now Annabelle Higgins.  This is when the doll officially became known as Annabelle. 

A Close-Up Image of One of The Pieces of Jewelry They Bought and Gave Annabelle

Following the séance, the girls figured the strange occurrences surrounding the doll would cease; after all, they were now giving the doll the recognition it had so desperately craved.

But now that they had invited the evil into their lives, the supernatural activity only increased.

According to Ed, the girls reported hearing “knocking sounds” coming from inside the apartment, followed by the lights flickering on and off. Their beds would shake while they attempted to sleep and, at times, the apartment would become “icy cold.” Along with the knocking, the girls would hear otherworldly whispering with no discernible cause. 

When the girls did have to leave Annabelle to go to work, they would come home to find the doll standing in the front entrance, waiting for them to return.

One time, a statue lifted into the air and began to tumble in the air before falling onto the floor on the other side of the room.

Annabelle Starts to Become Violent

Lara’s fiancé Cal, however, did not share the same sentiments toward the doll. He revealed to the Warrens that, from the start, “he didn’t like the doll and the doll didn’t like him.” According to Ed, he even informed the girls to “throw it away” and even went so far as to suggest they “burn the doll,” stating that he believed Annabelle to be “evil.”

It was this distaste for the doll that allegedly led to it paying him a visit one night while he slept.

According to a story told in ‘The Demonologist,’ after falling asleep at his own residence on an unspecified night, Cal suddenly had a dream in which he awoke to find Annabelle sitting at his feet. The doll suddenly began to glide up his body until it reached his chest. Perched atop his chest, the doll supposedly then it “put its arms out and started to strangle him.”

He recounts that he was writhing and trying to push the doll off his chest, but that it “wouldn’t budge.”

This story would be told with slight differences in Ed’s interview with Spera. On the show, he stated that Cal had fallen asleep inside the girl’s apartment while Annabelle sat in a chair not far from where he was sleeping. 

Although he doesn’t give much detail about the events that transpired within the dream, the basic story is still the same: Cal had experienced a dream in which he was being strangled by Annabelle.

In this version, though, he adds that Cal had awoken to find that he had marks on his neck where the doll had strangled him in his dream. 

He added that, after finding the marks, he walked over to where the doll was sitting and picked it up. He then threw Annabelle across the room proclaiming, “You’re nothing but a rag doll, you couldn’t hurt anyone.”

After doing this “seven scratches” allegedly appeared across his chest.

Then one of the living room chairs rolled across the room by itself and a bunch of the pictures started to fall off the wall and shatter onto the floor.

This incident of Cal receiving the scratches appeared within ‘The Demonologist’ but it was not in relation to Cal’s dream.

In the book, it stated that, in one particular instance, the trio heard strange sounds coming from Deidre’s room. Upon entering the bedroom to investigate the source of the noise, Cal found that the room appeared to be empty except for Annabelle, who appeared to have been tossed onto the floor in a corner of the room.

Upon discovering the doll, he suddenly got the sensation that something was standing behind him and, after turning around, he felt a painful sensation in his chest and reached up to discover the aforementioned scratches.

The story would go on to add that, despite being deep enough to draw blood, the marks were completely gone by the next day.

It became clear to the three at this point that what they were dealing with was not the spirit of a little girl. Rather, it was a malevolent entity, an entity that they had welcomed into their lives with open arms.

Annabelle, The Conjuring

Enter the Warrens

Not knowing who to turn to, the two nurses contacted their local Episcopal church and, according to Ed, the moment they made the call, a loud pounding sound started to reverberate throughout the apartment.

It became clear to the girls that whatever was living in their apartment was not eager to leave.

The exact chain of individuals involved is different in both versions of the story, but the final result is the same: the Warrens were eventually contacted and became involved in the case.

After hearing about the girls’ situation, the Warrens visited the apartment and officially learned about the existence of Annabelle.

The first thing the Warrens informed the trio of was that an exorcism would have to be performed on the apartment, for the thing they willingly invited into their lives was not Annabelle Higgins, but rather something demonic.

They informed the girls that the entity had tricked them into giving it recognition, something that it used to manipulate and exploit them.   

They also informed them that calling in a medium was a big mistake on their part. This allowed the evil spirit to provide them false information and to trick them into making their biggest mistake of all: giving it permission to reside within the doll.

The Warrens warned the girls that, although the entity was currently manipulating the doll, its end game was the three of them. The attempted strangling and the scratches across Cal’s chest were just the beginning. Given enough time, it would have continued to break them down till it managed to take what it truly wanted: their lives. 

An exorcism was then performed in each room of the house and on the three of them. According to Lorraine, this proved to be sufficient in expelling the presence from the apartment.

Following the exorcism, the Warrens decided that the best course of action would be to remove the doll from the apartment.

According to ‘The Demonologist,’ the Warrens placed the doll in the back seat of their car. Not entirely convinced that the spirit had given up so easily, Ed decided to take the less inhabited back roads back home as a precaution.

Lorraine Warren Pictured Holding Annabelle

In no time, the Warrens began to experience mechanical problems. Ed would lose control of the steering wheel and when he attempted to apply the brakes, the car refused to listen, as if somebody had tampered with the brake lines.

The third time this occurred, Ed reportedly splashed the doll with holy water. This action abruptly caused the vehicle to resume normal function and the remainder of the trip was without incident.

After bringing Annabelle home, the Warrens placed it on a chair in Ed’s office. Here the doll would resume its supernatural antics.

According to ‘The Demonologist,’ the doll levitated in the air on numerous occasions. Like it had within the apartment, the doll also appeared in different rooms of the house from where it had been placed. 

These phenomena would go on for weeks before the Warrens finally decided to have a special box constructed for Annabelle; the same box where it would sit on display within the Warrens’ occult museum for years. 

Annabelle Attacks

According to Ed, on one particular day, Father Daniel Mills, a Catholic priest, came to the Warrens’ residence to show them the brand-new car he had just purchased. While at their home, he decided to pay a visit to the museum and it was there that the priest made the mistake of picking up the doll and stating, “You’re just a rag doll, Annabelle. You can’t hurt anything,” before tossing the doll onto the chair.

Despite Ed’s telling the man that the doll was not to be trifled with, the priest chose to ignore his warnings, proclaiming that, “God is more powerful than a devil.”     

Less than an hour later, while driving home from the Warrens’, he lost control of his new car, as if something had suddenly taken over his vehicle. The man’s car was then struck by a tractor trailer truck, resulting in the back half being sheared completely off.

When recounting his tale, the priest claimed to have seen an image of Annabelle in his rear-view mirror just before the accident.

Annabelle Claims It’s First Soul

Annabelle, The Conjuring, evil

Another tale shared by Ed about the dangers of crossing Annabelle involves a group of college kids who visited the museum. One of the kids went up to the case and started knocking on the glass. Having no faith in the story, this individual stated, “This doll can’t do anything,” and then dared Annabelle to “put slashes in him” right there, just as it had done to Lou.

Upon seeing this, Ed asked the man to leave and warned him not to mess with things he didn’t understand.

The story then goes that, on his way home, he lost control and ended up crashing his motorcycle into a tree. He was killed instantly upon impact. His girlfriend, who had been riding with him, ended up surviving the accident but, according to Ed, she would be hospitalized for “over a year” due to the severity of the injuries she sustained.

She would later state that, at the time of the accident, they were laughing about the notion of Annabelle.

According to Ed, this would be the only recorded death accredited to Annabelle.

Horror Facts About Annabelle

  • The infamous Raggedy Ann doll was purchased as a birthday gift for a young nurse named Deirdre Bernard by her mother in 1970, or as a Christmas present in 1971 according to other sources.
  • Deirdre noticed the doll would be in a different position than the one she left it in, with its arms folded on its lap and its legs crossed at the ankles.
  • Deirdre and her roommate, Lara Clifton, found the doll in different rooms and in strange positions, and also discovered handwritten notes with messages on parchment paper.
  • They found a chocolate boot on top of their stereo, which no one had bought or knew how it got there.
  • Deirdre decided to bring the doll into the kitchen as a joke, and the doll raised its arms on its own and placed them on the table.
  • A medium conducted a séance and made contact with a spirit identifying itself as seven-year-old Annabelle Higgins, who wanted to possess the doll.
  • The spirit caused supernatural activity including knocking sounds, lights flickering, shaking beds, and otherworldly whispering.
  • The doll would be found waiting in the front entrance, and a statue lifted into the air and fell across the room.
  • Lara’s fiancé, Cal, had a dream in which Annabelle strangled him, and later found scratches on his chest.
  • The Warrens were eventually contacted and learned that the entity was not Annabelle Higgins but something demonic, and an exorcism would have to be performed.

Looking for more on The Conjuring Universe? Check out the haunting that inspired the film!

Updated November 12th 2023