How the Real Doll Behind 'Annabelle' Became Even Freakier for the Movies

If there’s anyone who knows Annabelle isn’t as innocent as she looks, it’s Lorraine Warren. A self-described “trance medium,” Warren first encountered the doll immortalized in The Conjuring and its new follow-up, Annabelle, in the 1970s. That’s when Warren — whose paranormal-related casework with her late husband, Ed, inspired the horror franchise — met a pair of nursing students and their friend, who claimed they’d been terrorized by the child’s toy. The trio said the doll moved around their apartment (think: an evil Elf on the Shelf), leaving behind cryptic notes — and occasionally scratch marks.

As depicted in the opening scene of The Conjuring, the young people told the Warrens a psychic had warned that their doll was possessed by the spirit of a deceased 7-year-old girl named Annabelle Higgins. The Warrens concluded something different: Namely, that the doll was possessed by a demonic spirit.

On the occasion of the release of Annabelle, which spins off the tale in a new direction, we contacted Warren, now 87, via her occult museum in Monroe, Connecticut.We asked about the doll’s big-screen close-up, whether any childish plaything is above suspicion, and why she and Annabelle are still together, albeit separated by glass.

In the movies, Annabelle is a menacing-looking porcelain figure. But in real life, Annabelle, which is housed to this day at your museum, is a simple Raggedy Ann rag doll. What was your initial reaction to seeing Hollywood’s version?

I thought the doll was absolutely creepy and frightening. [The Conjuring director]James Wan explained to me that he felt there might be push back from the company that holds the trademark for the original Raggedy Ann. Then he went on to explain that he just has an affinity to frightening-looking dolls, so he came up with what now is [the movie version of] Annabelle.

I think it was a good choice to use the scary doll, as a Raggedy Ann doll is much too innocent-looking. Plus, young children would then be afraid to play with their Raggedy Anns!

At the museum, Annabelle is stored in a glass case bearing a sign that reads, “Warning, Positively Do Not Open.” If the doll’s a potential danger, why keep her with you at all?

It would be quite careless on my part to get rid of it. As explained in The Conjuring, getting rid of the doll would only get rid of the vessel, not the evil that resides within the doll.

At least as it sits, we know where it resides. It isn’t out into the world causing harm to others. We have a Catholic priest who performs a binding prayer around the doll which acts as a blockade. The evil can’t penetrate the holy prayers that bind it. Think of it as similar to an electric-dog fence — keeping the dog within set boundaries.

Just between you, me, and the entire world, didn’t any of the actors or crew from either The Conjuring or Annabelle crack open the case for a first-hand peek?

Heavens, no! We allow no one to touch or handle the doll. Because by touching it, a person’s aura may mingle with the aura of that evil force within the doll, and cause great harm to the person.

Patrick Wilson [who played Ed Warren in The Conjuring] came to the museum, and was shown around by my son-in-law, Tony Spera. He said that Patrick seemed to believe the danger associated with Annabelle.

Vera Farmiga [who played Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring] opted to stay in the house, in the living room with me. She stated to me that she wanted to focus on me, so as to be able to give a true representation of me to the role she was playing.

Has your experience with Annabelle made you wary of all dolls, or only the creepy ones?

No, not at all. But remember that I am psychic. I can discern if an object or toy has any negative vibrations or evil associated with it. But, no, I am not suspicious of toys in general.

Watch an interview with Annabelle director John Leonetti below: