The online marketplace for purportedly paranormal items is...alive and well. We asked one full-time haunted objects purveyor to help us understand.
Kathi Blowers spends most weekends evaluating old dolls for paranormal presences. For more than 10 years, she has worked as a full-time haunted items purveyor, first curating an Etsy shop focused on haunted dolls specifically before opening the online storefront FugitiveKatCreations, which, in addition to listings for antique toys like Veronika, a 1960s stockinette doll described on the site as "very active, posh, judgy, wise, in certain ways," or Liliane, a French Bru Jne reproduction who according to her shop bio "thinks modern humans are ‘like animals’ and is very disgusted by all of us," also offers peculiar, but not necessarily paranormal, objects like scented "manifestation candles" and brass bells "for altar or crystal display."
Blowers runs the haunted items shop from the Arizona home she shares with her husband, Mike, and her parents. All four help run the business, she says, though her parents prefer to not indulge in the paranormal evaluations (and aren’t too crazy about the haunted dolls that sit in their home awaiting potential buyers). The self-proclaimed Paranormal Enthusiast says she comes from a long line of fortune tellers and psychics and considers herself blessed with the gift of telepathy and intuition. Surprisingly (or not, depending on how deep your Internet dives go), she’s not alone in her endeavors—there are a number of other haunted item merchants running similar operations on eBay and Etsy, and enough believing (or at least curious) buyers to keep the market afloat. Blowers once told Vox that aside from high demand for witches around Halloween and leprechauns near St. Patrick’s Day, her best-selling dolls are usually those inhabited by "goddess-type" female spirits. Dwell recently sat down with Blowers to talk about the real work of being a haunted items seller. This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Dwell: Most people try their best to steer clear of anything on the horizon of ‘paranormal’ or ‘haunted,’ which is to say, it’s not everyday you meet a professional haunted dolls vendor. How’d you get here?
Kathi Blowers: I used to do probate auctions, where we bought up the estates of dead people. We purchased the estate of a woman who had hundreds of dolls—and it was not just dolls, but tons of weird journals, witchy stuff, bones, and jars of dead things. It was interesting, to say the least. A friend noticed that the dolls had really weird energy, though by then we had already sold a few on eBay. Some of our buyers got back to us telling us that something was ‘going on’ with the dolls. One customer told me she knew hers was haunted. That began the quest of determining which of the remaining dolls were haunted and figuring out how to sell them to people who wanted haunted dolls. So we started an Etsy shop and have since grown our website. As we started selling more, people would send us dolls they had in their homes that seemed weird to them. We created an evaluation method to determine if they were indeed haunted, and then if they were safe to sell or not.
So that was your first experience with the haunted world? How did you distinguish haunted dolls from normal ones?
Yes. I had always been a psychic child, but I had never done anything with that, until then. My friend helped me determine exactly how we should do this. They already knew a demonology guy, which is something we needed to know if these spirits were safe or not. After that, we just invited all of our friends who had good intuition. We have a team—quite a professionally diverse one in fact. Other than my husband and I, we have the demonology guy, a professional electrician, a trance meditation expert, and a yoga teacher and PTA mom. Another friend in our team, who’s a school teacher, is a highly skilled medium. We use tools such as the pendulum, Ouija board, EVP [electronic voice phenomena] recorder, K-II EMF [electromagnetic field] meter, and a spirit box called PSB-7. It’s harder than it sounds.
Each of us spends time with the vessel, and we compare our experiences and the data we collect. Our demonologist takes home the scariest vessels. I say vessel because it’s not always a doll. Sometimes we get rings, knives, jewelry boxes, gloves, and masks, too. A spirit can attach to any object. We see a good amount of dangerous and angry spirits, though I try to keep them out of my shop. Our evaluation method is rather intense and can take a couple of years, so people know that our vessels have been through everything possible to make sure they are active and friendly.
Wait, not all spirits are dangerous?
In my opinion, very few spirits are dangerous. I’d say 25 percent of spirits that I handle could be considered scary. I believe that the so-called ‘scary spirits’ tend to haunt houses and places rather than objects, while the spirits that haunt objects want attention from the living. They are the ones that can’t cross over because they cling to some need that is not fulfilled or wasn’t fulfilled at the time of their death. It is rare to get a spirit that is just hateful, but we do get them.
Angela, one of the spirits that we currently have with us, is very friendly. She is easy to communicate with, so if someone were to adopt her and sit down with her with a pendulum or spirit box, she would love to chat and would make herself available. She loves the attention. Then, there are also the ‘watcher spirits’ that like to keep an eye on everything going on in the house. They are also usually very friendly and protective. My theory is that they feel the need to protect their caregiver because they were not protected in life. Apart from those, we get a ton of neglected children’s spirits. I believe they should be given a chance to find a new family that will give them the love they never received while alive. Many child spirits tend to act like angels because they think they are angels.
How do you determine prices for these haunted items—do you take into account the types of spirits?
I try to only charge what the actual item is worth. If I have a haunted ring, I search eBay to find a similar ring, sans the spirits, and set the pricing of my ring to match that. Same with the dolls. I look up whatever that doll would be worth and charge accordingly. I’ve been told I should charge much more because of all the time that goes into the evaluation process. But if I price them at a higher rate, then people in my own tax bracket wouldn’t be able to afford this experience and I want to keep it accessible to all. I grew up poor, and though I make enough money from this business to support myself, it’s important to me that I keep my items affordable.
Have you ever met a spirit that was too strong to handle?
We recently had one that is a lot like the Annabelle type, though she is rare. We call her Nameless. While most of the vessels we deal with are friendly, needy, and ready to communicate, Nameless is one of those spirits that needs to be left in an abandoned house forever, or even destroyed. But there are some people who like the challenge of dealing with such spirits. I’d say about three percent of my clients are into the harder, scarier spirits, but the rest of us love the friendly ones.
Tell me about some of your past spirit interactions.
I have these interactions daily. I hear children laughing and feel spirits brush up against me. I tell them, ‘I can hear you,’ and I feel like they know I’m there and feel safe with me. We’ve seen the faces of dolls change expressions a lot, too. We’ve had things move in the house, we’ve had vessels move. Once, I had this vessel with a newborn baby spirit, and I could feel the baby wanting to be held. As soon as I picked her up, it felt exactly the same as picking up a crying infant. So weird! I could sense her relaxing in my arms.
You’ve probably had something haunted with you at some point and didn’t even know it. Ever go to a thrift store and feel someone’s energy in an old chair? Ever get goosebumps out of nowhere? Being consciously aware of another’s spiritual presence is what it’s like to have a haunted item in your home.
There’s a lot of skepticism around this industry. What do you have to say to people who think haunted item sellers are frauds?
I have learned to ignore the haters and disbelievers because those people shouldn’t be buying haunted items to begin with. I have been in this business for a little more than a decade. My shop has a really good reputation and people have really important, authentic experiences with my dolls.
Have you or your family experienced that negativity personally?
Oh god, yes. We live in a rural, heavily Mormon area. And it’s a small town, and they talk. Even to this day, when we go to the store in town, we can hear people whispering, ‘There’s that witch,’ or ‘[That’s] the girl with the dolls.’ But my family is used to that, especially with me. I’ve always been the troublemaker. They’re just happy I’m employed.
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