'Annabelle' is a porcelain doll, possessed by an evil spirit, star of her own popular movie franchise. Now, meet the real Annabelle doll.
No story of Annabelle would be complete without a discussion of the supernatural investigators who now possess the real life inspiration. Prepare to meet the Warrens, as well.
Ed Warren was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1926. The son of a policeman, his upbringing was comfortably middle class, unremarkable in most respects.
But then, sometime around his twelfth birthday, Ed Warren had his first supernatural experience:
'I'd see a light beginning to form, and it would morph into like a ball shape, like a basketball.
In the ball shape was a face. The face of an old woman, and she was not looking at all pleasant. The ball would then come into my bedroom, accompanied by heavy footsteps and audible breathing.
The room would become icy cold. An unnatural cold.'
- Ed Warren, from his biography
Ed was otherwise a knockabout kid, restless, gregarious, and verbose. Leaving school at 16 he took a job at the local cinema, which is where he met Lorraine Moran.
Lorraine would come to the cinema every Wednesday night, to catch whatever was playing; friendly and charming, she quickly caught Ed's eye. The two outgoing teenagers became friends, and later started dating.
In 1943, at the height of World War II, Ed left the cinema to join the Navy. Lorraine promised to wait for him. The couple were subsequently married when Ed had shore leave, in 1944.
After the War, the young newlyweds lived an itinerant lifestyle.
Ed, a talented painter, enrolled in art college, but found he had little desire to return to formal education. After he dropped out the Warrens moved around, working odd jobs, living out of Ed's 1933 Chevy Eagle.
Travelling the countryside, the Warren's found they had something unexpected in common.
Ed shared his supernatural experience from his childhood, Lorraine countered by advising she had inherited clairvoyant abilities from her mother. These experiences had left them both fascinated with ghost stories, demonology, and the the spirit world.
As they travelled they visited well known supernatural sites; firstly out of curiosity, then in a more deliberate fashion. They asked questions, took notes, and photographs. In their free time they read as much supernatural literature as they could get their hands on.
The Warrens had stumbled onto their life's work.
In 1952 they founded the 'The New England Society for Psychic Research,' which formalised their activities. People began to come to them with supernatural problems, asking for help.
The following is largely taken from the Warren's own website. It has been told many times, and is often presented as a 'true story'; tangible, irrefutable evidence that any of this actually occurred appears not to exist.
But this is the story of the real Annabelle doll, as the Warrens tell it.
In 1970, a young Connecticut mother bought a 'Raggedy-Ann' style doll as a gift for her daughter.
After receiving it, the daughter, Donna, took the doll back to a flat she shared with her friend, Angie. Within days, the two women began noticing odd things happening.
The doll seemed to change position when they weren't looking at.
At first this was confined to the position of its arms, or head, later it seemed to be able to move from room to room. If Donna left the doll in her bedroom in the morning, when she returned in the evening she might find it in the lounge room.
Creepier still, were the messages. These began to appear after a month, dropped in random spots around the apartment.
'Help us,' said one.
And, 'Help Lou' another.
The messages were scrawled in a simple, childlike hand, on screwed up pieces of paper.
Things escalated further.
Donna returned to the apartment one day to find the doll on her bed, oozing a red, viscous substance from its hands. A friend, curiously also named Lou, who stayed on the couch reported that the doll attacked him, climbing up his leg and trying to strangle him (although later he would say this may have been a dream, after all).
It was time to get help.
Donna called in a local psychic who examined the doll, and conducted a séance in the apartment. The psychic was able to contact a spirit, named Annabelle, who claimed to have been murdered on the apartment building's location, many years before it was built.
Her restless spirit had taken up residence in the doll, as a means for her to interact with the world of the living.
Alarmed, Donna contacted her local priest, to see if he could help remove this presence from the apartment. The priest, Father Cooke, referred the case to the Warrens.
Ed and Lorraine duly came to the apartment to investigate. They concluded that the doll itself was not possessed, and that the 'Annabelle' story was false.
Rather, they determined that an evil spirit had fixated on Donna and was controlling the doll, externally, using it to communicate. The spirit's ultimate objective was to possess Donna herself, enabling it to live again.
The Warren's arranged for an Episcopalian exorcism to be conducted at the apartment. This extensive cleansing ritual, lasting several hours, was designed to promote positive energy, and so expel any evil presence.
At the conclusion of the exorcism, the Warren's declared the apartment cleansed. For good measure, they took the Raggedy-Ann doll, now known as 'Annabelle', with them.
While the story is often told, many details are lacking.
The full names of Donna and Angie, and Donna's mother, have never been revealed. Similarly, the location of the apartment where the possession manifested, or the shop where the doll was bought, have never been disclosed.
The case has been investigated by sceptics, and most objective observers think the Warren's made the whole story up.
The Warren's continued to investigate paranormal events through the next three decades.
Among their other well known cases is the 'Amityville Horror', a famous haunted house in Long Island. The house was the scene of a mass murder in 1974; the family that moved in subsequent, reported they were menaced by evil spirits.
The Warrens investigated, and were featured in a best selling book about the case, written by Jay Ansen. The book was later adapted into a film, that would spawn a highly successful and long running franchise.
The Warrens were again accused of helping fabricate the story. Although the family who claimed to be haunted always stood by their version of events, and even took a polygraph to help convince sceptics.
As their collection of photos and artefacts grew, the Warren's would eventually open an 'Occult Museum'. They spent their later years leading tours, and showing their prize exhibits to curious visitors.
Kept in a custom built box, fortified with prayer scrolls and other psychic defences, was the original Annabelle doll.
A sign on the front read, 'POSITIVELY DO NOT OPEN.'