The Vine: March 9, 2012
It is entirely possible that I have managed to conjure the most bizarre Ask the Readers question in the history of The Vine. It is also possible that no one has an answer other than, "This is obviously the product of your crazed, pseudo-Faulkner/Tennessee Williams Southern Gothic family." And I'm okay with that.
When I was a little girl, my mom, her mom and some combination of aunts, great-aunts and older cousins told my brother and me a story one night while we were eating dinner. I was probably five, so my memories of the details are fuzzy. Essentially, they told us about magic people called Dummy Dolls who live in the woods. Dummy Dolls are very little people. They are very shy and they can't talk, but if you ever see one, they can answer all your questions by nodding or shaking their heads. You won't ever find one when you're in the woods, but sometimes, out of the corner of your eye, you may see one duck behind a tree. The only way you can ever talk to a Dummy Doll is to go outside at dusk and stand at the edge of the woods and invite them to your house by shouting politely, "Dummy Dolls, please come visit me!" and then when you come inside, there might be one hiding somewhere in the house. There may have been more to the back-story, but I don't remember anything else specific.
So, of course, my brother and I go flying outside to call the Dummy Dolls and lo and behold, when we come back inside, we find a Dummy Doll in one of my grandmother's dimly-lit guest bedrooms. Now, the secret of the Dummy Dolls was that while we were eating dinner, one of our teen-aged cousins sneaked into my grandmother's house and one of my aunts painted a face on the back of her hand. Then she made a fist, tied a doll bonnet on it and put a long doll dress on her forearm, with the neck at her wrist. When we went out to call the Dummy Dolls, she got under the guest bed and stuck her arm out, kind of like a puppet. Since the room was fairly dim, it all looked very real to a couple of pre-schoolers!
In retrospect, it's weird and creepy. That, however, hasn't stopped us from wanting to do it for my niece. However, as far as we know, the last time anyone in the family did it was 25 years ago, when my sister and second cousin were the pre-schoolers and I was the junior-high-aged, under-bed puppeteer. One of my aunts-by-marriage went through this whole "Magic is like Devil Worship" period and her kids weren't allowed to do it and it just kind of faded away.
We want to make sure it's tons of fun for my niece, but we can't remember the story that goes before the puppet-y part. There may not BE a story. I scoured the internet, but all Googling for "Dummy Doll Puppet Under Bed" brings up is nightmare-fuel pictures of ventriloquist dummies and an episode of The Twilight Zone. If there is a folktale or fairy story that pertains to this, we would love to have it to read to the Niblet before we do anything.
And also, I'm just curious to know if this is just one more example that most of my family may actually be monkey-banana-poo-crazy. The only pertinent information I have is that the whole thing has been floating around the fam for a loooooong time. The first Dummy Doll Hunt we know of was done by my grandmother and her younger sister for their oldest niece, sometime during WWII. (And then that cousin did it for Mom, who did it for cousin's kids, who did it for me, who did it for my sister and cousins!) Of course, it could be even older. Or I could just be related to people who are completely nuts.
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