There are 135 days left in this unyieldingly cursed year, which means that there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of things that can continue to go wrong. This month alone, a California resident tested positive for the plague; Death Valley reached what might be the highest temperature ever recorded on this planet; and North Carolina had a hurricane, at least five tornadoes, and a goddamn earthquake in the same week.
That's why when a rumor hit social media that Annabelle—the haunted doll that appeared in the Conjuring Universe flicks—had escaped from the Connecticut museum where she's been housed for the past several decades, it seemed VERY ON BRAND for 2020. Annabelle's alleged breakout made its way around Twitter, and then her Wikipedia page was edited to announce her escape in the early hours of Friday morning.
Annabelle, a large Raggedy Ann-style doll, was acquired by demonologist Ed Warren and his wife, Lorraine, a trance medium, in the early 1970s. According to the couple (who are now deceased), the doll had been bought as a gift for a nursing student named Donna. Shortly after Donna received the innocuous-looking toy, she and her roommate started noticing that it moved itself around their apartment, wrote unsettling notes ("Help Me"), and then it started bleeding from its awful little body.
Donna sought help from a medium, who told her that the apartment contained the spirit of a 7-year-old girl named Annabelle Higgins who had lived and died on the property several years before. After the doll, which they also referred to as Annabelle, allegedly clawed one of her friends, Donna called a priest, who reached out to the Warrens. The couple determined that the doll had been inhabited by an "inhuman presence" and made the totally normal decision to take it home with them where they built a protective case for it, stuck a wooden cross on top, and made it one of the centerpieces of their namesake Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut.
It would probably be… not great if she wriggled out of her tiny glass Demon Box, but Tony Spera, the Warrens' son-in-law, a paranormal researcher, and the Museum's curator, says we can all chill, because that didn't happen. In a YouTube video, he stood in front of a still-boxed Annabelle and said that she'd been there the whole time.
"Annabelle’s alive—well, I shouldn’t say alive—Annabelle’s here, in all her infamous glory," he said. "She never left the museum. I have high-tech security here. If she had left the museum I’d instantly know if something happened, or somebody broke in […] But Annabelle's here, she didn't go anywhere."
Spera acknowledged that he would be "concerned" if the doll really had given his cameras the slip. "She's nothing to play with," he said. So what could theoretically happen if Annabelle did get loose? Kat Blowers, an Arizonan who investigates haunted items and safely rehomes haunted dolls through her Etsy shop, says it wouldn't be anything good.
"Depending on how well the containment is in [the protective case], which I hear is pretty strong, I think Annabelle would go back to doing the exact same type of hauntings she has been confirmed doing in the past," Blowers told VICE. "She has been given so much attention from the living world, she would be even stronger than she was last time she was active."
Blowers said that Annabelle could try to find a "weak soul," like a child or someone who "is otherwise not strong enough to fight off her energy," and would start this whole terrifying process over again. (On the bright-slash-dark side, the script for Annabelle 4 would write itself).
For what it's worth, Spera believes that the rumors of Annabelle's escape started in a completely underwhelming way. "Annabelle Wallace, who was the original actress in the first Annabelle movie, was doing an interview about an upcoming movie that she was in with Tom Cruise," he said.
"She was talking about how he does his own stunts, and how serious he is about his work, and she also talked about how she got to run with Tom […] Apparently the interview was translated into Chinese, and the translation came out instead of 'Annabelle running with Tom,' it came out as 'Annabelle escapes.' That was the literal translation, and it caused a lot of panic around the country and around the world."
But according to Blowers, all of this doll chat has the potential to make things worse, in the event that she ever is released from her protective case. "Some spirited items do go dormant, but I don't think Annabelle ever will," she said. "We are feeding her with every article, every glance. Every time we type her name, she is getting that energy, and she will never stop feeding off of that."
2020 clearly isn't done with us yet.