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Mysterious Places: The House of Dolls

I am an author and paranormal enthusiast who has published numerous books and articles on the subject of true unexplained phenomena.

The John Lawson House*

The John Lawson House*

The House of Secrets

In the quant town of New Hamburg, New York, smack dab in the middle of Main Street, sits a two-story wood frame structure that has graced the block since 1845. In 1877, when a devastating fire laid waste to the area, it was one of only two houses that remained intact.

Even though the neighborhood was eventually restored to its former glory, something was different about what is now known as the John Lawson House, in honor of its original owner. For starters, no one can remember ever seeing an actual person coming or going from the residence.

In spite of there being no signs of life at the home, in the 1990s, three adult-sized dolls began appearing on the porch nearly every day, remaining there until well past sundown. The only thing that altered their outings was inclement weather which tended to keep them confined indoors.

The dolls, which were always attired in period clothing with makeup and dated hairstyles to match, were often observed clutching an odd hodgepodge of objects including baskets containing kitchen towels and hairbrushes. They were also seen holding books as well as other reading materials. In one particularly odd instance, a witness claimed that they saw an empty birdcage perched on the lap of a seemingly bemused mannequin.

Over the years, images of the haunting figures were captured numerous times on film. While their presence was undeniable, the identity of the puppet master left locals scratching their heads.

Neighbors claimed that the only hint that someone was alive inside the home came in the form of a flickering light that was occasionally seen glowing in the kitchen window. This occurred late at night and only lasted for a short time before being extinguished.

The fact that this phenomenon was observed at all is surprising, given that the windows were hidden by heavy drapes that appeared to have been put in place for the sole purpose of preventing passersby from glimpsing what was going on inside.

Although there has allegedly never been any real sign of human life in the house, a well-tended vegetable garden was said to grow in the backyard. Likewise, several hanging plants, alive and flourishing, were observed on the front porch.

Curiosity seekers tried, and failed, on numerous occasions to make contact with the former residents. Their persistent knocks, however, always went unanswered. Of course, this could simply have meant that the occupants were reclusive and didn't wish to be disturbed.

It is also possible, as many believe, that the story runs a bit deeper. They suggest that, perhaps, the unconventional inhabitants lacked the basic functions needed to communicate with the outside world.


A Mystery Born of Tragedy

The origins of the John Lawson House's enigmatic occupants may very well be rooted in a tragic accident that took place in the winter of 1871. It was on that day that the small town in upstate New York would be the site of a disaster that would have repercussions for years to come.

For reasons that have never been made clear, on that fateful afternoon, a train loaded with passengers bound for the city crashed near Main Street. When all was said and done, twenty-two commuters lost their lives. In the ensuing years, numerous minor accidents occurred on the same stretch of tracks, leading many to believe that the location was cursed.

Decades after the catastrophic event, the happenings at the John Lawson House gave rise to the theory that some of the victims, unwilling or unable to accept their fate, had chosen to remain earthbound rather than facing the reality that their mortal journey had come to an end.



It has been speculated that the souls of those who perished when the train left the tracks sought refuge at the nearest home, which happened to be the John Lawson House. This notion stemmed in part from witness accounts of seeing the dolls standing on the porch, gazing fixedly at the depot. Some believe that, shocked by their sudden deaths, these spectral stragglers still grapple with their destiny.

Supposedly, the place was once home to a family who made a living supplying props to local theater companies. These wares included a wide selection of mannequins. Adding to the legend, it has been put forth that victims of the crash who did not move on, took up residence inside the shells of the human-looking dolls.

It is purported that the property quietly changed hands in 2016. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction, hosting visitors from far and wide. Some guests have reported that touring the house was a spooky experience they will never forget.

Unfortunately, those hoping to see the original dolls may be sorely disappointed. It has been rumored that they have been relocated to a new location that is not far from their former stomping ground. Though close by, it is in a secluded area that allows the dolls, and presumably their human caretakers, a modicum of privacy.

It would seem that, rather than closing the book on this odd series of events, the move simply opened another chapter. For their part, the mannequins are said to be constant presences on the front porch of their new home. True to form, they are often seen facing the train station. The mystery of the dolls, real or imagined, continues to this day, making for one heck of a story.







*Image used under provisions of Fair Use

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