Like clowns and twins who talk in unison, dolls can be unintentionally terrifying. Dolls with a past are especially spooky, as the employees of the History Center of Olmsted County in Rochester, Minnesota know too well. The museum houses a collection of antique dolls, and in honor of the Halloween season, it's embraced their unsettling nature by holding a creepy doll contest, MPR News reports.
Everyday from October 16 through October 24, the History Center posted a new picture of a creepy doll to its Facebook and Instagram pages. Contestants included a 19th-century toy with real human hair, a figurine with dead eyes and a mischievous grin, and a doll that automatically opens its eyes when lifted. Curator Dan Nowakowski was responsible for determining which dolls were scary enough to be featured in the competition.
The museum measured each photo's fear factor based on the number of likes it received on social media. A 169-year-old handmade doll with a missing arm and chipped paint resembling peeling skin was the clear winner.
Originally, the winning doll and the runner-up would be on display just for Halloween, but following the success of the contest, the museum is extending their stay. All nine creepy contestants, in addition to 15 more dolls from the collection, will be exhibited at the History Center now through December 1.
Can't imagine going out of your way to see scary dolls in person? It's not as wild an idea as you might think. There's an entire trail in Atlanta where visitors can hike among eerie, abandoned doll heads.
We’re firmly in that time of year when the air is colder, the nights are longer, and the books in our to-read pile are getting scarier. Cracking open a horror book in your comfiest chair is one of the best ways to embrace the Halloween season, and at Mental Floss, we’ve got plenty of suggestions for your next title. From genre classics that should be on everyone’s list to a few offbeat entries—including a must-read comic starring a spectacularly creepy ice cream man—here are our favorite horror books you should pick up.
1. The Penguin Book of Exorcisms // Joseph P. Laycock; $16-17
What better way to embrace spooky season than with this collection, which features real-life accounts of exorcisms from around the globe? When you're done, crack open The Penguin Book of Witches and The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories, which will also send shivers up your spine. —Erin McCarthy, Editor-in-Chief
Few things are scarier than actual history, as Stacy Schiff's painstakingly researched and beautifully written account of the Salem Witch Trials—which began in 1692 and ended less than a year later, with 25 people dead—shows. —E.M.
3. The Haunting of Hill House // Shirley Jackson; $9-$15
Often described as one of the scariest books ever, Shirley Jackson's tale of four paranormal investigators who set up shop in a haunted house will fill you with creeping dread, making it the most perfect of reads for this time of year. At around 200 pages, it's a quick read—and when you're done, you can fire up one of the novel's TV and film adaptations to keep the creepiness going. —E.M.
If you’ve ever panicked while traversing the mazelike layout of your local IKEA, Horrorstör will be all too relatable. In this book, Orsk, a Swedish furniture store in Cleveland, Ohio, is the scene of some very paranormal activity, which spurs a handful of employees to brave an overnight shift to find out the origins of these malevolent spirits. It’s the perfect read for anyone who’s ever thought their 9-to-5 was quite literally out to get them. —Jay Serafino, Special Projects Editor
Awash in gruesome imagery and some of the most disturbing acts of violence ever put on the page, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian isn’t a horror tale of the jump-scare variety. Instead, it achieves pure terror by examining man’s hateful, vengeful nature under the guise of a Western. —J.S.
6. Ice Cream Man // W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Morazzo, Chris O'Halloran; $15-$17
The spirit of EC Comics and its lurid horror anthology titles lives on in Image’s Ice Cream Man. With his sharp white uniform and truck full of sweets, the titular ice cream peddler meddles in the lives of others, often with terrifying results. —Jake Rossen, Senior Staff Writer
Tourism takes a horrific turn in this unsettling potboiler about a group of American tourists who find that an ancient Mayan site isn’t too welcoming to visitors—and neither are the acidic vines that singe both skin and soul. —J.R.
Published in 1981, this New York Times bestseller is not for the animal lovers out there. It starts in the town of Castle Rock, Maine, which becomes terrorized by a once-friendly Saint Bernard. While this is all happening, the Trenton family moves into the seemingly idyllic town only to realize it isn't as lovely as it appears. Parents Vic and Donna are having marriage issues, and their son Tad can't sleep due to the terrors coming from his closet. Little do they know that the real monster is waiting for them outside. —Elaine Selna, Commerce Writer
Before the Japanese horror movie and the American remake, Ring was a bestselling novel. Published in Japan in 1991, the book turned the VCR into an instrument of terror at the height of its popularity. There are major differences between the original story and its screen adaptations, but the basic plot should be familiar to any horror fan: After watching a cursed video tape, the main character has seven days to solve the tape's mystery and escape death. —Michele Debczak, Senior Staff Writer
10. Let the Right One In // John Ajvide Lindqvist; $14-$18
John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 Swedish novel chronicles the friendship of a young boy named Oskar and his enigmatic new friend, Eli, who happens to be a very old vampire. Let the Right One In has all the trappings of a grade-A horror story—bloodlust, mystery, plot twists, etc.—set against a backdrop of real-world issues, from bullying to alcoholism. The protagonists may be children, but the adult themes of this novel gear it towards older readers. —Ellen Gutoskey, Staff Writer
King's debut novel from 1974 still ranks among his best. It revolves around a teenage outcast named Carrie White who gets bullied at school and has to deal with an abusive mother at home. Any hope she has of fitting in is soon dashed as she begins developing strange telekinetic abilities. —E.S.
Some treatments of old, like the ones in this piece adapted from The List Show on YouTube, will make you especially thankful for science and modern medicine.
1. Cure Rabies with Raw Veal
In Ancient Rome, people thought they could treat rabies. According to Pliny the Elder, a naturalist and author, anyone bitten by a mad dog should be treated by having their wound cut open and covered with raw veal. Then, the patient should eat a diet of lime and hog’s fat—and then the patient would then drink a concoction made with wine and boiled badger dung.
2. Treat Asthma with a Diet of Boiled Carrots
In Primitive Physick, or, An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases, first published in the late 1740s, British evangelist John Wesley suggested “a fortnight on boiled carrots only” to treat asthma.
3. Take Care of Heart Palpitations with a Vinegar-Soaked Rag
For heart palpitations, Wesley's treatments included “drink a pint of cold water,” “apply outwardly a Rag dipt In vinegar,” and “be electrified.”
4. Cure Toothaches with Electricity
Wesley also suggests that patients with toothaches be electrified. The idea of electrotherapy was fairly new in the 1700s, but it was used regularly until the early 1900s for illnesses like epilepsy, paralysis, impotence, tapeworms, and more. Some people just got electrotherapy for general wellness.
5. and 6. Prevent Nosebleeds with the Aid of a Red-Hot Poker or Bloodletting
To prevent nosebleeds, Wesley recommends, “hold[ing] a red hot poker under the nose or steep[ing] a linnen rag in sharp vinegar, burn[ing] it, and blow[ing] it up the nose with a Quill.”
In Wesley’s day, someone with nosebleeds might also get blood removed from another part of their body. There is documentation going back to around 200 CE recommending that someone with nosebleeds have their elbow bled. Back then, it was believed that every person had four humours in their body: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood—and any illness could be boiled down to an imbalance of humours. Bloodletting was one of the therapies that was supposed to put them back in balance. During medieval times in Europe, bloodletting was used for the plague, smallpox, and gout.
7. Treat Malaria with a Magic Word
There are a lot of strange historical treatments for malaria, but one of my favorite cures was a magical charm recommended by a Roman physician in the 3rd Century CE. Patients were told to write Abracadabra over and over on a piece of paper with one less letter on each line, until the letters formed a triangle with just an A at the bottom. Then, they had to tie the paper with flax and wear it around their necks for nine days before tossing it into an east-running stream. If that didn't work, they were supposed to rub themselves with lion fat.
8. Cure Rabies With Ground Liverwort and a Cold Bath
Back to rabies, which was a huge concern in Europe during the 1700s. There was this treatment from The Book of Phisick, written around the same time, that advised, “Tak[ing] 40 grains of ground liverwort and 20 grains of pepper in half a pint of milk ... take this quantity four mornings together, then use of Cold Bath, every other day, a month.”
9. Treat Epilepsy with a Powder Made of Hair and Deer Bones
The Book of Phisick also contains a remedy for patients with epilepsy. Cook a strong man’s hair with a deer leg-bone, turn it into powder, then eat it leading up to the new moon. (For a long time, people have debated whether the moon affects seizures. As recently as 2004, there was an article published in the journal Epilepsy and Behavior titled “The influence of the full moon on seizure frequency: myth or reality?” For the record, they found no connection between the full moon and the frequency of epileptic seizures.)
10. Cure Bible Cysts with a Dead Man's Hand
In 1743, German anatomist Lorenz Heister wrote down treatment options for Bible cysts, which appear on the hand or wrists. They included strapping a bullet that had killed an animal to the cyst or touching it with a dead man’s hand. But one of the treatments he recommended, hitting it with a heavy book, is still in use today. That’s why they’re called Bible cysts—the Bible was supposedly a good book to whack them with because it’s so big. But medical professionals probably don’t want you doing that.
11. Treat Asthma with Cigarettes
Asthma cigarettes were popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and were made with a number of toxic ingredients, including stramonium, belladonna, and tobacco.
12. and 13. Use Saffron to Sober Up—and Cheer Up
The Red Book of Hergest is a Welsh manuscript from around 1382 that contains some herbal remedies, including one to remove drunkenness that involves “eat[ing] bruised saffron with spring water.” Sadness could be cured by saffron, too, at least in moderation—according to Hergest, “If you would be at all times merry, eat saffron in meat or drink, and you will never be sad: but beware of eating over much, lest you should die of excessive joy.”
14. Cure Everything from Arthritis to Impotence with Radium
Radium was once considered a legitimate medical treatment. The ailments it supposedly cured included arthritis, impotence, and aging. The Revigator, an early 20th century crock that combined water with radium, was placed in hundreds of thousands of American households. Now we know that radium doesn't cure aging; it puts people at risk of radiation sickness. Users of the Revigator also had arsenic and lead leach out into their water, which wasn't great.
15. Treat Syphilis with Mercury
From about the 16th century to the 20th century, mercury was the primary treatment for syphilis, either eaten or applied to the body. It was also used to treat less severe illnesses, like constipation. In fact, Lewis and Clark’s men consumed so many pills containing mercury chloride that historians and archeologists can find the places where they camped just based on the mercury content of the area.
By the 18th century, doctors were aware of mercury poisoning, but they continued using it to treat syphilis—they just limited the amounts that were used.
16. Treat Hay Fever with Cocaine
Dr. Thomas Jefferson Ritter's Mother’s Remedies: Over One Thousand Tried and Tested Remedies from Mothers of the United States and Canada, published in 1910, contains many remedies that have been phased out—like the one for hay fever, which called for spraying a “four-percent solution of cocaine” up the nose. That was relatively normal back then; cocaine was prescribed for indigestion, fatigue, eye pain, and hemorrhoids.
17. Use Chloroform to Treat Asthma
The book also recommends inhaling chloroform for asthma. Chloroform, like cocaine, wasn’t an unusual treatment in the United States, where it was used as an anesthetic. We now know that it’s toxic.
18. Fix Chapped Hands with Old Sour Cream
Dr. Ritter has an interesting fix for chapped hands: Put sour cream in a cloth, bury it outside overnight, then unearth it and apply the sour cream the next day.
19. Treat Ringworm with Gunpowder and Vinegar
To heal ringworm, Mother's Remedies recommends a paste made of gunpowder and vinegar be applied to the infection. If the first time doesn’t do the trick, repeat until the ringworm disappears.
20. Use Nux Vomica for Headaches
For certain headaches, Dr. Ritter suggested mixing a drop of tincture of nux vomica in a teaspoonful of water. Today, nux vomica is best known as the primary source of strychnine, which is poisonous, and often used to kill rats.
21. Get Rid of Bruises With Powder Made From Human Bodies
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the use of human bodies in medical remedies became more popular than ever in Europe. They appeared in medicine for headaches, epilepsy, and more. Egyptian tombs and graveyards were looted for the bodies. If you had a bruise or other ailment, you were supposed to put it on your skin or turn it into a powder and ingest it via a drink. French King Francis I and Francis Bacon both used it.
22. Take Care of Colic With "Soothing Syrup"
Between the mid-1800s and early 1900s, 25 cents could get you a bottle of Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for your baby. It was advertised as a solution for colic, teething, diarrhea, and any pain. And it worked, because it contained a whole lot of morphine.
23. Use Periwinkle Flowers to Treat Cataracts
There’s one known copy of Bald’s Leechbook, a medical textbook from around the 10th century, which can be found at the British Library in London. For cataracts, it suggests putting burnt periwinkle flowers and honey in the eyes.
24. Cure Swollen Eyes with the Eyes of a Crab
According to Bald's, to treat swollen eyes, take a live crab and cut its eyes out, throw the crab back into the water, then apply its eyes "on the neck of the man who hath need."
25. Treat Swollen Body Parts with a Fox Tooth
Similarly, a live fox to is needed to heal swelling: Take one of its teeth out, secure it in a fawn’s skin, then place the skin on the swollen body part.
26. Cure Typhus Through Prayer
Typhus had a more religiously oriented treatment in the 10th century. A patient should go outside, write a prayer on a piece of paper, then hold it to their left breast.
27. Avoid Tipsiness Using Ground Up Bird Beaks
In ancient Assyria, bird beaks were ground up, combined with myrrh, and eaten. Supposedly, this helped you avoid getting tipsy, though it seems more painful than a hangover.
28. Eat Pickled Sheep's Eyes to Cure a Hangover
During Genghis Khan’s days, the Mongols ate pickled sheep’s eyes for breakfast to get rid of a hangover. The practice continues today, though the eyes are followed by a glass of tomato juice.
29. and 30. Cure a Hangover with Tea Made of Poop or Owl Eggs
Legend has it that one popular Wild West hangover cure was rabbit poo tea. Pliny, meanwhile, suggested drinking owl eggs mixed with wine for three days to get rid of a hangover.