Billy the Doll

It’s said that Billy the Doll was made at the turn of the twentieth century by the maid of the Orson family–a family who lived in the American South–as a “gift” for their young boy, Bobby Orson. Otto Orson, the father of the boy, was known for mistreating workers, as his family had a history of slave ownership in the 19th century and before. Having been abused under unknown circumstances by Otto, rumor has it that the maid constructed Billy herself with a voodoo curse in order to take revenge on the Orsons through their son.

Bobby wasn’t aware of that, however. When he received Billy as a gift on his eighth birthday, he immediately fell in love with the doll.

Billy was a simple looking doll. He was made from cloth stuffed with straw. He had button eyes and red dyed straw for hair. Blushing cheeks and a warm smile were painted on his face. He was as harmless and charming as a boy in those days could have imagined.

Weeks went by and Bobby took Billy everywhere with him. He’d sit the doll next to him at the dinner table, play with him on the swing set, and he slept with him every night. The Orsons owned a huge chunk of land that was far away from any neighbors and Bobby didn’t have any boys his age to play with, so they were delighted that he had Billy as his best friend. They even heard Bobby talking to Billy in his room at night, but they thought little of it. It was perfectly normal, they figured, for a little boy to have an imaginary friend.

What startled Bobby’s mother, Martha, was that she sometimes heard Billy talking back. It was a different voice–not at all like Bobby’s–that was very deep and always a whisper. Sometimes she thought she saw Billy moving, or she’d even hear the rustling of straw and see a tiny figure out of the corner of her eye which would creep across the floor before darting out of view. At times, she could even hear Billy giggling or singing.

Bobby’s father never heard anything of that sort. He was happy for his boy because he had a friend and he was sure that either Martha was just mistaken or she was jealous that her son had someone else to spend time with. He thought Martha’s claims about Billy the Doll were just the product of a mother who was just as imaginative as her son that was sad to see him growing up and not depending solely on her for companionship.

Then Martha became deeply troubled by Billy. She would hear him singing all through the night. Sometimes she’d peek into her son’s bedroom and see Billy standing over Bobby as he slept, his cloth face forming a hateful glare. Fearing for her son’s safety, Martha took Billy and locked him in the attic.

Bobby was sad when he woke up and found that Billy wasn’t there. He thought he’d lost him somewhere, and he looked everywhere for him. But Billy was gone, or so he thought.

One day, Bobby was playing on the property and wandered out of his parents view. Otto and Martha were distracted and didn’t notice Bobby wandering away. When they noticed he wasn’t where they’d thought he was, they began looking for him. They checked Bobby’s favorite tree, under the porch, and behind the tool shed, but their son was nowhere to be found.

Then, they heard Bobby screaming, followed shortly by a muffled splash. They followed in the direction of the sound, fearing that Bobby had hurt himself. Before long, they realized the sound had come from the family well.

Otto looked down the well while Martha checked all around it, but neither saw Bobby. They didn’t hear their son anymore either.

Martha ran and got one of the workers to send him down the well, hoping desperately that her son wasn’t inside–that the splash had been a stone or a log or something and Bobby was just hiding somewhere. But soon the worker re-emerged with Bobby in his arms. Bobby’s face was blue and he wasn’t breathing at all. He had drowned in the well.

Martha cried for Bobby. Tears streamed down her face and she sobbed uncontrollably as she cradled her lifeless son, who she cherished above all else. But when she looked up, her crying turned into screaming.

Sitting on the edge of the well, where nothing had been before, was Billy the Doll.

Martha wanted to destroy the doll, but Otto couldn’t bring himself to destroy his son’s favorite toy. He never believed his wife about Billy anyway. Instead, Billy was put back into the attic, and this time Martha locked him inside a box.

They tried to go on with their lives after that, but their home had become a tomb. Everything reminded them of Bobby, and they just couldn’t live there anymore. Before long, they decided to move.

As they were packing their things, they made sure to preserve some of Bobby’s most beloved belongings–his favorite blanket, his baby shoes, some toys. Otto didn’t want to forget Billy. That was his son’s favorite toy, after all. So, he sent Martha to the attic to get him.

Martha saw this as her chance. She could get to Billy and destroy him without Otto ever knowing what she had done.

But when she got to the attic and opened the box, she was startled to find it empty. Billy was gone, and the Orsons never saw him again.

It’s not clear just what became of Billy from there. Cloth dolls were popular in the early twentieth century and they’re popular among doll collectors even today. With so many dolls like him in existence, it’s difficult to be sure where that playful old Billy went to.

So if you hear giggling and the rustling of straw, don’t be alarmed. It’s probably just Billy the Doll looking for a new friend to play with.

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2 Responses to “Billy the Doll”

  1. StampedingVash Says:

    Not to spam your site with comments, seeing as this will be the third in the last few minutes, but Im happy you posted this up here. I could remember a few details about this story but not enough to find it.

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