According to claims originating from Ed and Lorraine Warren, a student nurse was given the Raggedy Ann doll in 1970, but after the doll behaved strangely, a psychic medium told the student the doll was inhabited by the spirit of a dead girl named “Annabelle Higgins”. Supposedly, the student nurse and her roommate first tried to accept and nurture the spirit-possessed doll, but eventually became frightened by the doll’s malicious behavior and contacted the Warrens, who removed the doll to their museum after pronouncing it “demonically possessed”.
Texas State University assistant professor of religious studies Joseph Laycock says most skeptics have dismissed the Warrens’ museum as “full of off-the-shelf Halloween junk, dolls and toys, books you could buy at any bookstore”. Laycock calls the Annabelle legend an “interesting case study in the relationship between pop culture and paranormal folklore” and speculates that the demonic doll trope popularized by films such as Child’s Play and The Conjuring likely emerged from early legends surrounding Robert the Doll as well as a Twilight Zone episode entitled “Living Doll”. Laycock suggests that “the idea of demonically-possessed dolls allows modern demonologists to find supernatural evil in the most banal and domestic of places.”
Commenting on publicity for the Warrens’ occult museum coinciding with the film release of The Conjuring, science writer Sharon A. Hill said that many of the myths and legends surrounding the Warrens have “seemingly been of their own doing” and that many people may have difficulty “separating the Warrens from their Hollywood portrayal”. Hill criticized sensational press coverage of the Warrens’ occult museum and its Annabelle doll. She said, “Like real-life Ed Warren, real-life Annabelle is actually far less impressive.” Of the supernatural claims made about Annabelle by Ed Warren, Hill said, “We have nothing but Ed’s word for this, and also for the history and origins of the objects in the museum.”