ELLIOTTVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Deep in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, there’s a mysterious place where plastic baby dolls live out their final days.
Nature takes its course at this comfortable country home where hound dogs roam free and decapitated doll heads litter picket fences. Each doll at the home has been abandoned. Some abused. Others are shot full of bullet holes.
Some, even, might be possessed.
Now they rest in peace, decaying away in trees, cages and box springs at the Home for Wayward Babydolls. The home is the work of Cecil R. Ison, a folk artist and “slightly mad scientist” and his wife, Bet.
Ison’s official title is the director of the International Assembly of Forensic Anthropomorphologists, which is the study of human-like objects.
Ison’s specialty? Hard plastic bodies.
Ison, 68, first began noticing discarded dolls in the wilderness while working as an archaeologist at the Daniel Boone National Forest. He carried them back to his office, curious about their past and how they’d met their demise.
Soon, his office became filled with discarded dolls and doll parts, and when he retired, the baby dolls followed him home.
Now, he studies them, looking for foregone conclusions of their demise in the decaying resin in what he says is an equally fractured, violent and plastic world.
“My first encounter with an abused Anthropomorph occurred in 1984 when I discovered a baby doll that had a tick pinned to its forehead,” Ison recalls. “Why would someone discard a baby doll and attach a tick to it? It piqued my interest in the affliction of trauma on these small objects of love.
“My colleagues thought it was something that only happened in Kentucky, just a bizarre behavior of Kentuckians. Then I started finding them elsewhere. I found one victim in the Three Sisters Wilderness area in California, miles from the nearest civilization. What was this baby doll doing out there? How did it get there and why was it dropped off there?”
Word soon traveled about Ison’s interest in discarded dolls.
“A law enforcement officer brought in two specimens for my opinion. They were found at the end of a remote logging road, and it was Ken and Barbie. Both had been sexually molested. Ken had been burned and a condom had been pulled over his body. Both were discarded in the middle of the forest,” he said.
“Why would someone take America’s most venerated couple, abuse them in such a heinous manner and then deposit them in the middle of the forest? I have no answer for that — yet.”
And that’s not where the mystery stops. Ison has a handful of dolls whose previous owners say are possessed.
“A couple stopped by and were moving to Florida. They had their car packed with all their belongings. The father said, ‘These are possessed.’ I said, ‘What?’ The mother then said, ‘These are possessed.’”
Ison said the young son said, ”‘They stare at me at night’ and the 3-year old daughter said, ‘They’re bad baby dolls.’”
Even with the warning, Ison still took the dolls in. They needed a home.
“So, we now have a collection of possessed baby dolls residing here. We recommend people use precautions when they examine these and that they sign a waiver. They are kept in a closed container, and we offer a lead vest for protection to those who want to open it,” he said.
Ison is distressed by the abuse he finds done to the dolls.
“Most doll manufacturers don’t make these dolls for anything other than the intended love by a small child. I don’t think it was a small child that pumped five shots from a 32-caliber pistol into the head of a baby doll,” he said. “Most children don’t carry weapons around and use them to fill their dolls full of lead.”
Found in nature, the dolls will remain in nature. Unloved, neglected and discarded, they find their final days in the artful hands of a modern-day Dr. Moreau, who studies, documents and weaves them into the fabric of the home.
Like old photos at a flea market, the faces are there, but their sordid stories are lost to history.
A plastic baby doll can take 450 years to biodegrade. Yet, Bet Ison sees the home as a fleeting, transitory resting place.
“I expect we could come up with all sorts of dark parallels with today’s world. We can all immerse ourselves in dystopia,” she said. “But we prefer to think in terms of hope and refuge instead. The Home for Wayward Babydolls will be as ephemeral as its inhabitants.”
Information from: Courier Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com