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Unusual Dolls: Mannequins and Amish Figures

Updated on August 19, 2020
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has spent 30 years working in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, and aerospace education for Active USAF Civil Air Patrol.

The Question Is...

Do you find mannequins disturbing, especially when not fully dressed? How about when they have no faces, either? Sometimes they have no heads at all.

Besides my own answer in the article below, here is a listing of the entertaining answers to the HubPages Question: Do you find mannequins disturbing, especially when not fully dressed? It was asked by HubPages member ngureco.

These are pretty disturbing - no limbs, no hair, but clown-like faces.
These are pretty disturbing - no limbs, no hair, but clown-like faces. | Source

Heads and Faces In Literature, Life and Film

A set of entertaining Old Navy commercials on television in the early 2010s featured still shots of mannequins with voice-overs for each male and female "clothes dummy." The still shots and voice inflections for each individual were so funny that the commercials proved to be better than some of the sit-coms of the day.

These mannequins all had the suggestion of faces painted on their heads and they were all clothed. Really, they seemed to have more personality than some living people.

Mannequins before the American civil defense nuclear test performed with the ANNIE test in Nevada in 1953.
Mannequins before the American civil defense nuclear test performed with the ANNIE test in Nevada in 1953. | Source

The Old Navy dummies may have been based on a Japanese comedy show on TV called Oh! Mikey or The Fuccons, an American family living in Japan. The entire show was performed by mannequins and voice-over dubbing.

Unclothed mannequins are a bit of a freak-out exhibit, especially now that a few body details are included, like muscles in the upper arms and even nipples. When unclothed mannequins are left when customers can see them these days, the sight can be certainly disconcerting. If the dummies have no faces as well, then they can remind a shopper of a "people factory" with shells of humans waiting for personalities - creepy! This is similar to the sci-fi tale by Ray Bradbury, "The Electric Grandmother" from the book I Sing the Body Electric, which made it onto the old The Twilight Zone.

Old Navy Mannequin Stars in Bay City, Michigan
Old Navy Mannequin Stars in Bay City, Michigan | Source

The Electric Grandmother

The filmed version of the Bradbury story showed children choosing the characteristics they wanted in an android grandmother to care for them after the death of their mom. We see the factory of mannequin parts and it's almost like a morgue or museum of body parts without the gore.

The factory can be a bit disturbing, but those scenes are much offset by the fact that while the grandma is sent back to the factory when the kids are grown, she returns to care for them when they are old. The electric grandmother is probably the most constant person they ever knew. What a comfort!

Queen Elizabeth II said recently in a tour of the wedding dress exhibit of the former Kate Middleton, that the dress was displayed in a way that was creepy. The gown was placed onto a headless mannequin with the veil and headpiece suspended above it under a spotlight. I think it looks creepy in a science fiction sort of way - a person with no personality AND no head.

A favorite collection of Old Navy characters.
A favorite collection of Old Navy characters. | Source

The After Hours

Science fiction novels have been filled with robots and androids nearly forever. Films and television followed their lead with some frightful and some entertaining versions of mechanical humans and androids, which seem to be somewhere between robots and humans.

All of these creatures are useful for handling the question of "What is human?" -- and so they are used mercilessly. They are used on film and in print until some people are simply tired of hearing about them. Others are ever more energized by their reappearances. How about you?

Some days I'd like to have no one else around other than ST:TNG's Data.

The Twilight Zone produced two versions of The After Hours episodes about mannequins that come to life, one in 1960s black and white and one in color in 1986. I think that the black and white version gives greater feelings of eeriness.

Express elevator to the ninth floor of a department store, carrying Miss Marsha White on a most prosiac, ordinary, run-of-the-mill errand. Miss Marsha White on the ninth floor, specialties department, looking for a gold thimble. The odds are that she'll find it - but there are even better odds that she'll find something else, because this isn't just a department store. This happens to be The Twilight Zone.

— Rod Serling, June 1959

"The After Hours" Clip, June 10, 1960.

The original Twilight Zone episode called "The After Hours" from June 10, 1960 is also available from CBS All Access at this time.

The Twilight Zone: Season 2, Episode 7 The After Hours (18 Oct. 1986) Pt 1

The mannequin come to life in the 1986 version is Terry Farrell, who portrayed Jadzia Dax in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

Mannequins and Robots and Androids

Which Twilight Zone episode of "The After Hours" above do you prefer?

See results

Faceless Dolls

The sight of a human doll without a face is very disturbing to some people, yet to the Amish it is a part of their tradition against graven images: no faces on dolls, statues, portraits, photographs, etc.

The soft dolls do not either me, face or no face; but, rubber or plasticized human infant dolls repel me. The smell of the hard material repulses me and the stiffness of the doll reminds me of rigor mortis. I don't feel the sense of rigor about an adult mannequin, though. This is all part of a larger psychological field of study about the concept of the uncanny, or close-to-human "otherness" and the revulsion it elicits from people.

Several sources report that some Amish rag dolls do have faces, but I have not seen one. The faceless dolls originated with the Old Order Amish.

There are accounts of children wrapping a blanket around a log and carrying it ike a doll. Of course, the log had no facial features, but in the light of actress Piper Laurie in the 1990 -1991 series Twin Peaks carrying a log in the same fashion, it sounds creepy.

Faceless rag dolls are often sold in tourist shops in the Amish Country of several US States, but this disturbs some of the Amish populations as being too commercialized.

Do you like robots and similar creatures?

My favorite robot or android is:

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Patty Inglish MS


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Kind of creepy really, huh? -- but interesting. Thanks for voting Up!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Patty, those dolls look pretty real to me as mannequins. It does look a bit unusual to me too. Voted up!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I'm with you! - The cloth dolls are fine by me, face or no face.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Amish and Native People dolls are so cuddly that they are fine with me.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Patty i always enjoyed that b/w Twilight Zone it's one of my favorite, i am more disturbed by the way some people dress in the mall than the mannequins are dressed or undressed .

      Vote up and more !!! Sharing !

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      7 years ago from California Gold Country

      There was a store in our town that had a lot of Native American items. Among them were faceless dolls about a foot high made of deerskin decorated with beads, feathers and Indian regalia. The store lady told us that they did not have faces so that the doll could be anyone the child could imagine. I don't know if the dolls were connected with any particular tribe, or even if the lady really knew about them. My little granddaughter at the time really wanted one, but they were priced at about $150, so we passed that one.

      I just Googled "faceless Indian Dolls", and found a lot of them.

    • Gypsy48 profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting hub. Mannequins don't bother me, I don't pay much attention to them when I am in a clothing store. I am old enough to remember the 1960s twighlight zone and have seen it several times. It was a little creepy and made you think "what if ?"Voted up.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Those creepy dolls in the living room would scare away guests, I should think!

      In some city, the public art project was painted and decorated mannequins all over town - I can't recall where it was. You'd have liked it. Maybe you can suggest it for your city!

    • Helena Ricketts profile image

      Helena Ricketts 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      My parents (both in their late 60's) have a couple of those reborn dolls that REALLY creep me out because they look like real toddlers but for some reason they look like dead toddlers to me. Mom has them on display in the living room although she does try to remember to put them somewhere else when she knows I'm coming over so I don't see them. Yes, they bother me that much.

      Mannequins are ok though. :) I've always wanted to get one and paint something on it.

      Interesting article, I really like it.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks for reading, MsDora; it was an interesting question to answer. I still never want to see another rubber baby doll!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      7 years ago from The Caribbean

      Don't think I've ever read on this topic before, but now I've begun to think about it, thanks to you. The mannequins, clothed or unclothed, never bother me. The faceless dolls are a bother, and Twilight Zone though downright scary is still a good memory. Voted Up.


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