The stuffed dolls have been spotted hanging off traffic lights, “crying” against lamp posts, sprawled behind dumpsters or dumped headless in flower pots around the town of Festus.
The strange dolls have sparked concern among the town’s 11,000 residents and anger among its police force.
“Somebody just wants attention. They think it’s funny,” Festus police Chief Tim Lewis told local news station KTVI.
Lewis says he suspects the dolls are part of a prank, but he’s concerned that someone might get hurt trying to “help” one of the childlike dolls at the side of the road.
“In this town, people are good-hearted,” Lewis said. “People are going to stop and check to make sure that’s not a child … They’re going to either get hit, or there’s a chance they get out of the car and get run over. Then you’re dealing with a catastrophe.”
No one has been injured as a result of the dolls. However, they’ve piqued the interest of many Festus residents, who have shared photos of the phenomenon on Facebook.
Multiple residents have reported seeing the same dolls in different places.
“It is creepy,” local resident Angela Ravellette told KTVI. “I’m not sure what’s up with them.”
Ravellette was working at a tanning salon in town when she discovered one of the dolls last week.
“It was just laying in front of our business,” she said. “They’ve been hanging on top of stop signs, randomly laying in front of the licence office — all kinds of weird stuff.”
Festus resident Tamara Pruett says she stopped to investigate one of the dolls that she saw leaning against a light fixture last week.
“It looked like it was crying and in time out, and it was raining,” Pruett told local news station KSDK. “At first, I didn’t realize it was a doll.”
The dolls have also been spotted in Crystal City, a community just east of Festus. Both towns are located in Jefferson County, approximately 55 kilometres south of St. Louis.
“It is a little creepy,” Pruett said.
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