What is it about dolls and their tendency to be inherently creepy?
From the way their cold, glassy eyes stare vacantly ahead, to the plastered grins on their pale little faces – few can deny that both the porcelain and plastic varieties are disturbing.
So eerie are they in appearance, dolls have gone on to inspire a legion of evil, horror film characters; from Chucky to Billy to Dolly Dearest.
Perhaps it’s not surprising then that The Circus of Horrors, which formed 17 years ago at the 1995 Glastonbury festival, has been inspired to call its latest show The Devil Doll.
The new phantasmagoria is a sequel to last year’s critically acclaimed act The Ventriloquist and was named The Curse of the Devil Doll after a series of bizarre and near fatal incidents which occurred during the last tour.
“It all started with vehicles that carried the doll unexplainably blowing up,“ Dr Haze, creator of The Circus of Horrors, explains. “But a week into the tour and things took a definite turn to the worse.“ You might ask, what could be worse than vehicles spontaneously exploding?
Well according to Dr Haze, when the show was performed in Bradford, during a sequence where the doll appeared to be brought to life with the aid of a Tesla coil, circus sword swallower Hannibal Hellmurto accidentally gulped down a lit neon tube.
“Swallowing a neon tube is regarded as the most dangerous of all sword swallowing stunts, it can shatter and send glass, mercury and electricity into your body,“ says Dr Haze. “Thankfully none of that did happen, but a dry throat did cause the tube to rip a 20 milimetre hole in his oesophagus.“ Hannibal’s brush with death meant he was kept in intensive care for four weeks, with a further two in a general ward.
But this was not, according to Dr Haze, the end of the devil doll’s curse. During this period more vehicles were unexplainably breaking down and each time it was always the vehicle carrying the doll. After Christmas though, the curse seemed to increase its intensity, when a mini bus carrying half of the cast and the doll broke down in a remote area and almost reared off the road.
“The cast all jumped out of the van unscathed,“ Dr Haze explains, “but when they looked inside the window they found the jolt had thrown the doll into a sitting position and triggered a switch that lit his glowing red eyes.
“It was almost mutiny, lots of the cast refused to travel in the van again and two Spanish Catholics, who were in the show, left within weeks.“ Unperturbed though, instead of burning the doll, circus members have decided to write a sequel, The Curse of the Devil Doll.
Promising twists and turns to send shivers down your spine, the demonic dummy will be accompanied by daredevil and bizarre circus acts from all corners of the world including sword swallowers, demon dwarfs, hair hanging beauties, voodoo acrobats and knife throwers.
The Circus of Horrors is coming to the Harlow Playhouse, Playhouse Square, Harlow on Tuesday, February 12. Details: www.playhouseharlow.com or 01279 431945