Finedon is a picturesque, semi-rural village that sits quietly amidst the county of Northamptonshire, England. The village is famous for its quaint public houses, breathtaking hillside views, and cobbled streets that have awed people for centuries. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the wonders of grassy knolls, peaceful trickling rivers, and the gentle bleating of sheep, but the town has not always dwelled in such calmness. The rise of the Black Death plague in 1348 saw the once-thriving and bustling village slowly deplete of everything that gave it character. Children’s laughter that once graced the lush green pastures slowly began to fade, and the clunking sound of horse hooves on the cobbled streets became no more. Illness and death cast their sticky web of destruction over every home, forcing many to flee. An orchestra of silence was all that echoed in the tragic streets and hopeless homes for many years.
Fortunately, the Black Death eventually succumbed to nature. Resettlement began sometime in the 17th century and life returned to Finedon. Inns were again filled with laughter, farming began to flourish and the once death-infested homes became occupied by young and happy families. The town continued to develop into the 20th century with no further signs of misfortune. Until a young school teacher was appointed the village school’s headmistress in 1901. Her name was Mary Ozier and curiously, our tale begins with nothing other than a kind gesture from this professional lady.
A Commemorative Oddity – A Haunted Doll
Proud of her appointment and seeking to christen her new status, Mary pondered greatly. She also needed something unique to commemorate the Finedon school’s upcoming anniversary, something that reflected the unique and quirky character of the village and school. She chose a beautifully crafted wooden doll and strategically positioned it in a small alcove above the school's main entrance, where it could be admired by all and keep watch over everything!
Very little is known about the origins of the doll. It is believed that it was made by a mysterious merchant who Mary allegedly met on a quiet country walk one afternoon. After conveying her ideas for the commemoration, the merchant gifted Mary the doll. Conveniently, it lay inside a sack upon his back. He took no payment, walked away, and was never seen again.
Dressed to Impress
The doll was deemed peculiar from day one by all who saw it. Mary’s sentiment was appreciated by the locals but there was something about the doll’s aura that emitted an uncomfortable, eerie feeling. Standing at approximately three feet in height, the figure was so intricately carved that the dark brown flowing dress looked almost real. Equally impressive was the carved white Dutch cap that adorned the head. The face appeared emotionless with dark staring eyes and tightly closed lips. These features were a strange contrast to the cherub cheeks upon which they sat. The doll’s attire closely resembled the fashion of the modern-day Puritan woman, complete with dark boots with a slight heel, also carved from wood.
The Dutch headpiece became the doll’s most famous and defining feature. It also resembled the hat worn by the children of the school at the time. As curiosity and uncertainty grew, the strange figure eventually became known as the ‘Dutch Doll of Finedon’. Finally, and probably the strangest feature of all was what sat tightly grasped in its hands. On the right was a bible, and on the left was a scroll that bared the writing ‘ Search the scripture-John-verse 39’…
Days after the doll’s arrival, inexplicable events began to unfold. The once tranquil and carefree vibes of the school turned to anxiety and dread. One morning, a chastised student was sent to the school's front lawn to spend her break alone while others played in the yard at the rear. As she moped, a startling gust of wind appeared from nowhere, knocking her backward with great force. The girl grazed her head as she fell against an old tree. Within seconds, the wind was gone and the calmness of that June morning returned. As the girl composed herself, she saw something that chilled her to the marrow and contested until her dying day. Peering down from its concrete throne, the doll waved its left arm, scroll in hand, and juddered violently. The tight wooden lips were puckered, and its eyes glared with sadistic pleasure. Within seconds, the face returned to normal and the arm to its original position. Shocked and shaken by what had happened, the girl ran home, never to return to the school.
Since that horrifying incident, many students recounted witnessing the doll move on its own accord and the school record book reportedly possessed pages of daily occurrences depicting many traumatizing accounts. In the dead of night, the students who lived as boarders could often hear the sound of tiny pattering feet scurrying through the hallways. Dormitory doors would open on their own and scratching sounds could be heard on the floors. Some students claimed to see ‘tiny wooden hands’ and ‘beady wooden eyes’ peering around open doors before they were violently slammed shut. Piercing and blood-chilling cackling could also be heard around the school. Quite often, the shrill cries disrupted lessons and caused panic among teachers and students alike.
Was it a Haunted Doll or Not
Concerned for the student’s welfare, staff and parents decided to examine the doll during a school holiday. Convinced that the doll possessed a mechanical feature that could explain the phenomena, it was brought down from its cove above the door. After a thorough search, nothing was found. It was suggested that the doll may have been used in witchcraft rituals or even acted as a vessel for a malevolent spirit. Taking no chances, the now haunted doll was permanently removed from the cove. It was tightly locked in a chest and placed in the school’s dank, dark cellar.
For a short while, calmness settled upon the school. During this period, poor behavior would often be controlled with ‘tongue in cheek’ threats of detention in the cellar. Students trembled at the thought of being at the mercy of the wooden demon. It was the perfect deterrent. As time passed and incidents lessened, students began to believe the stories had been nothing more than a hoax. That was until a young student was sent to the cellar to retrieve more slates.
As the student gathered the resources, she heard an almighty crash behind her. The chest that housed the doll had fallen from a shelf and hit the floor with a deafening thud. Slowly, the chest started to rattle and vibrate furiously. A series of violent thumps followed and the chest edged toward the girl. Groans and gasps could be heard from inside the chest, each one more penetrating and violent than before. The student fled the cellar immediately. Terrified and shaken by the incident, she too left the school, never to return.
Eventually, the cellar was permanently closed, leaving the haunted doll entombed and alone for many years. Although the phenomenon decreased, a lingering and anxious atmosphere engulfed all who walked through the school. And despite the cellar being deep below the classrooms and far from the dormitories, strange laughter and voices could still be heard. The chilling echoes pounded through the school in the dead of night for many years.
A Mysterious Twist
Decades passed but the phenomenon and unrelenting feelings of dread persisted. A new headteacher, determined to alleviate the school of its supernatural reputation, had the doll removed. It was taken to the local St Mary’s church, and fixed tightly to the west wall. Locals hoped this would eliminate further troubles and suppress whatever strangeness lurked inside. As a result, the school returned to a state of calm that had not been felt for almost a century. Years passed and the memory of the Dutch doll began to diminish. All that remained were the frightening tales that once plagued the school, passed down through the generations. That was until an alarming and unexpected event took place…
Haunted Finedon Doll Vanishes
On the 24th of January, 1981, the parishioner unlocked the church to prepare for his daily duties. Upon walking to his alter, he noticed something unusual on the west wall. Further inspection revealed that the Dutch doll was no longer there. The hooks and bolts that kept it secure were strewn on the floor. Confused and unnerved by what had happened, the parishioner immediately visited the local police. Fears of supernatural forces being responsible resonated with him more than the idea of a potential thief. The parishioner knew that he had locked and bolted all the church doors the previous evening. All windows had also been locked, and only he possessed the key. It hadn’t been possible for anybody to gain entry without his permission. As a result, homes, fields, shops, and even the school were aptly searched. Locals were questioned but to no avail and restlessness returned to the town.
Tales of the haunted doll and superstition began to resurface, causing some parents to remove their children from the school amid the fear that the doll had returned. Fears of misfortune and miscellaneous activity repeating themselves grew at an alarming rate, forcing the town’s hierarchy to act. The townsfolk were reassured that the doll would be found and returned to the church. Despite everyone’s efforts, the haunted doll was never recovered. No further progress has since been made, and its disappearance remains Finedon’s biggest mystery. Is the Dutch doll residing in your home? It might be wise to check all those dark places before going to bed…
St Mary’s church
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Finedon (Public domain)
Haunted Doll photo