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Posted in pop culture with tags on October 1, 2008 by Gena Radcliffe

They’re called “reborns”: incredibly lifelike baby dolls that sell for up to $4,000 to adult women who collect them, change their clothes, and in some ways treat them like real babies.

“It fills a spot in your heart,” Lynn Katsaris told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Wednesday in New York as she cuddled “Benjamin” and “Michael” in her arms. A realtor from suburban Phoenix, Katsaris is also an artist who has created 1,052 reborn dolls and sold them to women around the world. She was one of three grown women visiting the show with five of the the bogus — but eerily realistic — babies cradled tenderly in their arms.

The documentary profiles the doll owners, most of whom purchase them to either replace real children who have grown up and left home or died, or because they are unable to have children, as they carry the dolls around while grocery shopping or visiting neighbors.  All claim it’s perfectly normal.

Fran Sullivan, 62, lives in Florida and has never had children. She brought two reborns to New York, “Robin” and “Nicholas,” and said she has a collection of more than 600 dolls of all kinds, including a number of reborn dolls…she talks to them as she would to an infant, but said it’s really not all that strange.

“Children talk to their dolls, and they express their feelings toward their dolls,” she told Lauer. “And as a 40- or 50- or 60-year-old woman, you do the same thing. You’re still the same person you were when you were an 8-year-old.”

God, I really hope not, considering when I was eight I believed in werewolves and didn’t know how to tie my shoes yet.  It’s no wonder that, given our child-obsessed society, where women who aren’t imparting upon the world a bunch of little Hunters and Madisons are unfairly perceived as useless or inadequate, some of them may turn to the comfort of dolls as compensation.  However, there’s not a spin big enough that can be put on this story that won’t make it sad and deeply disturbing.  I commend writer Mike Celizic for his ability to make the story sound progressively more unsettling as it goes along.  It unfurls like a grand scroll of pure, unadulterated creepiness, where at first it only seems to be a slightly kooky take on doll collecting and then you discover, holy shit, they drive around with the dolls strapped into car seats.  It doesn’t help that the article is accompanied by one of the most terrifying photographs ever seen in a mainstream news publication.

Sleep tight!

Sleep tight!

Seriously, that must be what Clive Barker’s nursery looked like as a child.  I’m not sure how a woman carrying around a doll and treating it like a real child, even if she claims to know it’s not real is any less icky than a man purchasing a RealDoll and treating it like it’s a real girlfriend.  It may be comforting, but it ain’t fucking normal.  Do they have fake birthday parties for their fake babies? Fake showers? To me this is just a step or two away from walking around with a pillow stuffed under your blouse and telling people that you’re pregnant.  If you need something to tell all your secrets to, why not get a puppy or a plant? At least it’s alive.  A “reborn” doll sounds like something out of a horror novel, and it doesn’t help that they resemble the zombie baby in the remake of Dawn of the Dead.

Walsh said her husband doesn’t think it strange that his wife plays with dolls. “He likes them too,” she said.

No, lady, it’s just that he’s afraid if he says otherwise he’ll wake up in the middle of the night to you standing over him waving a doll in his face and screaming “WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME, DADDY???”