People & Places
Welcome to November! I know Halloween is over, but the lingering spookiness and scares in the air have inspired me to introduce to you a special member of our family—Orphie.
Orphie is one of the creepiest dolls you’ll ever lay eyes on. She is 3-feet of terror from head to toe, but the most unsettling part about her is the intense gaze from her rolled back eyes, which stare straight into your soul.
She also sports a head of shredded blonde hair that tops a pale face caked in a layer of grime. Orphie has been a part of the family since the 1970s and her origin is as mysterious as she is.
My tia, Juanita, says my great-grandma, Sophie, found her on the ditchbank. My mom, Maria, said grandma found her left behind in a rental home. Either way, it ended the same with grandma bringing the doll home, thinking she had found a treasure her grandchildren would enjoy.
“She never had things like that growing up, so finding a 3-foot doll like that in decent shape she thought would be a big treat for us,” said my mom.
Little did grandma know it would have the complete opposite effect. Back at home, grandma cleaned her up, made a dress for her and named her Orphie because she was an orphan. Her face looked pretty normal at that time, and she had long, flowing hair.
My mom, tia and uncles would spend the night at my great-grandparents’ house regularly, so grandma kept Orphie around for my mom and tia, who were between 6 and 9 at the time.
“When we’d spend the night, she would sit Orphie in the corner or on a chair or something to watch over us so we would feel safe,” recalled my mom. “But as soon as grandma left, we would grab her and throw her in the closet and shut the door.”
“She really freaked us out. Every time we’d look at her, it seemed like she was looking at us,” said tia.
This became the routine until mom and tia took matters into their own hands.
“She told us, ‘If you take care of her, you can have her for a long time.’ So what did we do? We cut all her hair off,” my mom said with a chuckle. “We knew we would get in trouble, but we thought it was worth it to get rid of her.”
This didn’t deter grandma Sophie; however, she simply put a wig on her and Orphie lived on to my mom and tia’s dismay.
“But since we didn’t like her, we weren’t very nice to her,” said Tia in explanation of Orphie’s deteriorated face.
Orphie remained at my great-grandparents’ house up until they passed away. As a kid, I even remember playing with Orphie when visiting my great-grandparents. I didn’t share the same level of fear as my mom and Tia, but I heard the stories, so I remember I used to play extra nicely with her … just in case!
Over the years, our family has since developed a sort of love/hate relationship with Orphie, who now resides in the back of my tia’s closet. Everyone who comes across her is immediately creeped out, but we’re too scared to get rid of her in fear of her coming back. Plus, it’s now family tradition to use her in pranks.
You never know how or when but, at some point, she’s thoroughly spooked all of us. This has taken many forms including walking into a dark room and being startled by her once you flip the lights on, rounding a corner to find her waiting on the other side or, in the case of some out-of-state family members, finding her as a stowaway in their trunk. It’s almost like a rite of passage to have the bejesus scared out of you by Orphie at some point if you’re a part of the family or a frequent visitor.
Orphie’s reputation has grown so much that she even lands gigs every so often during spooky season at haunted houses and the like. Wherever she goes though, she always ends up back home.
“Orphie’s here to stay; she’s a part of the family now,” said tia. “I don’t think I could get rid of her even if I wanted to anyway, because you know she’ll come back.”
Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.