I’m trying to remember the first time I saw the Janesville Baby. I was in elementary school (pretty sure) and I think it was a field trip, although whether it was a school field trip or one for Girls Scouts, I really don’t know.
I wasn’t prepared to see it, I do know that. I’d never heard of the Janesville Baby before. But there she was. A doll. Hanging in an upper window. In an old house. Glimpsed briefly, through the smudged window of a school bus. I think I cried out:
“There’s a doll hanging in that window!”
Some of the kids saw it; others didn’t. It did generate much speculation, as only a doll handing in a window could among elementary school children.
It was the right kind of creepy.
I saw it several times while growing up in southern Minnesota. Even better, the Greyhound bus I took to the University of Wisconsin-Madison passed right through Janesville. No one at school ever believed me about the Janesville Baby (unless they hailed from southern Minnesota). So every time the bus drove through Janesville, I’d crane my neck to look and confirm:
Yes, yes, the baby is still there.
It’s not my imagination.
And it’s still creeping me out.
No matter what people say on the video or in the comments, for me, the Janesville Baby invokes the same visceral response as clowns or those movies about dolls that come to life in the middle of the night.
That being said, I’m glad this piece of my childhood is still intact, that it’s inspiring stories and wonder and–with a little luck–creeping out a new generation of elementary school children.
More about the Janesville Baby (article no longer online). I think my favorite comment is:
Only in the ridiculously reserved state of Minnesota could someone do something like that and not ever be asked about it for 30 years.
To be fair, I think people have asked. Mr. Wendt simply isn’t talking.
So there you go. Your dose of creepiness for the day. You can thank me later, say at 2 a.m., when you can’t fall to sleep.