Just as a new national poll brings us the news that South Minneapolis is one of the best trick-or-treat locales in the world, concerns are mounting about the return of a menacing two-foot tall doll that was once thought to be a fictional character relegated to black and white television of the 1960s.
The Southwest Journal has learned that “Talky Tina” (as the character was known on the popular science fiction series “The Twilight Zone”) has been spotted every Oct. 31 in South Minneapolis since the great Halloween snowstorm of 1991. Officials have had covert knowledge of the thing’s existence for over two decades, but have been reluctant to release details of the sightings, saying that reports of a tiny doll with hollowed-out eyes walking the sidewalks and hiding in bushes might alarm the public.
“That thing is evil,” said one constable who requested anonymity. “I’ve made it my life’s work to catch and kill her. My dad was an old-school Minneapolis beat cop, and the first to try and put her away. He stopped after a couple years and wouldn’t talk about it, but every year around this time he’d say, ‘When we were kids we only had to worry about razor blades in apples. Now it’s Satan in pigtails.’”
Talky Tina’s television life lasted just 30 minutes. She appeared in the “Twilight Zone” episode “Living Doll,” which starred the late actor Telly Sevalas as Erich Streator, a bitter man who tries to win his stepdaughter Annabelle’s affection with the gift of a doll.
Streator is instantly jealous of the bond that happens naturally between Annabelle, her mother, and the doll, who immediately declares her love for her new family. Early on in the melodrama, it’s easy to see that Tina is no ordinary toy, and that the stepfather’s lingering skepticism is well-founded: In the end, the doll torments the man, the man tries destroying the doll, the man eventually descends into madness and dies after tripping over Tina and his own self-hate. He falls down a flight of stairs in his own home, to his death with Tina grinning limply at his side.
The show first aired on Nov. 1, 1963, and has been a staple of “Twilight Zone” cable access marathons since the ’90s. The creature was once thought to only be a figment of the imaginations of the series’ writers and its creator, Rod Serling, but now Minneapolis officials say that apparently after killing Sevalas’s character, Tina walked out the door of the family two-story, out of the television, and, after years of plying her voodoo skills in Davenport, Iowa, has landed in a burrow located somewhere between the scarecrows on 46th and Lyndale and the White Castle on West Lake Street.
According to authorities and two decades’ worth of eyewitness reports, Tina can now be seen every Halloween starting at dusk. She roams the sidewalks, lakeshores and 35W overpass bridges.
Speculation is mounting that Tina’s visit this year has something to do with the proliferation of bullying in schools, and that Tina wants revenge on a new generation of bullies, gossips and liars. The Minneapolis Paranormal Activity Society reports that frightened school children have already claimed Tina sightings this year at Lakewood Cemetery, the back row of the Lake Harriet trolley, Karl Mueller’s bench, the Washburn library and the big metal bunny on the parkway.
The career detective took a breath and looked off into the brilliant autumn night. Right on cue, off in the distance, a wolf howled at the harvest moon; an owl hooted in harmony.
“She’s getting more brazen,” said the constable, exhaling on a cigarette. “Last Halloween, right around supper, she walked straight into Galactic Pizza. She hit Beek’s an hour later. We know she likes pizza for dinner and trick-or-treaters for desert. That’s about it. That’s all I can say.”
And what should concerned citizens do if they encounter the little demon Halloween night?
“She’s dangerous. Avoid any and all contact,” he said, then hastily warned: “Stay indoors. Or, if you have to trick-or-treat, avoid houses with Halloween decorations. She loves the lights, lawn ornaments, jack-o-lanterns. She lives off that. But if you do see her, don’t look in her eyes. Don’t even think about trying to catch her. Sweet Jesus in heaven, run for your lives.”
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.