Researchers keep finding creepy dolls washing up on Texas beaches

"There's a lot of nightmares out there."

A Mission-Aransas Reserve researcher holds up a baby doll she found on a Texas beach on April 22. 

A Mission-Aransas Reserve researcher holds up a baby doll she found on a Texas beach on April 22. 

Jace Tunnell

Researchers regularly survey coasts for creatures like sea turtles, marine mammals and endangered bird species. And while they often come across debris while combing the Texas shoreline, lately, creepy dolls seem to be their most popular find.  

Mission-Aransas Reserve researchers say that for years now, they've been mysteriously encountering dolls washing ashore on Texas beaches. The reserve documents the most interesting ones on their Facebook page. The creepy castaways are usually in horrific condition, covered in barnacles or missing their limbs, hair and eyes. 

One of the group's most recently shared dolls, which had barnacles growing out of its eyes, was on Monday. "Oh boy, a creepy doll. I know a bunch of you weirdos out there like this," says Jace Tunnell, director of the Mission-Aransas Reserve at the University of Texas Marine Institute, in a beachcombing video. "This is some stuff that comes up all the time."

With each social media post, users appear to be more and more intrigued. "Creepy and why are there so many dolls in the ocean? Am I missing something?" one user commented on an April 22 post. "This one looks happy to be found! ... not like some of the others!" another wrote. 

Tunnell told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he and his colleagues regularly find the dolls while surveying a 40-mile stretch of beach from north Padre Island to Matagorda Island. "Every day is something new," Tunnell said. "Just when you've found everything that could possibly wash up on shore, something else comes up."

So far, Tunnell told the Star-Telegram that he's collected 30 of the disturbing dolls since he began keeping count. "The creepiest are the ones that have lost all their hair," he said. 

The first doll they found was the head of a sex doll. "I posted a picture of it and I didn't realize that's what it was," Tunnel said. "We got a lot of followers on the page after that." Someone later bought the sex doll's head for $35 and the proceeds were donated to a sea turtle rescue program, Tunnell told the Star-Telegram. 

But how did the dolls even get there, one might ask? The UT Marine Science Institute found the Texas Coastal Bend region is a "junk magnet."

"Texas coastal bend beaches get 10 times the amount of trash ... than any other beach in the Gulf of Mexico," Tunnel told the Star-Telegram. This is because of a "loop current" that extends from the Yucatan Peninsula to Florida and pushes debris toward the Texas Gulf. 

The group also gets a surprising number of people requesting to purchase or take the dolls. Tunnell told the Star-Telegram that he doesn't keep any of the toys out of fear that they could be haunted but he sells them at a yearly fundraising auction. "There's a lot of nightmares out there," he said. 

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