What a way to end spooky season. Monday morning, Elk Township police responded to a life-like doll resembling a young Black girl hanging from a tree by a noose, per The Philadelphia Inquirer. It’s unclear who hung the doll, but witnesses who caught a glimpse were left horrified and debated online whether it was a hate crime.
“It was a full-sized doll of maybe a 5-year-old girl of African-American descent with all the features of a human, including long hair and nice eyes. Somebody spent a lot of money on it, like it was from a dress shop,” said one witness, E.V. Voltura to the Inquirer.
The doll was reported to be on the side of Buck Road, two miles west of Rowan University. The display was on the property of a one-story rented house. The person responsible hasn’t been identified but Tom Gilbert, chief of detectives with Gloucester County prosecutor’s office, believes the resident of the home removed the figure from the tree themselves.
Read the reactions to the scene from The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Voltura, who is completing a Ph.D. in bird health and conservation at Texas A&M University, said the doll was hanging from the branch of a 35-foot tree with a rope one-to-two inches in circumference that was fashioned into a noose.
“It was not a mummy or something Halloweenish from Walmart,” she continued in an interview. “It was bizarre, and so blatantly hanging close to the side of the road.”
Hassan Williams, 32, a flight coordinator of private jets in Delaware, said he and his fiancé were driving to dinner near Rowan on Sunday when they spotted the figure. “We turned around to make sure we saw what we think we saw. We couldn’t believe it.”
“Being someone of color, I thought it was just horrific,” said Williams, who likened the violent image to a lynching, or a suicide. “It left me angry, and triggered things. At first, I was trying to give whoever did it the benefit of the doubt, because it was Halloween. But it just wasn’t like that.”
The report says the picture circulated Facebook and neighborhood network platform Nextdoor. The Inquirer decided not to post the photo of the doll. The Root requested release of the image from Elk Township Police Department.
The department posted a statement via Facebook saying they are looking into the incident. “We empathize with our community and we ask for cooperation and patience at this time while we thoroughly investigate the facts of this matter,” read the post. The comments were turned off.
I don’t know what’s spookier, the hanging doll itself or the intention to make it seem like a real person.