“Unraveling the Mystery of Dolls: Thrills, Halloween, & Germany" at the German American Heritage Center -- October 29.

Sunday, October 29, 2 p.m.

German American Heritage Center, 712 West Second Street, Davenport IA

Why are dolls scary? What is the thrill and fascination with being scared that Halloween provides? Such questions and many others will be addressed at Davenport's German American Heritage Center on October 29 in the live lecture Unraveling the Mystery of Dolls: Thrills, Halloween, & Germany, with presenter Dr. Ellen M. Tsagaris explores why some people find dolls terrifying, as well as the origins of Halloween and Germany’s role in the holiday.

As explained in Smithsonian magazine, "Research into why we think things are creepy and what potential use that might have is somewhat limited, but it does exist ('creepy,' in the modern sense of the word, has been around since the middle of the 19th century; its first appearance in the New York Times was in an 1877 reference to a story about a ghost). In 2013, Frank McAndrew, a psychologist at Knox College in Illinois, and Sara Koehnke, a graduate student, put out a small paper on their working hypothesis about what 'creepiness' means; the paper was based on the results of a survey of more than 1,300 people investigating what 'creeped' them out (collecting dolls was named as one of the creepiest hobbies).

"Creepiness, McAndrew says, comes down to uncertainty. 'You’re getting mixed messages. If something is clearly frightening, you scream, you run away. If something is disgusting, you know how to act,' he explains. 'But if something is creepy… it might be dangerous but you’re not sure it is… there’s an ambivalence.' If someone is acting outside of accepted social norms – standing too close, or staring, say – we become suspicious of their intentions. But in the absence of real evidence of a threat, we wait and in the meantime, call them creepy. The upshot, McAndrew says, is that being in a state of 'creeped out' makes you 'hyper-vigilant.' 'It really focuses your attention and helps you process any relevant information to help you decide whether there is something to be afraid of or not. I really think creepiness is where we respond in situations where we don’t know have enough information to respond, but we have enough to put us on our guard.'"

Program presenter Ellen M. Tsagaris, JD, PhD, has collected dolls since age three. She gives lectures, stages museum exhibits, appraises, and makes dolls. Dr. Tsagaris has also written books and articles about dolls, including With Love from Tin Lizzie; A History of Metal Dolls and A Bibliography of Doll & Toy Sources. Her articles have been published in Antique Doll Collector, Antique Trader, The Midwestern Journal of Victorian Studies, and The American Journal of Play. She blogged for R. John Wright, Ruby Lane, and Antique Doll Collector, and was also a guest columnist for the Argus/Dispatch. Dr. Tsagaris has won several writing awards and has appeared on radio and television programs, and she is currently the executive director of the American Doll and Toy Museum in Rock Island.

Unraveling the Mystery of Dolls: Thrills, Halloween, & Germany will be presented at the German American Heritage Center on October 29, participation in the 2 p.m. program is free for Heritage Center members and $5 for non-members, and more information is available by calling (563)322-8844 and visiting GAHC.org.

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