Published: Judy Picture Story Library #220
Artist: Stanley Houghton
Alison Kirby and Denise Vale are best friends. Right now they are in a bit of trouble with their teacher over an essay on why they like where they live, which in their case is Halbury Tower apartment block. Although Alison is having trouble putting it to paper for the essay, she does like to live at Halbury Tower. It’s not grotty as some apartment blocks are, there’s no vandalism, the lifts always work (makes a change!), the caretaker Mr Teal is nice and cheerful, and the tenants are always friendly to each other.
But all that is about to change with the arrival of Little Dolly Demon!
LDD’s arrival certainly lacks for nothing that night. There’s a violent storm, and Alison is surprised to see a ball of light in the sky. There’s a clap of thunder, and Alison thinks she heard something crash on the roof. That something is LDD, landing on the roof in a flash of light, and it can move on its own.
Next morning Alison and Denise are on the roof and find LDD. They are surprised to find the doll bone dry despite all the rain and take it in, thinking it must be lost. As they do so, the cat ring on Alison’s finger (a present her dad picked up in Malta) starts to burn hot and Alison can’t take it off. They leave LDD in Denise’s room, and once LDD is alone it gets to work with Denise’s satchel and the exercise book Alison left in it. Then, Alison is surprised to see Denise acting as though she is hypnotised (by LDD of course), but the pain from the ring forces her back. Under LDD’s influence, Denise throws Alison’s exercise book down the rubbish chute. Later, Denise finds her exercise book has gone too. As a result, they get into trouble with teacher and have their first-ever row. Later the caretaker finds Alison’s now-ruined exercise book in the garbage and then Denise finds her room has been mysteriously vandalised and her own exercise book ripped to shreds. Of course it’s LDD’s handiwork, but Mum blames Denise.
Later, Denise gives LDD to Mr Teal, and then his cupboard suddenly falls into chaos without explanation. Later, a ball is thrown through his window – from the inside – but Mr Teal becomes uncharacteristically bad tempered and he wrongly blames some boys who were playing a ball game. He doesn’t listen to the girls when they try to defend the boys either. Then he finds his own flat is flooded.
Alison and Denise have noticed that the trouble seemed to start when the doll arrived. Alison’s ring tingles again and it seems to be drawing her attention. Following its lead, she discovers the doll walking on its own and there are lightning bolts of some sort coming from its eyes. LDD runs after Alison and soon has her trapped. When she tries to use the lift, the doll uses its powers to sabotage it – which also traps Mr Teal in the lift! He is rescued, but the lift is now out of order for the first time ever.
Everyone blames Alison for putting it out of action. Their committee is lodging complaints against her and for the inconvenience the out-of-order lift is causing. The formerly friendly apartment block is now becoming increasingly acrimonious and everyone is at each other’s throats.
At school things are not much better. Teacher is getting fed up with the girls not producing the essays she set (because of LDD’s interference) and is constantly punishing them.
The doll has disappeared, but soon the girls see it on the roof again. It throws a ball down, which smashes a car windscreen below. Mr Teal blames the girls as they were the nearest to the car, and the tenants join in as they all think the worst of her now, despite pleas from the boys that the ball came from the roof. The girls head for the roof after LDD, which has been committing more vandalism on the roof. Unfortunately it gets away. Mr Teal and the tenants blame the girls for the vandalism, and they even call the police over the matter. This leads to a tenants’ meeting, which is very stormy. The policeman has to urge everyone to keep calm and there is no real evidence against anyone, and he personally believes the girls’ claims of innocence. The rancour at Halbury Tower is now so bad the policeman comments that he is so glad he does not live there.
Meanwhile, a little girl at the apartment block picks up LDD. The girls see her with it and try to take it away. LDD strikes with more powers, which eventually ends up with the tenants irrationally blaming Denise and Alison for a washing machine going haywire (LDD again) and accusing them of bullying kiddies. Now they are even more hostile towards the girls.
Alison has now realised her ring is acting as some kind of LDD detector and protector, and the girls use it to go in search of LDD. Sensing Alison’s approach, LDD starts a fire and uses its powers to make sure the fire spreads quickly. Denise and Alison help people evacuate, but they themselves get trapped on the roof. In the distance they can see LDD dancing and cackling, and using its powers to turn the flames into an inferno and directing them wherever it pleases. In the smoke, they see LDD’s face and realise it does not intend them to escape.
But then LDD gets squashed flat under the wheels of a reversing fire engine and is destroyed. Without LDD, the flames die down and the fire is soon under control. The girls are rescued, and are hailed as heroines for their work in evacuating others. Later they find an imprint in the street where LDD was crushed and realise what happened.
Two months later repairs are finished at Halbury Tower, and the tenants are back to their old friendly selves. The acrimony and nastiness disappeared with the destruction of LDD, and the girls are resigned to never unravelling the mystery of LDD. Alison still has to write her essay on why she likes living in an apartment block (two months on and she still hasn’t written it?!). The girls reiterate how they like living in an apartment block.
It is October and Halloween time, so it is fitting to focus on some of the spooky, scary stories from girls’ comics this month. I think you will agree they don’t come much more scary than Little Dolly Demon. The cover itself says it all in just how terrifying LDD is. That expression of LDD on the cover breaks the fourth wall, for it seems to be staring right at the reader, which makes it even more unnerving. For those who think LDD was inspired by Chucky, the answer is no. LDD precedes Chucky by seven years, which means LDD is original and ahead of its time.
It is not just the powers of LDD – walking on its own, laughing, shooting rays out of its eyes, and possessing the ability to manipulate things, people, and even fire – that make it so frightening. It is also LDD’s very appearance, particularly its hairstyle and the expressions on its face when its malignance manifests. And it is all brilliantly rendered by the Stanley Houghton artwork. Houghton’s style is a perfect match to terror and spookiness and has been seen elsewhere in spooky stories, such as Mandy’s “Teddy”.
Adding to the terror is the total mystery on the origins of LDD or why it acts in the way it does. LDD could have been possessed by an evil spirit. Perhaps LDD was the product of black magic. LDD could even have been some sort of demon in the form of a doll. Or perhaps there was some other reason. But there is no way of knowing. LDD does not actually speak either, which means the doll itself never offers any explanation. It just pops out of nowhere in a violent thunderstorm – probably created by more of its powers – and gets to work. It probably makes a regular habit of travelling from place to place, spreading mayhem and discord wherever it goes. Except that in this case LDD met its match in the girls who were armed with a protective ring. Like LDD, the reasons how or why the ring acted in the way it did are left a mystery, which further adds to the paranormal effect of the story. Hollywood could easily make a movie with LDD.
There is also an insidious element to LDD that adds to its creepiness. The girls note that its very size, which is small, enables it to escape and hide very easily. And being a doll, LDD can just sit and pose as an ordinary doll, where an unsuspecting child could pick it up and lavish love on its, not realising the danger. And this is precisely what happens with the little girl who picks up LDD.
Further adding to the creepiness and mystery of LDD is that it has no known name, unlike most evil dolls/puppets in girls’ serials. It is not given one either, except at one point where the girls nickname it “Kookie” before they realise the threat. But the nickname does not stick. It is just “the doll”.
The story takes the opportunity to comment on the merits of living in an apartment block – provided it is a nice apartment block where the tenants are friendly, the lifts work, and everything goes smoothly. There are other apartment blocks that aren’t. In some girls’ comics stories there are even apartment blocks that possess terrifying secrets/powers of their own, such as “The Sentinels” from Misty. This particular apartment block degenerates into one of the grotty apartment blocks once LDD arrives. Sometimes things do go wrong just when everything seems perfect, even without an evil doll to cause it all. The girls emerge even more appreciative of living in an apartment block once the baleful influence of LDD is lifted from it.