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Head Coach: It's a fine line between fiction and reality

By By Lane Johnson
Feb. 7, 2013 at midnight
Updated Feb. 6, 2013 at 8:07 p.m.


My son and his wife came for a visit last weekend. It was a lovely time except for the fact that both left sleep deprived from terrorizing nightmares. The culprit was a harmless two-and-a-half foot doll in a sweet, little toy room on the second floor of our home.

You see, all of our children have grown up, left the nest, and are carving out lives of their own with careers, lovers, and, thankfully, all of the animals. This leaves my wife and me to our quiet, peaceful home with a couple of spare bedrooms and collections of childhood toys. So, we recreated our own childhoods by converting one of the rooms into a toy room.

Walking into this room is like stepping back in time.

Every doll, tin soldier, matchbox car, book and Lionel train retells a story of childhood adventure spanning generations from grandparents to grandchildren. All of our childhoods are congregated in that one room. Anyone who visits is encouraged to pick up where they left off. It's a playroom, not just a toy room. It's the kind of room that makes one smile no matter what age.

When he came to visit, my son quickly ushered his relatively new bride to the toy room for her inaugural tour. We anticipated playful laughter and reminiscing. There was a gentle smile, but it seemed more polite than genuine. She didn't let on that she was spooked. Just inside the toy room door, as though to greet anyone who walks in, Raggedy Ann and Andy are seated around a small antique wrought-iron ice cream table.

Each is about 30 inches tall, and Andy is holding a miniature baseball bat in his lap. I remember my daughter bringing that bat home from a Texas Rangers game. While those dolls and that room fills my head with warm memories, my daughter-in-law didn't have the same experience.

The next morning, she reported a restless night of interrupted sleep from a recurring nightmare of Raggedy Andy attacking her with a baseball bat. Every time she passed by, which was often since the toy room entered at the top of the stairs, she shuttered at the sight of Andy glaring at her. Even my son was startled each time he glanced in.

I was puzzled. How could Raggedy Ann and Andy ever frighten any one? Raggedy Ann has been around since 1915 when a little girl named Marcella brought an old handmade rag doll to her father, Johnny Gruelle, an American cartoonist, illustrator, and storyteller.

The doll was made by his grandmother who gave it to his mother who eventually gave it to Marcella. The original doll had no face. Gruelle painted a face and named her Raggedy Ann after two of his favorite poems by Whitcomb Riley, "The Raggedy Man" and "Little Orphan Annie."

He introduced Raggedy Ann stories to the public in 1918 and added sequels about Raggedy Andy in 1920. Both characters have charmed millions of readers with their warm and optimistic outlook, calm approach to difficulties, adventurous spirit and compassionate nature.

So, how could Raggedy Andy, with his pleasant thoughts and positive outlook on life, terrorize two rather bright adult children? Well, they didn't see Raggedy Andy - they saw Chucky. If you haven't seen the movie, "Child's Play," it's about a fictitious killer who transferred his evil soul into a doll before he died from mortal wounds.

This doll, Chucky, goes on to wreak havoc on innocent people for four sequels. A fifth sequel is coming out this Halloween. Raggedy Andy became Chucky for my son and his wife. I lectured them on paying better attention to the movies they watch and sent them home for a good night's sleep.

Unfortunately, it didn't end there. I looked into this Andy/Chucky connection. In the movie Chucky is purchased by a woman who takes him home to her son. The son's name? Andy. There's more. While Chucky's face is grotesquely scarred, he and Andy could be brothers.

Both have reddish hair, and wear frighteningly similar clothes. Couple that with the fact that Raggedy Ann and Andy's, owner, Marcella, died at the age of 13 from a small pox vaccination given to her without her parents' consent, and I start to get nervous. Then, I learned her father died an untimely death from being overworked and copyright disputes.

All of a sudden I, too, am having trouble looking at Raggedy Andy. But, this is silly. It's just a doll. Although, I don't go up there much anymore. Certainly not in the dark. And I took Andy's bat away.

Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by email at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.

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