I Say “Hello, Nice To Meet You” to Stuffed Animals In Case Someone’s Soul Is Trapped Inside

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A wise person once told me she always makes sure to be “nice” to the stuffed animals around her…just in case. IN CASE OF WHAT? I demanded. She didn’t answer. IN. CASE. OF. WHAT? She replied, coolly, you just never know what’s inside them, what they’re capable of. With that, she turned off the lamp next to her, filling our bedroom with darkness. That wise person was my now-fiancé, and now I was expected to peacefully slumber beside her after that haunting warning. But I’ve come to realize I should heed her warning.

Because she’s right, isn’t she? We’ve all seen that one episode of Black Mirror, caught sight of a stuffed cat with oddly human eyes, found a Beanie Baby in a place we could have sworn we did not put it. It’s not just the obvious children’s toys that could be haunted — dolls and clown figurines and toys that talk — but all inanimate objects with a face, really. A witch could have placed a curse on some wicked human trapping their soul inside a fluffy stuffed sacrificial lamb. A spell could have gone wrong. WE SIMPLY CANNOT KNOW!

When my three-year-old niece plays “bakery” (a game in which she is the fickle proprietor of a patisserie), I always make sure to order something not only for myself but for her teddy bear. It seems like the safest thing to do just in case her bear actually contains some evil oil baron from the early 20th century!!!!!! Do I want to offer a strawberry cake pop to an evil oil baron? No! But sometimes we must make sacrifices to remain blissfully un-cursed and un-haunted.

Even writing this, I’m potentially putting myself at risk. I’ve checked three times to make sure the stuffed cat that lives in my bedroom (her name is Prolific But Somehow Underrated Actress Kirsten Dunst, Kiki or Keek for short) is where I left her on the bed, facing toward the wall so that no wandering eyes can see me in my adjoining office loft. I will wish her goodnight this evening and good morning tomorrow, as I’ve now taught myself to do. I cannot risk another haunting; I do not have the time for one.

And yes, I said another haunting, because I recently experienced one. In our last home, my fiancée and I briefly had a pair of ghosts who we believe dwelled in vintage decanters on our bar cart. Every day around happy hour, we could hear a clinking of glasses. As far as hauntings go, this one was quite convivial. We assumed them a pair of happily married older folks who liked to toast to each other with martinis even in the afterlife. What I’m saying is: We got lucky that time. If I piss off a stuffed wolf (of which I used to own many, for I was not only a Wolf Shirt Girl whilst closeted but a full-on Wolves Everywhere Girl like I had figurines, stuffed animals, postcards and, yes, of course many shirts duh), I might not be so fortunate.

Listen, the number one movie in the nation right now is M3GAN. Killer dolls are getting very good press! They could be peak powerful right now, and I don’t wish to challenge that stronghold. Let M3GAN murder, and let stuffed animals — no matter what or whomst they might contain — live in peace.

When I tell my fiancé I’m writing this piece, she glances around, almost as if she’s worried Kiki or some other soul-possessing stuffed animal might be in earshot. We are a few miles from home, at our favorite ramen restaurant, nary a faux bear in sight, but I suppose her philosophy is that you can never be too cautious. She informs me when she makes the bed, she places Keek on my pillow, upright so she doesn’t suffocate.

When we finally see M3GAN on a Monday evening in an empty movie theater that looks the same as it did in the 90s when she went there in high school, my fiancé brags after: M3GAN would never kill me because I would respect her. It’s a very good point, and I can’t wait to marry someone so sage in matters of artificial intelligence and possessed toys.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 863 articles for us.


  1. i am cackling, also i once tried to throw away some stuffed animals and one (1) scary porcelain doll from my childhood and then i yelled I AM SO SORRY when I saw them in the trash can and had to pull them out again

  2. Hah.

    I’m also kind to stuffed animals, but more because I’m like, “what if they’re real / have a soul?” than “what if they’re haunted?”

    Probably the result of reading The Velveteen Rabbit too many times as a kid.

  3. Once upon a time I had a stuffed bear that was my least favorite stuffed bear. Some relative or neighbor won it at the fair and it was hard and stuffed with those little styrofoam beads. One night my sister and I were playing with our Fisher Price Dr kit and that bear, my least favorite bear, had a HEART BEAT. We made our dad come listen. He tried to tell us we were hearing our own hearts because the fake stethoscope blocked our ears. But we knew the truth. After that, I tried to pretend the bear was my favorite stuffed bear. I slept with it. I took it places. I even took it to the poll when my mom went to vote. One of the candidates was named George which was confusing because wasn’t George on the one dollar bill and also dead? It was the 1989 election and we all know how that turned out. I blame the bear (unless it can read this then I love you and miss you and hope a very nice family found you at the thrift store).

  4. This is hilarious and very apropos after taking the creepy toys quiz!

    I didn’t really have a lot of friends as a kid, so I was very much in my own little world imagining if my stuffed animals and talking toys were real.

  5. oh absolutely, like i don’t have much of a horror bent on reality. BUT if a human INTENTIONALLY adds a face to some fabric, that resulting entity needs some respect. I try to keep the stuffies upright (unless they are doing tricks) and cared for. . . .

  6. i still have approx. one cubic yard of stuffies from childhood because like? i named them? they have lives? can’t just dump those guys at goodwill i gotta find a Deserving Heir to leave them to!

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