Who made these "flesh" dolls?
May 25, 2008 3:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm being driven crazy by what is most likely an interesting, artistic hoax.

I was just dropping by one of my favorite bookmarked blogs yesterday, and saw this intriguing post. Dolls made of the flesh of dead and stillborn children, used to frighten away evil spirits? And such dolls! Such frightening dolls! Such... self consciously scary, very Western-looking dolls... like the baby in Eraserhead...

OK, the needle of my bullshit detector is buried in the red, especially considering some details in the the original source (a 4chan thread linked in the Monster Brains article, might be a titch NSFW, fascinating nonetheless.) Nobody seems to be able to provide any details about this "tradition." However, the artwork is interesting and looks a bit familiar. Can anyone identify the artist or otherwise point me toward the truth?
posted by louche mustachio to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
That's creepie/intriguing. I don't think it's real, given that there seems to be zero information on the internet to collaborate this.
posted by Raynyn at 6:43 AM on May 25, 2008

Kinda reminds me of the Bread Head Bakery that was run around the internets a few days/weeks ago.
posted by SpecialK at 7:17 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

IANAD or anything, but they look fake to me. I guess I don't have much experience with stitching human skin together to make dolls, but I wouldn't think human flesh would retain its wet, pinkish color long after you flay it off a stillborn. I could be wrong.
posted by Nattie at 7:36 AM on May 25, 2008

Can't be of direct help, but the skin on the 4th one down looks pretty much exactly like what I got when I tried to stretch latex (from liquid latex) over a tiny skeleton once. So I'm going to add a cautious "takes one to know one" flag to our bunting. :)
posted by -harlequin- at 8:37 AM on May 25, 2008

This rang a bell, so I did some digging...

If my e-research is accurate, which of course it might not be, there's a Thai legend involving dried-fetuses-as-amulets. Supposedly "in the past" people made these things out of real fetuses, but "nowadays" they're just statues. It seems to me that someone who knows the legend made these things (out of animal parts and other stuff, not actual babies) as an art project.

Here's the legend. A guy cuts a fetus out of his dead wife to make an amulet:

Khun Paen had wanted a protective spirit to watch over him in battle. To this end he cut the unborn foetus of his son from his dead wife’s womb and took it to a temple to perform an occult rite.

The site refers to this thing as a guman thong. Gumanthong.com tells me that a guman thong is a "Thai amulet or statue represented in the form of a beautiful child within which is captured a spiritual entity." There's more here but that site looks pretty bullshitty.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:25 AM on May 25, 2008

Books bound in human skin aren't all that uncommon. If you live in a country with a large population, you don't have to be Ed Gein to see that that's a lot of potential leather going to waste.
posted by SPrintF at 9:29 AM on May 25, 2008

corrected link
posted by Rash at 2:49 PM on May 25, 2008

Well, it appears the link to the original 4chan post is dead, and Aeron at Monster Brains is also looking for information on the artist. I went through and saves all the pictures before I posted this question, and might post more later.

I have yet to contact the people I know with expertise (a friend of mine is a forensic pathologist, another is a special effects artist) but they do look to me like wax and latex are heavily used - I've been able to make credible looking skin using both of those materials. I have a friend who made little people that were very similar, using latex. Some of it might also be uncured hide. From what I've seen of objects made with human skin, it seems to darken and shrink (Here's an article with a photo of a book bound in human skin - you see what I mean.)

I didn't get a chance to copy the text of the original thread, but the story was that the OP was doing an intense internet search for "dead babies." In the course of his search, he found a Chinese site, saw these pictures and was intrigued. He ran the site through a translation engine, and the site claimed that these dolls were made of the skin of stillborn and dead infants, and were used to ward off evil spirits. The original site also contained "CP" so of course he didn't link it, and when he went to find it again the link was dead. Convenient, yes?
posted by louche mustachio at 6:15 PM on May 25, 2008

Another update! Mystery solved.

A Monster Brains reader identified the artist: Ludovic Levasseur
Flickr page

Not to say that these images won't rear their weird little heads in their mythologized form somewhere down the line. I'm reminded of forwarded emails about Patricia Piccini's work or the Camille Allen "marzipan babies" that so scandalized the internet, and quite likely continue to do so. It's good to know who the real artist is though.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:53 PM on May 25, 2008

Sweet jesus, am I ever glad this got answered and that it wasn't as macabre as it looked. Still, even knowing they're not real babies, they are insanely creepy. Thanks for posting (and for asking!)
posted by loiseau at 2:13 PM on May 26, 2008

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