Janesville, the old man & the doll in the window

Posted: October 3, 2012 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

The doll that watches over Janesville.

A Janesville legend died a few weeks ago. Ward Wendt was 84 years old. He was born in Janesville and died at a nursing home in nearby Waterville. Ward was a farmer, a florist and a railroad worker. He was an enthusiastic collector. His wife died in 1997, and his obituary revealed he was survived by nieces, great nieces and nephews and great-great nieces and nephews.

But Ward left a legend behind, or at least one of the urban variety. I grew up across the street and two houses up from Ward’s house, which sits along the old Highway 14, the road that for decades went right through the town in southern Minnesota.

Ward’s house was — still is — home to the famous Janesville doll in the window, and if you think I’m exaggerating by calling it famous spend a few moments on Google and get ready to read about ghosts, and little girls who killed themselves and small boys neglected by their parents and demon possessions and eyes that hypnotize drivers as they roll through a town they’d forget six seconds after they leave it, if not for the doll that watches over everything. Today — even though four-lane Highway 14 now bypasses the town so there’s not as much traffic — you’ll still see drivers slow down as they approach the house, craning their necks to stare at the mysterious object.

Janesville’s not famous for much. We have Hay Daze, the annual summer celebration filled with parades and a carnival, but that’s like festivities you find in every town in the country that has a population under 2,000. Silos painted as a rainbow once greeted drivers as they entered town on Highway 14, a cool sight but one that was replaced by white paint with blue lettering. Fury’s Barber Shop offers good haircuts and better dirty jokes. We had Wiste’s Grocery Store, whose superb meat products attracted people from all over. In the mid-90s the high school had a dominant high school boys basketball team. There’s a lake. Nine-hole reversible golf course. And the name itself, which makes people think of Janesville, Wisconsin until you correct them and say it’s the small town in Minnesota, the one that’s about an hour south of Minneapolis. “Oh,” they say.

But people know about the doll. They know about its existence at least. Only Ward probably knew all the secrets.

I always took a bit of pride when people from out of town asked about the doll, whether it was a cousin or someone at basketball camp. They were always a bit fascinated, perhaps even a bit frightened, as if their parents one time told them on a five-hour drive to grandma’s that they’d better behave or they’d be dropped off at the house with the doll in the window. I acted nonchalant, as if it was no big deal we lived next to a house that was possibly haunted or home to a possessed doll.

Ward was born in the house he lived in all his life and the doll sat up in the attic for several decades. Stories about what it all means populate the Internet. The website Strange USA offers up several theories and testimonials, including from Janesville citizens. One guy comments about how only in Minnesota would be people be so reserved that they didn’t ask the man about it, apparently not realizing that many people did just that. He also writes, “Neighbors have the right to ask him to take it down.” Because of property values? Night terrors? And if it did happen, what would Janesville be known for? The Dairy Queen?

The newspaper at nearby Minnesota State Mankato wrote about the doll. The doll even has a MySpace account, and is on Facebook.

A few years ago, an enterprising college kid put together the coolest piece about the doll, an original documentary aired on Youtube called “The Janesville Baby,” a film designed “not to unlock the mystery, but to spread it; to perpetuate the myth; to celebrate American folklore.” It’s a fun film (Fury household appears in background at 4:52 and watch through the credits; at the 9-minute mark Janesville barber, and cousin, Jim Fury pops up). The moviemaker, Dan Kettler, who attended Saginaw Valley State, won an award for the movie. When Ward died, Kettler also left a nice note on his obituary, writing about how Ward “spoke very openly about his life, love, and local history.”

In 2010, I received an email from a high school student writing a paper about the doll, who saw something I had written about it before and wanted to interview me. I’m sure I disappointed her with my boring insight, which was really no insight at all, except to say Ward was a nice man, the doll wasn’t scary and I didn’t know the true story about its placement — if there even was any story at all. The doll has fascinated several generations of townsfolk and passersby. It was always there, and the story will always be secret. In 1976, in celebration of the bicentennial, the town put a time capsule in the city park, which is across the street from Ward’s house. In it, Ward — so the story goes — reveals the meaning behind the doll. I never found out if it’s a handwritten note or a typed letter. The capsule won’t be opened until 2176, and you can only guess at the reaction of those who do take a key or crowbar to the vault. “What’s this doll they speak of?” As a kid, it always upset me that I wouldn’t be there for the big reveal.

This story now frustrates my wife. On one trip she hatched a scheme involving us tearing up the vault and getting to the answer, though she left out tiny details like how we were supposed to get away with the crime. Or perhaps we have ourselves cryogenically frozen so we can return for the unveiling.

Growing up next to the doll in the window wasn’t a big part of daily life. It was handy as a directional for visitors — “turn left right before it, we’re the house next to the church” — but hardly filled our hearts with dread. Ward was a great neighbor, a friendly face. He drove around in a station wagon that always seemed to be filled with… stuff. Ward drove slow and that speed only decreased as his age increased. Call it parade speed. I often played on our street, throwing a ball against the old stone wall that surrounded the road, fielding cement grounders hour after hour. When I saw Ward rolling down the street I knew I had time for a few more throws before the car arrived. We’d both wave and we’d both continue with our chores.

Janesville won’t be quite the same without Ward, one of those small town characters who helps define a town. Every town has them — the bartender who’s been serving drinks and listening to BS since the ’50s, the barber with all the gossip, the newspaper editor with all the stories, the school bus driver who’s seen all the faces. The florist and railroad worker who knows the answer to the biggest secret.

He was always there, and always in that house, the attic filled with grand pianos — and a famous doll. He was part of Janesville’s history, but also knew all about its history. I never feared the doll, but like a driver from South Dakota passing through for the first and last time, I still look up at it when I’m back in Janesville. It’s comforting. It’s home.

Shortly after Ward died, my dad was talking on the phone with my niece. Out the window, he could see flashlights shining down by Ward’s house. Turned out it was the police, just poking around. Dad told Brandi the doll had escaped and was running down the street. He spooked her.

Ward is gone. The legend lives.

**********************************

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE (January 15)
So if you go through the comments below — and thanks for all the comments — you’d see that shortly after Ward died, the doll disappeared from its window. Don’t worry, it didn’t run off or float away. An unimpeachable source, my dad, has the inside scoop, as he spoke with the gentleman working on Ward’s house. The doll is safe and sound. Its future is unknown but it will be preserved. It will perhaps go to the city of Janesville to be displayed somewhere (where it can haunt more generations), and if it doesn’t go there, it will likely end up with the county historical society. So a vital piece of Janesville history — the thing that Janesville is best-known for — will live on. People will still be able to see it and marvel at it. I think Ward would like that.

UPDATE 2: As of January 2014, the Doll resides in the Janesville library.

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Comments
  1. Rich Jensen says:

    I would love it if the explanation turns out to be: ‘I did it as a joke, and once it caught on, I just went along for the ride’, or something to that effect.

    • Tom Evans says:

      I got to up in the attic with Ward and a reporter back in early 80′s….

      • shawnfury says:

        And…?!

        The teases here are way too plentiful! Although I think Ward probably told 100 different things to 100 different people, spreading a story here, a story there.

  2. Jerry says:

    Favorite memory of the doll house…the year we got the Fury softball team together we called Ron Wendorff to come play with us and he was coming from Medford. As your dad was trying to tell him how to get to your house he asked “do you know where the doll house is?” and since Ron did it was easy to get him to the house. It would be interesting to know what the reason is for the doll in the window is. I will be the lookout when you and Louise break in to the time capsule to find out. But I will sell you down the river to save my own behind. Just so you know.

  3. shawnfury says:

    Rich, I think the general consensus is that the note will say something pretty close to that. But who knows, maybe there is a dark secret. Not that I’ll ever find out, damn it.

    Maybe being that close to the doll put a curse on the Fury softball team against Stosh’s.

  4. Rich Jensen says:

    BTW, I really would enjoy a story as simple as “Seemed like a good idea at the time, and then it sort of took off on its own.” I mean, it’s a pre-internet meme.

  5. Brandon Bluhm says:

    Nice work on this Shawn. Ward was a good neighbor and friend to our family. He was largely misunderstood because of his “eccentric” behavior, whatever that means. He referred to my dad as “Himself”, and was quick to offer a room temperature beer whenever he saw my dad working in the yard. He used the phrase “Bless your heart” as commonly as we use thank you.
    I think the doll was put there for no other reason than to make people ask “What is with that Doll?”
    I was taken up to the attic one time with my mom and there it was, just sitting on a chair, staring out the window. Not near as ominous up close as it was from the street. He never did reveal to us why it was there, and thats OK. Not everything needs to be explained

    • shawnfury says:

      Awesome memories, Brandon. The beer one, I really like. I remember being jealous you had seen it up close. Guess I should have just asked Ward to take me up! And I think you’re exactly right with the last line.

      It was a cool neighborhood…John F. on one end, painting, scaffolding for decades, Ward on the other.

  6. Cheri Bluhm says:

    HI Shawn
    Thank you for writing this story about our dear neighbor and good friend Ward.
    You did a good job and we enjoyed reading it.
    We did live in a cool neighborhood,,,,didn’t we?

  7. Dave Pope says:

    Hi Shawn, I enjoyed your story. I also lived next to Ward about 40 plus years ago. He did share lots of things with me … but I’m not telling.

    • shawnfury says:

      Tell us! No, the mystery is definitely part of it. I do wonder what else was put in the Janesville time capsule in 1976. Other town secrets?

    • Susan Sik says:

      Oh we all want the poop from Mr. Pope!! For those of us who drove through town and back again so many times on our way to Rochester for hospital visits, etc. (my mother died at the Mayo Hospital) ….my grandchildren lived in Rochester……I have family that would come from Illinois to visit us in SW MN and we would visit back…always going through Janesville. We would share this mystery and talk about it and show everyone who was ever with us “the doll in the window.” Most of us will never live to hear the unveiling in 2076. And at that time, not many living will even remember or care. Please share what you know.
      Pretty pleeeeeaaase. :)

  8. shawnfury says:

    Update on October 14: According to a text from a good source, my mom, the Doll in the Window has been taken down. For good? Temporary? To be sold on eBay? Probably a mundane reason — the house perhaps being sold — or…maybe it did escape?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s will go to a historical center or a place in Jansville for others to see, and taunt them

      • shawnfury says:

        In the library now it’s not as intimidating, that’s for sure. I walked past it a lot in January and now it just looks onto Main Street, not the same as haunting drivers and kids in school buses on the highway.

  9. What the heck?! I had heard the news that Ward had passed, but I talked to my parents this weekend and they didn’t tell me that. It is almost more shocking. Nice write up, Shawn. I’m going to have to dig out my video interview I did with Ward a couple summers ago after the Hay Daze parade and see what I actually was able to capture…

  10. shawnfury says:

    Thanks, Jeremy. Ward let you film him? That would be fascinating. And he revealed the secret, I’m assuming? Hopefully the doll — wherever it is now — ends up somewhere, maybe, as my mom suggested, the Waseca County historical society.

  11. Jess says:

    Wardy’s other house was in the “neighborhood” where my parents live. According to one of my uncles, Wardy told him why he put the doll in the window. I’m not entirely sure I remember the story correctly, but I’m starting to think I wouldn’t spill the beans even if I was certain.

  12. Jack Jackson says:

    Met Ward as he was setting up a flower arangment at my folks house. Asked him about the doll, and he said “xxxxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxx xxx x xxxx” send $10 for the answer behind the x’s.

  13. I am from waterville,and always wondered about the doll,but it did not jinx you against stoshs ball team they were just good.

    • shawnfury says:

      They were good. Although the game is a bitter memory in the Fury extended family. Hay Daze tourney, 1984. Team Fury leads in final inning, Stosh’s claims right fielder is using illegal glove. Got an extra out, Ritchie J. hit a dinger, then someone else drilled one, game over. There was something haunted about it.

  14. Jenny Sherva says:

    I grew up further west on 14, but I still had heard the stories and know the doll well. It is crazy to think they took it down. They should have left it up and told the new owners the history so they could have kept it. I would have. I also remember the rainbow silos… and am sad to hear they too are gone. Kinda wish for the days of old, sometimes. But for now, I’ll keep wondering what memories will stick in my kids’ heads.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Growing up Ward worked with my mother Becky Miller as partners in the florists business doing flowers for weddings and whatever else. He was a very kind man and am greatful to have met the man. I remember helping out with flower arangements for multiple weddings. at such a young age even i could see the love he had for what he did which was very inspirational. He was always someone i looked up to growing up. As for the doll. i remember him taking me up to see it but dont remember anything he said about it if he even did which i doubt. my mother always told me that he told her the story of the doll in the window but she wouldnt tell me. As my mother battled cancer she told a story of the doll from her death bed not knowing if she was blowing smoke i hope to live to see that capsule opened to know. True or not what i know i will never tell. if it is true ur secrets safe Ward. if not thanks alot mom. lol God bless ur soul Ward you definitely deserve it. Say hi to mom for me if ya see her and if what she told was true. Chew her ass. lol

    • Anonymous says:

      nevermind lol i thought it got opened in 2076

    • shawnfury says:

      Thanks a lot for the comment, great memory. Seems like there are more people out there who know than I would have ever thought (or at least more people Ward told…who knows the truth).

      And yeah…2176. No hope for anyone!

  16. i too grew up in janesville in the 70s, there were rumors of ward burying a time capsule across the street in the park, with an explanation of the doll, dont know if thats anything more than rumor. ward was cool, there was a skatathon i was collecting donations for, my friends dared me to go there, i knocked and went in ,to some of the warmest company i had ever had in that town, only to emmerge 15 minutes later, alive, in one piece, to amazed eyes lurking on the corner of the street

  17. Shake says:

    My dad worked at Janesville Maid Bakery back in the 50′s through the 70s. My first contact with Wardie came when he visited our house one Saturday evening. I must have been 11 or 12. He asked if my dad could get him into the bakery to pick up a birthday cake he had ordered. Of course, I translated, my dad being deaf.

    Wardie said he had ordered a cake that was decorated as though a pigeon had treated it like a statue. The icing spelled out, “May the bird of happiness crap on your birthday cake.”

    Sure enough, it was the only cake in there decorated like that. Wardie was eccentric alright, but he had a great whooping kind of laugh. And he knew his flowers.

  18. danielle says:

    i lived in janesville and whent to jwp the doll was all ways in the window it just cool and wardie will be missed by all he was a good man

  19. Ward Wendt was an eccentric man. Very polite, Formal. Nice. I lived across the park from the house and would have placed a doll in my own window to stare back at his doll, but never did… Why steal its thunder. It had enough of its own. The doll in the window has definitely made it’s place in history. We may never know the true story about why it was there, merely that it was there. Many, many, many have viewed it. The story is real.

  20. Grace Cherrington (daughter of Rosalie and Chester) says:

    Thanks for this interesting piece of history. Lived in Janesville in the mid 50s part of the time next to the Fury’s in the corner house. Would be nice to know that the local museum has the doll and pictures!

    • shawnfury says:

      Thanks for the comment, Grace. Might do some investigating into the doll when I’m home in a week. Also, filmmaker Dan Kettler — who made the youtube video — is looking into it. Hopefully can find a home for it.

    • Larry Hofmann says:

      Hello Grace. I went to school in Janesville and your dad had the unenviable task of attempting to teach me math. I remember him quite well and think of him as tall, rather quiet, and gentle. He also must have been a patient man to have put up with me. I’ve always wondered something about him: perhaps it was a rumor, but I have the memory that your dad survived the horrors of the Bataan Death March. Might you please tell me if that’s true?

  21. Tina says:

    It is kinda fun reading all this. I lived in New Ulm and EVERYTIME we drove by the ‘doll house’ we looked and talked about a different story everytime! Urks me to know that I will never know the ‘REAL’ story! ;) I am 33 now……….and talked about the house 15 years ago!

  22. I went to college in New Ulm and my kids go there today – everyone has driven by the “doll” numerous times coming from Wis. to New Ulm! And…. All of us thought we had thee story – but they are all different! I guess we’ll never know!

  23. Am I hearing correctly the doll is no longer there? Or is it still there?

  24. Ambryn Melius says:

    Having grown up in Winthrop, Minnesota, 50 miles or so northwest of Janesville, I love this story…and all small town local stories/folk lore/brewings. Lots of stories abounded about the Janesville doll in our family too.

    AND, there was a music band made up of fellow students at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter where I attended who took up the band name “The Janesville Doll.”

    Keep the good stories coming!

  25. shawnfury says:

    That’s a great band name. If it was an all-girls band, The Janesville Dolls might be even better.

  26. Maura Schons says:

    My husband grew up in Sleepy Eye and I grew up in New Ulm and both of us remember that doll. We live in Missouri now and on a trip home we made a point of driving through Janesville so we could show our kids the doll in the window and share the stories we were told when we were young. Thanks for keeping the story alive.

  27. Anonymous says:

    thank you for your kind words of my Great Uncle and the house, I grew up in Mankato and understand the pride in ownership to the house and the lore

  28. […] and Pa Fury collected the magazines at a recent estate sale for the late Ward Wendt, the owner of the famous Janesville Doll in the Window. According to the mailing labels, some of the magazines originally belonged to Ward and some to a […]

  29. Anonymous says:

    dave pope bought the house he talked about from my parents! i lived the first 8 1/2 years of my life next to ward.he also did the flowers for our wedding. do i know the secret you ask? i have it in my own time capsule!

  30. Richard Frank says:

    My hometown. Remember this creepily well. Whenever I return home I look, and if I’ve brought company I point out the doll.

  31. Emily says:

    I’m working in Janesville this month and the doll is displayed in a box at the library.

    • shawnfury says:

      Nice. Thanks for the info, Emily. I’ll have to check it out next time I’m home. Glad it’s out and about although I could see it being fairly creepy just sitting in a box too…staring.

  32. Terry Roemhildt says:

    I knew Ward or Wardy very well growing up in the 50′s. Ward’s mother Emma ( Peters ) was my grandmother ( Olga Dimmel Priem) best friend. So spend a lot of time out at the Wendt farm SE of
    Janesville. Ward was a very kind, eccentric man. Was very talented. I think the doll in the window was nothing more to Ward than to get some attention, and he curtainly did that. He would do any thing for my Grandma or my Mom and Dad. Was kind of a night owl. Would rarely come to visit until after 10:30 pm and visit till the wee hours of the morning. Ward was a good friend to a lot of folks.

    • shawnfury says:

      Thanks for the comment, Terry. Really interesting and reaffirms all of the good things so many have said about Ward. One thing’s for sure: He was someone who will be remembered in Janesville for a long, long time.

  33. Nicholas Staber says:

    I remember being a student at Minnesota State University, Mankato (2001-2005), and traveling through Jaynesville on a few occasions with my friend John. He knew about the story and pointed out the house to me. It was creepy. Would like to know what the real story is.

  34. […] The park is also home to the famed time capsule that will reveal the secret behind the Doll in the Window, though anyone reading this will be dead when that information comes out. But attendees might be able to use the bathroom during the ceremony. […]

  35. Seth says:

    This is a fantastic article, Shawn. I visited Janesville in 2010 to see the famous Mystery Boy and am currently running an article about it on my website. A little bummed to hear its no longer in the attic, but glad to know they preserved it at the local library. And I didn’t know about the time capsule either, cool.

  36. shawnfury says:

    Thanks, Seth. Good luck with your article. Yeah it’s not the same in the library but nice that it’s still around. I saw it on my trip home in January. It’s still in a window, but looking toward a Main Street that’s not exactly high traffic. Not like when it watched over Highway 14.

  37. […] on all things supernatural and odd. There is also a great write-up about it by a Janesville local here. The mystery doll is an enduring, curious legend in this small Minnesota […]

  38. Steven says:

    That was my earliest childhood memory. My mother told me I was two. That would have been 1970 on a trip to Janesville to purchase a Jenny Lind daybed. That daybed still sits in my basement. Doubt I am going to make 2176. Don’t really care much. I think it is awesome I have memory from when I was two years old that i still can revisit. The minute I saw the picture I knew what it was.

  39. lcav says:

    I grew up in Mankato so whenever our girls swim team had a meet in Rochester or other towns south of us, we drove through Janesville. Of course, we all knew the story and screamed our heads off as our rickety school bus drove past. Nice job on this post. You stirred up a lot of nostalgia.

    • shawnfury says:

      You’re just lucky the bus never got stranded on the highway, late at night, while the doll watched and waited. It was fun being in the park and watching the buses go by because, depending on which way they were going, everyone in it would scramble to one side to look out.

  40. Sami Esser says:

    My mother helped him years ago at cabela’s. His answer is simply this “I liked the doll, and I want to display it.” No ghosts, no demons, no.bs.

    • shawnfury says:

      You’re right although the more ghost-minded might say…of *course* he’s not going to reveal the truth at an outdoors store!

      • Sami Esser says:

        Ha, yeah! I didn’t want to write the whole story, but he did say he enjoys hearing why people think he does it.

        I will admit afte hearing his bit of why the doll is there, I lost intrigue in the house, so when I go by it, I stopped looking.

  41. Nathan says:

    I enjoy reading stories like these! Came across it on Facebook, it compelled me to investigate on Google Earth and I think I found the house! Can someone confirm for me? Wards house is on the corner of Mott St and Hwy 14/1st street? Pretty sure it’s the doll house. Cool story.

    • shawnfury says:

      Nathan, that would be the house. It’s empty now but still standing (although in rough shape). I grew up on the other side of mott, two houses up. The doll itself is now up in the library, or at least was when I was home few months back.

  42. Nathan says:

    Oh yea I forgot to mention, you can see the doll on Google Earth…or at least I think I do…until someone confirms this.

  43. rachaelhanel says:

    Reblogged this on We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down and commented:
    For a girl who grew up reading about ghosts and serial killers, the Janesville doll-in-the-window house in Janesville was legendary.

  44. John says:

    Ward was my grandfather. Gentle giant and a little on the odd side. I remember begging him to tell me the story about the doll. He wouldn’t reveal a thing, only telling me to wait until the time capsule was opened (long after my death). He grinned – nothing creepy about his grin but driving around in his hearse – well even that wasn’t creepy, just Ward.

  45. stickwelder says:

    I’m just sorry I never got to meet Ward, the man behind “the doll in the window”. Even just saying the phrase, brings back those old feelings, I always got as I past the house.

  46. Anonymous says:

    Every time our high school basketball team would travel through Janesville from Rochester to Mankato – they’d comment on the doll in the window and why it might be there.

  47. Dave Grams says:

    I met Ward D. (Wardy) Wendt when I was a child attending Country Elementary School District 62 which was located about a mile west of Ward’s country farm on a corner of two gravel roads. The schoolhouse itself was located on the NW corner section of the crossroad thereabouts. Back in those days, we didn’t refer to the gravel roads by numbers but someone can look them up if they want to to check them out. The location of the schoolhouse is also about a mile south from the new alcohol plant by the railroad and State Hwy 14.

    Regarding the doll in the window in Janesville, it is probably as Rich Jensen suggests at the beginning of these comments from who I believe Ward to be.

    Ward D was a kind gentle man who liked to help people whenever he could. We as children knew of him as a facilitator for the needs or wishes of our elementary school teacher (who taught 6 grades in the two room schoolhouse). Whenever she wanted to plan a special surprise for us students, Ward was usually the person who brought the supplies and made arrangements for whatever else was needed to be done especially if it was something he could do. I attended that rural school for 6 years and then went on to attend “town school” (Janesville High School) from which I graduated in 1959.

    Ward had many talents as well as hobbies such as collecting antiques and other unique objects and making flower decorations. Again, as a child, I never knew that he worked in a flower shop but found out about it later in life. I only saw his beautiful work and didn’t question it. Unfortunately, people know-a-days talk about people being eccentric and “different.” I like the term “unique” better.

    I remember in particular every Christmas, he would set up an electrical train display under his Christmas tree and invite people to come see it. My mother impressed upon us that it was an honor to be invited to Ward’s house where he lived with his mother to see his Christmas displays. I remember being able to crawl under the display and stick my head up through a hole in the train board. Then I’d watch as the electric locomotive with its light on would come straight towards my head and veer off at the last minute. I remember being told to quit watching so much because my brother and sister also wanted to get under and watch too.

    Our rural neighborhood people got together often to play cards and Ward was a regular attendant who joined in with the festivities. Neighborhoods shared with a lot of things in those days – both working and playing.

    Maybe because of my growing up with Ward in my life and seeing him as a very special man, it saddens me when I hear conjecture about scarey and weird reasons for the “doll in the window.” Rest in peace, Ward D. Wendt.!!! .

  48. Dave Grams says:

    Sammi Esser’s comment of April 7, 2014, would be the correct answer for why the doll was in the window!

  49. john hanson says:

    Hey Shawn, Brandon and cheri i enjoyed sitting out front and watching cars drive by looking and pointing sometimes even stopping to take pictures Ward use to visit us why i was younger we asked him about the story he always told us its buried in the park to be opened in 2176

    • shawnfury says:

      John, Yeah we could stand out in the yard and watch all the cars slow waaaaaay down to stop and look up. It was nice living on a famous block!

  50. Abby! says:

    Im so going, I think in the next couple weeks. I only live an hour away and have never known about this and I am a ghost hunter :) i LOVE history like this! So excited!

  51. Stacy Larsen says:

    I lived in Mankato and have many memories of the doll…my favorite one is coming back on a West High School bus from either a softball or basketball game and the bus driver stopped out front of the house while all of us on the bus freaked out and screamed! Good times! Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

    • shawnfury says:

      I read someone else who mentioned a bus or team van driver stopping outside the house, just to terrify the passengers. Which is pretty funny.

  52. Christian Bjornson says:

    You forgot to mention an even more dominant wrestling team in the mid-90s! ;)

  53. Anonymous says:

    Love This! Thank you! <3

  54. Tonight I was suring the ‘net for a particular story that had “doll” in it and stumbled upon your blog about the Janesville doll. My husband and I drove past that house many time enroute to Lamberton. It always seemed a responsibility to see if the doll were still there. A person just HAS to look! Now I live in Indiana and haven’t thought about that doll for years. Thanks for the interesting memory.

  55. Kevin Johansen says:

    Lovely article…

    I grew up just down the street, and I saw the doll almost every day. I’m glad to see the story fleshed out.

    Thanks!

    However, the Janesville centennial was in 1956, not 1976. So hopefully some of us will be there when they open the time capsule!

  56. shawnfury says:

    Kevin, thanks for the comment. There are actually two vaults in the park. One was for the Janesville centennial in 1956. The other for America’s bicentennial in 1976. The 1956 one will be opened in 2056 but the other one won’t be for 200 years, so 2176.

    So the issue is…which one has Ward’s supposed letter? I’m not sure when the doll first went up but I have never heard of it being up as early as ’56, meaning the secret couldn’t be in that one. Then again, I’ve never heard a date of when it did first appear, so maybe it was. I always heard — from who, I don’t know. Guess it was just from “them” — that his letter, if there is one, was in the bicentennial vault of 1976.

    Basically: The mystery deepens! I would love for it to be in the one opening up in 2056, but I don’t know if we’ll be that lucky.

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