The White Elephant in the Room

This weekend I held the first of what I hope will become an annual event, a white elephant party. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, guests are asked to bring a delightfully horrible wrapped gift. The first person chooses and unwraps a gift. From there on guests can choose a remaining wrapped gift or steal one that’s already been opened. It’s a great opportunity to give meaning to all those wonderfully bad things you find through the year while thrifting. The best part is seeing what other people found. If you’re lucky (or extremely unlucky, depending on your perspective) you could go home with something like this:

DollIt’s more terrifying in person—she’s a full 36 inches tall and her “baby” face is about the size of an eight-year-old’s entire head. I was not the person who got to unwrap this beauty. It was wrapped in an enormous box and remained unclaimed until the very end because nobody wanted the responsibility of dragging home whatever giant monstrosity lurked within. But as her face slowly emerged from the box, it was clearly worth the wait. I knew I must haver her.


It’s just one of the most awesomely bad things I’ve ever seen in my life. The colors, the textures, the proportions, the menacing hands, not to mention her posture which makes her appear to be permanently peering out from behind something—it’s all so wonderfully upsetting. She’s truly the queen of the white elephants. I managed to steal her for myself in the final swap round.


Of course, once the initial shock wears off, you’re left to wonder one thing: why does this exist? She’s a little bit of a mystery. A friend introduced me to the concept of pajama dolls. Popular in the 1950s and 60s, 14 inch versions of this were made by the Bijou Toy Company and sold as debatably charming hiding places for pajamas, curlers and other personal necessities that might clutter a bedroom during the daytime. Although the small versions are identical to this, I can find no other examples or information about this Amazonian goddess. At best guess, she’s a store display for the smaller dolls or perhaps a larger version was sold for stashing bulky blankets. Maybe she drained the life force from other dolls and grew to this size on her own. We may never know. But I do know that this was an amazing game and I can’t wait to do it again. I’ve already found a potential candidate for next year’s installment…

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  1. Posted January 20, 2014 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Dude. That thing is SCARY.

    The best white elephant gift I’ve ever won was a wooden toilet seat. I laughed for days.
    And then I gave it to my dad.

  2. Susie
    Posted January 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Oh my! I love kitschy things like this. Glad you rescued it. I have a large 50’s stuffed poodle with gleaming eyes I keep on my bed. It creeps people out but I love it. It was probably a prize won by a guy for his gal at some fair, I like to think.

  3. Tessa
    Posted January 21, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Love the idea that an unsettling human figure would be preferable to your rollers being visible. I once received a ‘corner doll’ which appears to be crying/pouting against a wall. I’m not sure why anyone would want the presence of an upset toddler in their house but apparently there’s a market.

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