A county newspaper was chosen as the most suitable one and the most read locally to place the advert:
WANTED: Little girls between the ages of six years and ten years to send in a photo to the following address. Those who are chosen will have the possibility of being the ones to make a commercial for television.
The idea had been
originated by two men in television commercials, Josh Turner and
Simon Prosser, who had hit upon the idea when wondering how to
create something original for the general public to gaze at,
instead of rushing out to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and a
sandwich when the commercials come on. This particular area had
been the one they had chosen because of the type of mother who
would live in such a place. The mothers had to be frustrated
actresses or models and these wouldn't be found in every part of
They had the answer to their advert, when the following week saw a veritable avalanche of envelopes arrive at their office at the studio. One of their collaborators, Penelope Brown, was the one to make the first selection. She already knew what Josh and Simon were looking for, and she had no qualms in throwing out the vast majority of letters, including the photos. Only the parents of the girls chosen would be contacted.
As time passed the mothers who had been so keen for their daughters to appear in the commercial got very upset at not receiving a reply from the studio. Some of them tried phoning, but it was no use, they were all in the same situation and would just have to sit it out like everyone else.
After the initial sorting by Penelope, Josh and Simon took over. Now it was much easier for them, as the most unlikely had been rejected and yet there were still quite a few left. Their idea of what they wanted was thanks to dolls they had seen in a shop that sold Victoriana. Whether or not they would find their dream girls was not an option. They had to do so.
A month went by and
four mothers received the much desired letter informing them that
their little girl had been chosen to go to the studio accompanied
by their mother for a test.
On the appointed day four cars, each one carrying an ambitious mother and a small, anxious girl, parked in the studio car park. As the car doors opened the females that emerged took a swift look over of the other cars. Then in the short walk to the entrance, they all made a closer examination of the other girls. None of them knew that they were the only ones that had been selected out of all those whose photos had been sent in. They all thought, naturally, that there was only one part in the commercial, and that their daughter would be the star. They were all mistaken.
The mothers were taken
to a small studio and asked to sit down. The girls sat down on
small chairs and each one had to repeat what Josh told them.
"First of all tell me your names in a nice loud voice. You first,
please," Josh said, pointing to a small red-head.
Before the child could answer the mother spoke up, "Her name is Barbara."
Josh didn't turn a hair, "Madam, I'm asking your daughter, not you. If any of you interrupt, then I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to leave. There is a chaperon for the girls if you're worried about their safety, but we can't have people interfering. Do you want your daughter to be in the commercial or not?"
Feeling rather out of sorts, Yvonne, Barbara's mother said, "Please excuse me, I didn't mean any harm. I'll keep quiet."
The other mothers said not a word after seeing how Yvonne had put her foot in it. They knew that if they messed up, there were many others who would be willing to put up with anything to get their daughters into the commercial. So they all maintained a funereal silence. The only voices to be heard from then on would be those of Josh, Simon, and the girls.
One by one the four answered their names and ages. The girls were: Barbara, the redhead; Charlotte, the blonde; Sylvia, the brunette; and Rose, the dark-haired one.
Penelope walked up to Josh and Simon and gave them four typical Victorian dolls dressed according to the nineteenth century. There was a doll for each of the girls that corresponded with the colour of her hair.
The four mothers were obviously not welcome but none of them wanted to be the first to say, let's go and get a drink and come back later. Finally, Irene, Charlotte's mother, stood up and said, "I need to get out of here, it's rather claustrophobic. Anyway, we aren't needed."
The next to get up was Carole, Sylvia's mother, who was desperate for a cigarette. Then Joanna, who was Rose's mother, and last but not least, Yvonne.
Josh and Simon were not
aware of the mothers' leaving and their daughters were too busy
obeying instructions. The girls were too shy or too frightened of
what their mothers would say if they didn't do as they were told.
A wardrobe mistress dressed each child in a replica of the doll's
dress. Then finally came the mask, a copy of the doll's face, and
the wig as near as possible to their doll's hair.
Now there were four dolls, and four little girls dressed up as the four dolls.
"One by one, beginning with Barbara, say in turn, 'Hello, Mummy, what's for breakfast?' The next one says 'Hello, Mummy, what's for lunch?' 'Hello, Mummy, what's for tea? Hello, Mummy, what's for dinner?"
"Must we keep on repeating the same words?" Charlotte asked.
"Yes, it is, until you get it as we want it. OK?" Simon replied.
"Why do we have to wear these clothes and this on our faces?" Sylvia put in.
"It's to get you used to wearing the clothes for when we film the commercial, and if you're good girls this won't take long," Josh told her.
Rose sat on her chair in a zombie-like state. She had had difficulty in waking up that morning due to the noise of her older brother and sister working together on their computers during the night. Simon gave her a glass of lemonade, to see if the cold drink would get her going.
At half-past three Josh and Simon told them they could all go home. Their mothers were informed that that was enough for the first day, and to return the following morning when filming might begin. Penelope picked up the dolls and took them to the cupboard where they would reside for the night.
The next day the four
mothers and daughters arrived punctually at the studios. In the
dressing room the girls took off their street clothes and one by
one they were dressed in the clothes they had tried on the day
before. Barbara and her doll were dressed in bright blue,
Charlotte and her doll were in white as befitted a blonde, Sylvia
and her doll were in emerald green, and the last one, Rose, who
had the darkest hair, had a red dress matching her doll. Their
mothers were in the studio waiting for them to appear. The
wardrobe mistress then placed the masks, made of light-weight
plastic rather than porcelain, over each little face and tied it
behind the head with ribbons. Last, the corresponding wig was
added. The look was finished. What was missing were the eyes,
they were just holes, giving the face a dead look. The four girls
stood in front of a very large mirror and stared at themselves.
How were they supposed to feel looking at their dead faces?
Each girl was presented with her doll, and they all went into the studio where the commercial was ready to be made.
From the mothers there was a long silence. "What have you put on Rose's face? I thought her looks were important?" cried out Joanna, Rose's mother.
"I think they look rather sinister," Irene, Charlotte's mother exclaimed.
Yvonne remained silent. She wasn't going to be told to leave as she had been the previous day. Carole, Sylvia's mother, felt confused. She was trying to make out what all the business with the girls entailed. She was worried, too. Three of the mothers were worried about their husbands' reaction when they heard about the dressing-up. It hadn't been easy for any of the husbands to agree to their daughters making a commercial.
Josh stared at the girls and the mothers and said, "Ladies, please leave, we don't want any negative feelings here, nor do we need any remarks. The girls are in good hands, as you know, and we'll call you when they have finished for the day."
Josh turned to Simon,
who was giving directions to the cameramen. "Are we ready to
"Yes, now, listen girls while you get your instructions," Simon told the girls.
Each was asked to say, "Hello, Mummy, Mummy, I want a Dolly Jelly tonight." then, "Hello, Mummy, Mummy, where are my Dolly Sweets?"
The girls took it in turns to rehearse in front of the cameras and repeat, till they were bored with two sentences. The dolls were put to one side, and the children sat on a stool swinging their legs, waiting for their turn to perform. At times the girls got restless and wanted to finish.
Rose was the first to
perform. Eventually she asked Simon, "Is that all right
Simon, who thought she was really cute, said, "Yes, you can sit down over there."
The other three didn't like the idea that Rose had finished her stint. However, they were also soon dismissed.
"What are you going to do with the dolls?" Charlotte asked.
"We'll show you, just stay where you are," Simon told them.
The dolls were on a smaller sized set, sitting on chairs. Everything was the miniature of the girls, even the chairs. Penelope kept changing the positions of each one, to give the idea that the dolls were moving on their chairs, with Josh and Simon filming it all.
"If you want to see the finished result you'll have to wait a while for it to be shown on the television," Josh told them.
The mothers were called
back and were informed that the girls were needed no more, that
the commercial was in the can. They couldn't take it in at first,
but knowing there was no arguing with Josh and Simon, they
accepted, and taking charge of their daughters left the
Filming had finished and the dolls were put back in a cupboard.
Yvonne was sitting in
her living-room when she heard talking coming from Barbara's
"Hello, Mummy, where is my party dress?" The voice coming from her daughter's mouth didn't ring true, it sounded mechanical. Another thing was, that Barbara was asleep, but upright in her bed. Her eyes were shut but the voice kept on speaking. Yvonne went to her daughter and tried to calm her down, the voice went on and on and then all of a sudden it stopped. Yvonne went downstairs to see her husband half-asleep in front of the television. She sat in front of the screen without watching what was being shown.
That same night Irene had a similar experience with Charlotte, but in this case her daughter walked down the stairs and was calling, "Hello, Mummy, where are my toys? I want my teddy, where is it?" Irene saw that Charlotte was asleep and took her by the hand and got her back upstairs to bed, where the child settled down at once.
But, back at the studio
the morning after filming, the dolls were on the set and
speaking. Josh and Simon were called to the set by the boss of
the centre. "Who left the dolls out all night?"
"Nobody, we watched Penelope put them in the cupboard and lock the door," Simon said.
"Take a look at this, the cupboard is locked and yet what we have here are four dolls, and talking too. What exactly is going on? You both told me that the commercial was finished and ready to be shown on television, well is it or isn't it?" The boss pointed to the cupboard which still looked as it did when Penelope had locked it the evening before.
"There's no way that they could have opened it and got out. It doesn't make any sense," Josh replied.
"How is it they can talk?" asked Simon.
The four dolls were still talking among themselves.
"Can you make out what they're saying?" Penelope asked her two companions.
They all kept silent and then heard the little high pitched voices saying, "Hello, Mummy, Mummy…."
"There must be a recording inside them enabling them to repeat those words," Simon said.
They went onto the set and picked up the four dolls. The blank eyes with the extra long eyelashes were lifeless. The rosebud mouths were closed. Penelope and the two men took them into the dressing-room and took the clothes off each doll. There was nothing unusual to be seen. No hole in the back, nor any sign where a disc could have been inserted. The dolls were dressed again, and this time they were put inside a large suitcase which was to be taken to a warehouse by van. The dolls would stay there till the next time they might be needed.
When the four girls had
finished making the part of the commercial where they appeared,
the mothers had exchanged mobile numbers. This was more as an act
of courtesy than of offering friendship.
After Yvonne and Irene had experienced the incidents with their daughters, they rang the other two to find out if Sylvia and Rose had been having dreams or nightmares.
One night Sylvia was
calling out, "Hello, Mummy, Mummy, where are you? It's dark in
here, Mummy, Mummy…"
Carole rushed up to Sylvia's bedroom and saw her child struggling with the bedclothes. She put her arms round her and calmed her down then went back downstairs to see her husband staring at her, "What is it now? She's never been right since that commercial, which, by the way, hasn't been shown yet."
"Josh and Simon said that we would be notified when it was going to be on television. They won't come out till they have a slot. That's what they told us. I'm going to ring up Joanna to see if Rose is OK. Although I don't see why she shouldn't be," Carole said staring at the back of her husband's head, as he had lost interest in Sylvia's upset, and his attention was now on a film.
Joanna was sitting in
the kitchen. On the table in front of her was a large glass of
wine. She would have preferred something stronger but wine was
the only alcohol she had in the house. Joanna was feeling utterly
depressed, her husband had gone off with a no-nothing of a
female, and Rose had not had a good night's sleep since he had
left. The problem with Rose was that she was continually calling
out, "Hello, Mummy, Mummy…" and Joanna was at the end of her
Rose's doctor reckoned that it was due to her father's leaving the marital home. Joanna had other ideas about it. When Carole rang her up she was a bit the worse for wear, and wasn't prepared to say much. She livened up a bit when Carole told her about Sylvia. They both agreed it was all very strange.
The scenario in the four different homes was somewhat similar. Every night the child would wake up calling, "Hello, Mummy, Mummy"… and ask for something or to go somewhere. The family doctors were called out regularly to see what they could do to make sure that the parents of the girls got a good night's sleep. Without realising it the mothers became more and more afraid of their daughters. They couldn't fathom what was happening.
The commercial depicts
four dolls who advertise four different children's food and
drink. They are sitting on a shelf in a child's bedroom, and when
the dolls are ignored they come alive and call, "Hello, Mummy,
Mummy …." The dolls that have come to life ask for Dolly products
in turn, then when Mummy leaves they become dolls on the shelf
Meanwhile, as the girls were becoming more and more lifeless, the dolls were gaining strength. The warehouse where the dolls were out of sight belonged to part of a film and theatrical company that hired out all kinds of decoration. The proprietors held auctions of surplus goods when extra space was needed. The commercial had been seen and another had taken its place when the auction was held.
The doors to the
warehouse were opened and the general public was permitted to
enter and wander about to inspect items. The four dolls were a
great attraction and eagerly bought up by doting parents. Four
little girls were given one of these dolls that evening and were
carefully taken up to their new owners' bedrooms.
That night, in four homes, a little girl was woken up by a mechanical voice crying, "Hello, Mummy, Mummy." "Hello, Mummy, Mummy." The parents went rushing into bedrooms to find a terrified child sitting up in bed. "The dolly was walking up to my bed. She wouldn't go way. I don't want her. She frightens me."
The four sets of parents took the doll and slung it into the garbage. The girls never had, what the parents thought was a nightmare, ever again.
And the dolls? Well, they create havoc wherever they go!