Exploding Dolls Hit Jackson

By Stephen D. Bowling

Thousands of Susie Sad Eyes dolls were sold around the United States in the 1960s. They are once again on the market but in a much less explosive form.

December 13, 1967– It was a strange story. A story so strange that many did not believe was true. But it really did happen and of all places- right here in Jackson.

On Saturday, December 9, 1967, the Jackson Junior Women’s Club held a grand Christmas party with several groups of homebound students from the classes of Mrs. Beatrice Warfield and Mrs. Bert Goff. The party was planned as a great affair to allow the children who could not regularly attend school to have a Christmas party

The guests arrived at the Breathitt County Health Department on Main Street and were greeted by Mrs. Charlotte Toler, who served as the Chair of the event. Sixteen children had the opportunity to meet Santa Claus and each received two gifts- presents of clothing and a toy.

By all accounts, the guests and their parents had a wonderful time playing games and winning candy as prizes. When the event ended, all of the children were taken home to enjoy their toys and prizes.

All was quiet until Wednesday, December 13, 1967. Pauline Caudill, the daughter of Raymond Caudill, loved her new clothes and especially the new doll she got as a gift at the party. She carried it around most of the week. On the afternoon of December 13, she laid the doll down and walked away. When she was a few steps away, the doll exploded sending pieces flying across the room.

When Raymond Caudill rushed into the room, he found the doll had exploded. The doll was in pieces and was still “smoking” as it lay on the table. Caudill called the Jackson Police Department to report the incident and JPD Officer Boyd Moore rushed over to investigate.

A December 14, 1967 picture from The Jackson Times shows Office Boyd Moore holding the remnants of Pauline Caudill’s Sad Sye’s Susie Doll after it exploded.

Officer Moore determined that the doll was one of a variety of cheap rubber dolls made in Hong Kong and sold under the name of “Sad Eyes Susie.” In the previous year, hundreds of incidents had been reported of exploding dolls and Sad Eyes Susie dolls had been removed from the market in many places. Several of the dolls had been purchased, unknowingly by the party planners, and given to the children at the celebration.

Jackson Police Officer Boyd Moore holds the first can of Mace issued to the police department years after the Sad Eyes Susie incident.

Over the next few days, Officer Moore rounded up the rest of the Sad Eye Susie dolls which were described ad eight inches tall with long straight hair and a sad-looking face and eyes. Contemporary descriptions also said that the doll had a movable rubber head and movable arms and legs. As the news spread, the exploding doll incidents in Jackson ended without further excitement.

What exactly happened to the dolls he rounded up is not known but it is presumed that they rest in the old city landfill near Wal-Mart.

Why they exploded is believed to be the result of the closed seal of the head to the body which allowed pressure to build up causing the head to explode. In the days before major consumer alerts, the Susie Sad Eyes incident was just another accident.

Most importantly, no one was hurt and one family member said the doll was replaced with a less explosive variety. Pauline married and raised her family here in Jackson. She still lives here not far from the scene of this incident.

© 2021 by Stephen D. Bowling.


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Breathitt County, Jackson and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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