LAKEVIEW — Volunteers at the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary have some "creepy" company staring at them when they work at the sanctuary a couple of times a month.
Steps from the sanctuary inside a storage shed, part of a doll's head sticks out of cement that was used to patch a larger brick wall. The only part of the cloth doll that can be seen is its blue-eyed face and some of its curly hair.
"That's just the creepy doll," said sanctuary steward and longtime activist Charlotte Newfeld of Lakeview. "It reminds me of the Raggedy Ann dolls when I was a kid, which was in the 1930s and '40s, because it has a lot of hair."
Newfeld said that none of the 200-plus volunteers who work at the 10½-acre sanctuary at 3550 N. Lake Shore Drive two Saturdays a month, knows how the doll got to its perch several feet off the ground.
"Everybody thought it was strange that it was here, and why would anything like that be here? It looked like somebody did it as a joke," Newfeld said.
The shed is owned by the Chicago Park District and is attached to a storage area. Its history dates to at least the 1930s, according to Park District historian Julia Bachrach. She said the shed originally was more of a "shack."
Bachrach didn't know when the doll might have been encased in the wall. Bachrach said she did not have a history of the shed's upkeep, adding, "I doubt there is much documentation on this type of thing."
The doll can't be seen by the general public. Only Newfeld and the volunteers have access to the shed.
Newfeld said she first saw the doll in "1998 or 1999," when the shed was dilapidated and had holes in its roof.
In 2002, the Park District refurbished the shed with a bathroom, sink, hot water and work bench, Newfeld said. Newfeld and the volunteers were given use of the shed, and she moved the tools she had been storing in her own basement there, she said.
But she said no one has wanted to remove the doll because "It's so funny."
None of the volunteers knows what type of doll it is.
Shown photos of the doll, doll collectors also couldn't say for sure what kind of doll it is.
Sherry Baloun, owner of Gigi's Dolls & Sherry's Teddy Bears in Norwood Park — which has been in business for more than 25 years — said she believed it was a My Child Doll by Mattel. The My Child Dolls were made from 1985 through 1988, and each one was supposed to be unique. The dolls sell online for less than $10 to well over $1,000.
The administrator of the "My Child Dolls" Facebook page said in an email that it was likely a girl My Child Doll.
"It's terrible" what happened to the doll, the email said.
Sharon Kolibaba, of the National Antique Doll Dealers Association, said that it was "impossible" to tell what type of doll it was from the photo.
The sanctuary is part-time home to more than 250 bird species. It was founded in 1923, when the North Parks Commission set aside 5½ acres of recent landfill east of 3601 N. Lake Shore Drive. Through the years, the site, named after the late activist and volunteer Bill Jarvis, has expanded and has been enclosed by a fence that keeps everyone but volunteers out.
Newfeld said she had no intention of removing the doll from its cement encasing.
"We left it there because it is that weird," she said.
For information on volunteering, call 773-327-5053, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jarvissanctuary.org