Dolls, with their vacant eyes, stiff heads, and plastic limbs, are inherently creepy, as many a horror film has seized upon. But left behind to decay after a disaster, they are simply sad - a reminder that the children who abandoned them were affected by tragedy too. After the explosion at the Chernobyl atomic plant on April 26, 1986, in the Soviet Union, the world's worst disaster of its kind, people in nearby towns were forced to evacuate. Eventually, 335,000 people in an "exclusion zone" surrounding the Chernobyl site had to leave behind their homes, lives, and personal possessions. Many residents thought they would be back, but never returned because of the radioactive morass spawned by the disaster.
Among those who had to flee immediately were residents of Pripyat, Ukraine, where many workers from the plant lived, including the emergency responders. The children of these towns left behind their belongings at schools, nurseries, and camps. Among the toys they abandoned were dolls that over the years have succumbed to radiation, neglect, and the elements. People who returned to evacuated areas years later to explore - or gawk at - what became creepy ghost towns brought cameras, and their eerie photos include portraits of decaying toys.
It's possible people posed some of the creepy Chernobyl dolls on this list. But even if that's the case, the dolls are a reminder of a truly tragic accident that destroyed a great deal, including innocence.