4 January 2023

Junee's 'haunted dolls' find a new home and invite Australia's unwanted toys to join them

| Chris Roe
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woman and doll

Silvia Heszterenyiova’s dolls have a new home in Junee’s Salvation Army Barracks. Photo: Chris Roe.

Moving 17,000 little bodies was no easy task, but Junee’s ”Queen of the Dolls”, Silvia Heszterenyiova, has settled into her new location close to the town centre.

Previously based in the haunted Monte Cristo Homestead, the Fairies Reborn Magic Nursery and Haunted Doll Museum has relaunched in 2023 in the old Salvation Army Barracks in Belmore Street, opposite the police station.

READ ALSO Junee’s queen of the dolls is ready to rule the world

Sylvia is excited to have her own space with more facilities for visitors, and loves the history of the 130-year-old building.

“Salvation Army is for people who need help, like the homeless,” she says.

“So when people are donating dolls, this place is like an orphanage. I want to make a safe place to rescue every doll, so don’t throw away any dolls!

“You know, like doggy rescue? I’m dolly rescue.”

Silvia Heszterenyiova and child

Maisy was the first visitor welcomed to the new museum on New Year’s Day. Photo: Silvia Heszterenyiova.

The Slovakian saviour of lost dolls has lived in Junee for about four years and is a familiar sight driving through town in her hearse with a formally attired skeleton (Barry de’Live) in the passenger seat.

While she is yet to do a full count, Silvia believes she has the largest doll collection in Australia and one of the largest single collections in the world.

It’s a diverse collection ranging from Funko Pops and Littlest Petshop figures to vintage porcelain and lifelike baby dolls through to the signature handcrafted “spooky dolls”.

READ ALSO Riverina Rewind: The ‘Wagga Murderer’ who chopped up his mate

As well as exhibiting her collection, Silvia plans to run doll-making workshops and expand her doll hospital, repairing well-loved toys from all over the country.

“I bought a nurse outfit and will have my logo on it and I will have a whole hospital set-up,” she says with a wry grin.

“When they bring the dolls in, especially kids, they feel like you’re a nurse and looking after them.”

Silvia points out her ”operating table”, a tiny hospital gown and a vintage wheelchair and explains her theatrical approach to ”surgery”.

“People have a doll from childhood or those that are from grandma and they want to fix them with new filling or stitching or to do new hair or eyes or arms,” she explains.

“I had a doll sent from Melbourne and I repaired her and I took photos and kept the woman updated. I show the open body with the fluff inside, then sitting with a hospital cap and the hospital’s socks and sent a message ‘she’s doing well, she’s in the recovery room now’, and when she was ready, I show her body and all the little stitches.

“She loved it!”

Silvia’s doll-making began with lifelike therapy dolls for Alzheimer’s patients and she hopes to continue working with the elderly and disabled through her workshops.

She’s also considering expanding on her spooky reputation with ghost tours through Junee’s historic streets and hopes to add an immersive ”coffin ride” in time for Halloween.

“I like all this paranormal stuff,” she says with a shrug.

“It would be good to do some investigation because I have some really old spooky dolls and they have some spirits. And I could take people to our house as well (an old church hall) because it’s really spooky inside!”

But first and foremost, Silvia enjoys sharing her love of dolls and hopes to inspire a new generation of youngsters to get off their devices and engage in imaginative play.

She says every doll deserves a second chance and she will find a home for every one that is sent her way.

“If anyone has any unwanted dolls, don’t throw them away, just please bring them here. I will look after their dolls and I will fix them if they damaged,” she says.

“Even if they are missing arms and legs, I can use them to repair another doll for someone else.

“Or I can make some spooky dolls from their parts,” she adds with a wicked twinkle in her eye.

You can keep up with Silvia’s adventures here.

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