We didn't think we were scared of dolls until Susan Marks, director of the documentary "Of Dolls and Murder," introduced us to the haunting dollhouses from "The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death."

Frances Glessner Lee, a grandmother, based the 20 dioramas in the late 1930s and '40s on actual cases, so that detectives could study crime scenes from every angle. She used only the most mysterious incidents (cases which could have been ruled accidents, murders or suicides) to challenge investigators' abilities to interpret evidence.


"Dollhouses are supposed to represent an idealized version of domestic bliss, and yet these crime-scene dioramas represent a domestic dystopia that is a creepy and horrific reality for many," Marks tells us of her inspiration for "Of Dolls and Murder."

So, next time our kid makes a bloody Dexter vs. Lithgow Barbie diorama, we'll be sure to remember it's all for science. Keep reading for more horrifying stills with Marks' commentary, as well as a sneak peek from "Of Dolls and Murder."

Kate Judson from "Three Room Dwelling," one of "The Nutshell Studies."


All the doors were locked from the inside. Was the murderer still in the house? Or are we reading the clues all wrong?


Betty (not her real name) committed suicide in the middle of making dinner. She had been depressed for a long time, according to her husband. She made the room airtight and turned on the gas from the oven. Did Betty's cake fail? Did that failure push her over the edge? Or is Betty's husband a big, fat liar?

Everyone knows suicide rates increase over the holidays. Except that it's not true. Miss Jessie Comptom died the day before Christmas. She could have been suffering from severe depression ... or maybe the milkman knows a lot more than he's letting on. This life-size image of "Attic," one of the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death was re-created by Criminal Justice students at DeSales University.

Why is one shoe missing?


Maggie had a party girl reputation around the boarding house. She also had severe epilepsy. Did her two worlds collide?