Waking with a start, I knew I was being watched.
There was a man standing at the end of my bed, but quickly hiding my face under the blankets, I was too scared to peek.
Since the age of three he’d been visiting me several times a week.
The ghost didn’t often talk but would occasionally taunt me by calling my name.
Then one day when I was 13, I finally found the courage to speak to him. ‘You have to stop scaring me,’ I begged.
Although he’d never hurt me, I couldn’t stand the thought of him lurking around any longer. And after that night he never returned again.
Though my mum and I openly spoke about the spirits in our home, I knew not everyone shared our special gift.
Over time, my fascination with paranormal activity grew stronger.
As a teenager, I became obsessed with horror films and also antique dolls and the history behind them. So I started my own collection of dolls from different time periods.
From pretty porcelains to antique figures with real human hair, some of them dated back as far as the 1800s.
Better yet, some of the dolls were even haunted.
While I never caught them talking or moving, I could feel their unique energy when I held them.
I found myself scouring eBay and estate sales to find the ones that spoke to me the most.
The scarier the better, I thought.
When I met my hubby Ron, then 40, in 2002, I was up front about my hobby from the start.
A keen collector of Star Wars memorabilia, he was understanding of my growing collection but preferred to admire my dolls from a distance.
When we moved in together two years later, he even let me have a room dedicated to my collection.
‘Just as long as they stay in their room,’ he insisted.
‘If you play up, you’re out,’ I joked to the dolls.
Then in October 2016, I underwent surgery for a gall bladder infection.
But what was meant to be a routine procedure quickly turned life-threatening when I suffered severe blood loss during the operation.
Afterwards, I had to be on bed rest for the next three months.
Usually working as a make-up artist and belly dancer, I was frustrated. I can’t sit still that long, I thought.
So I decided to teach myself how to make my own dolls from scratch.
Known as reborn dolls, the hand-crafted models are normally made to resemble newborn babies. But I wanted to give them my own twist!
Following tutorials on YouTube, I managed to make my very first creation – a little blonde zombie baby.
With pale white skin and dead black eyes, she was far from conventional. But she was beautiful to me.
Next I made two vampires.
Although I had no intention of parting with my creations, my friends became curious. ‘I’d love to buy her,’ one said.
Before I knew it, word had spread and I received messages from women all over Australia wanting to get their hands on one. So I decided to start my business called ‘Wicked Little Reborns’ in August 2017.
From demons to zombie cats and even scary faeries, nothing is too weird for me.
It’s just all part of being a mother to the monsters!
While I enjoy the freedom of creating my own designs, some customers have specific and often very personal requests. One lady had lost her own baby and asked me to make a doll that resembled her child.
Pouring my heart and soul into honouring her girl, the woman was overwhelmed with the finished product.
‘She’s perfect,’ she cried.
While my creations generally take around four weeks to make, they can sometimes take up to six months depending on the level of detail involved.
My favourite is Wolfie, a little werewolf boy inspired by Eddie Munster from the TV show The Munsters.
The other reborn mums and I meet up for coffee and playdates with our dolls, just like regular parents.
While most people find reborns fascinating, I’m conscious not to frighten anyone when we’re out in public. Leaving my demon and zombie children at home, I tend to bring along nicer looking dolls instead.
And I make sure to keep them covered and only reveal their precious faces to those who ask.
Pushing the dolls around in my antique pram, I talk to them just like I would my own children.
‘Did you have a good day?’ I’ll ask.
Although I’ve received mixed reactions from people, the response is mostly positive.
‘That’s different,’ they say.
When Halloween rolls around each year I can barely contain my excitement. It’s the only time I will show off my creepier dolls such as the demons and werepups. And though Ron admires my artwork, he refuses to go in their room.
‘It’s nice, I just don’t want to hold it,’ he’ll say when I show him my latest design.
Over the years, I’ve collected almost 300 dolls and spent around $5000 on my own collection.
It’s definitely not for everyone, but I couldn’t be prouder of being a mum to my little monsters.
I feel like it was the job I was born to have.