Reborn dolls: Cute or creepy?

By Mike Celizic of Today.com

Published On: Apr 02 2012 01:02:11 PM EDT   Updated On: Apr 02 2012 01:06:50 PM EDT

Reborn baby dolls: Creepy, odd or just plain weird? The dolls sell for up to $4,000 to adult women who collect them, change their clothes, and in some ways treat them like real babies.

"It fills a spot in your heart"

"It fills a spot in your heart," Lynn Katsaris said as she cuddled "Benjamin" and "Michael" in her arms. A realtor from suburban Phoenix, Katsaris is also an artist who has created 1,052 reborn dolls and sold them to women around the world. She was one of three grown women visiting the show with five of the the bogus — but eerily realistic — babies cradled tenderly in their arms.

Dolls have been around for thousands of years, but the so-called reborn dolls, which are hand-painted and provided with hair whose strands are individually rooted in their vinyl heads, date back to the early 1990s. Since they first were created in the United States, they have become increasingly popular around the world, selling on dedicated Web sites and on eBay for $500 to $4,000, and even higher.

Dolls look, feel real

The vinyl dolls don’t just look exactly like real babies — they also feel real. Their bodies are stuffed and weighted to have the same heft and a similar feel to a live baby. Mohair is normally used for the hair and is rooted in the head strand by strand, a process that can take 30 hours. A magnet may be placed inside the mouth to hold a magnetic pacifier.

To add realism, some purchasers opt for a heartbeat and a device that makes the chest rise and fall to simulate breathing.

The dolls are made individually by home-based artisans like Katsaris, who start with a vinyl form that is either purchased or made by the artisan.

The remarkable degree of realism is achieved by dozens of layers of paint, beginning with tiny veins and mottled skin. Each layer of paint is baked on in an oven to make it permanent.