Online, these realistic fake babies are known as “reborns” – a reference to their incredible verisimilitude – and a devoted community has been crafting and collecting them since at least the late ‘90s. Horror-themed reborns like the New York silicone reborn baby are a more recent development, but even when the dolls are a healthy shade of brown or pink, it’s hard to describe them without using words like “uncanny,” “undead,” or “really fucking weird.”
María Álvarez Porto has been making reborns for more than half a decade and now sells dolls like “Mutant Dragon, can drink and pee,” priced at $1,565 (£1,215). She told Gizmodo that her prices reflect the cost of high-quality materials and the extensive work that goes into each doll, which is “never exactly the same as another and in most cases is totally customized.” If a doll is made of silicone, she said, painting alone can take four weeks.
“I believe that the appeal of this type of doll, in the case of fantasies, is precisely that: It is a fantasy baby,” explained Porto. “There are many people who like the dream and fantasy world (the world of vampires, dragons, fairies) or are followers and collectors of movie sagas and here they find another piece for their collection – but with a more realistic look and feel.”
Porto says that she loves bringing these ideas to life, and a quick glance at her Etsy shop’s reviews suggests a strong mutual benefit from each sale.
“This baby is exactly as described, it shipped on time, communication was great I love love love it 💕,” gushes one satisfied customer, who paid more than $100 “Premature Dragon can drink and pee.” If a peeing dragon baby brings someone that much joy, who are we to judge?
At love’s heels, however, scurries the eternal threat of loss. The owner of the reborn baby found in Queens was never identified, and a police spokesperson told Gizmodo there have been no developments in the case. Somewhere in the labyrinth that is the New York City justice system, a doll parent’s undead child may still be sitting in a box marked “evidence.” But evidence of what?