Earlier this week on Twitter, a user posted pictures of a man who sat down inside a New York subway car and “pulled a fucking goblin in a matching outfit out of the nike bag.” As the retweets piled up, other Twitter users cut in to speculate about the so-called goblin, deciding before long that it was something called a WerePup, a (very lifelike) type of baby werewolf doll. This is not so, according to WerePup creator Asia Charity Eriksen, or at least, not exactly. The thing in question is indeed a werewolf baby doll—look at those adorable lupine features—but not an official WerePup, because it was not made by Eriksen. Eriksen spoke to Slate to clear up what exactly constitutes a WerePup, where they come from, and why.
Slate: You said that the doll spotted on the subway isn’t an official WerePup. How did you know?
Asia Charity Eriksen: I can recognize my work: the hair, placement of the ears, things like that. I have a guess [of who made it], but I would like to reach out to them first to make sure. There are a few other artists that picked up on the idea a few years after I started doing it in 2010. Some of them are actually friends of mine. I’ve run into instances where people were actually copying my designs or using my company name and things like that. That’s not one of the knockoffs, so to speak.
What’s a good generic term for one of these, anyway?
It’s a doll, or a prop.
People probably have different reasons for buying these dolls, but what would you say is the purpose of them?
The concept started because, as a child, I wanted a werewolf baby. Like a pet werewolf. It was just something that I made for me originally. Since my husband works in special effects, he helped me to take that into reality. I ended up bringing them to some convention. When people saw them, it just kind of went from there. If you’re familiar with Robert Englund, the gentleman who plays Freddy Krueger, we’ve been friends with him for a long time, and he started helping us promote them. He did photo shoots with them and things like that, and then it really got out there.
A lot of people, they collect dolls, or they use them as props for haunted houses. Alice Cooper was touring with one. He incorporated them in one of his stage shows. Some people just like to dress them up, take them around, scare people. It’s fun. We have this crossover between the horror genre, who really like to scare people, and then the doll people, they just collect dolls and think they’re cute or funny.
How common is it for WerePup and other doll owners to carry them around like the man spotted on the subway?
Actually very common, surprisingly. I have a network of some of my closer clients—we’ve known each other for years now—who purchase a new one maybe every few years, and they like to carry them around and they talk about the reactions they get. They’ll bring them everywhere from the supermarket to the movie theater. It’s a fun little community we’ve built up.
That’s been one of the most gratifying things for me. I used to carry my own around a lot, like the first two years I was into it. That was one of my favorite, favorite things, when people think it’s real. I find it so wonderful and fascinating and I’m grateful for the fact that I could do that, manage to make something that’s obviously not a real creature, but for just a minute, somebody thinks werewolves are real.
How many WerePups have you made?
I’ve made a lot that I didn’t keep track of. As far as a specific size, which is an 18-inch—it’s about the size of a newborn baby; they’re generally one of the most popular ones that people take out a lot—I’ve made a bit over 300 now.
How much do they sell for?
The smallest ones that I sell, which I call Pocket Pups, they’re $150. The most popular size, which has been the newborn baby size, is $650. From there, we have some bigger ones that run about $1,000, depending on if they want a silicone body, and then they can have hard, plastic claws and teeth, things like that. They are handmade products. It can take me weeks just to make one.
Is making WerePups your full-time work?
This is my main work. My husband, he’s in effects as well. We both fully support ourselves with our art. I do take on other projects. Sometimes people will ask me for a custom sculpt of a different creature. I also make baby Krampuses around Christmastime—the German Christmas demon.
But all horror-related? You’d never make a plain baby doll?
I did make one recently. I made a little baby little person, like a baby with dwarfism.
How much overlap is there between people who might buy realistic dolls and the people who buy werewolf/monster dolls?
They’re actually quite related. There’s an overlap there. Some people genuinely do like to carry it just to freak people out. And then other people like to carry it because they just really like them. They’re proud of them, they like to dress them in baby clothes, take them out and take pictures of them, take them to events. People like to have celebrities hold them at conventions. The reborn doll community, people carry them for many different reasons. Some people are just very attached to them. I’ve gotten a lot of very sweet letters from customers or their children who said that it was like a comfort item and it did help with their anxiety. One of the common questions I get is, “What do I do when I take him on a plane? I want to take my baby on a plane, but I don’t want to put him in a suitcase.”
Is it common for owners to dress their WerePups up in clothes that match their own?
I have people do that quite a bit. They’ll do it for a photo shoot. I know that a lot of people will act like these people are crazy, and they’re not; sometimes it’s just a fun photo shoot. I was just looking at one the other night. This really nice lady that I know, she has two girl WerePups, and she has kids, too, so she dressed her daughter and the two WerePups in the same dress and took a photo, and it was really cute.
Is there much of an online community for owners of WerePups and similar dolls?
Absolutely. We call them our pack. There’s a secret group on Facebook for WerePup mommies and daddies. There are several groups for people who just want to share pictures of their WerePups, and they hang out on my official pages, my Instagram, they use our official hashtags to connect, which is #werepup and #werepups. We’re doing two meetups this year.