WOODLAND, Ind. — Like the twin dolls who were permanently waving from a large picture window to vehicles traveling along Indiana 331, south of Woodland, some urban myths never die. In this case, the dolls, named Jackie and Judy, are “retiring to a beach in the Caribbean,” said Gail Highley, daughter of the dolls’ owner, Harriet Mochel. They have been watching the world go by from their window in Woodland since the 1970s.
Mrs. Mochel, 91, died of natural causes on April 16 in her Woodland home. She was surrounded by her four daughters, Darlene (Ken) Garrett and Jill (Rob) Wilson, both of Bremen, Gail Highley of Dublin, Ohio, and Sherry (Bob) Albaugh of Middlebury. Jackie and Judy, the dolls, were standing nearby.
The 50-year-old urban myth goes that two of the Mochel daughters were run over by a car as they tried to cross the highway, but that was never true, Highley said. The myth continues that Harriet Mochel went crazy after the loss of her daughters and started dressing dolls in her daughters’ clothing, and posing them at the window.
The real story is that Harriet bought the two dolls for her two youngest daughters, Sherry and Gail, for Christmas. When they outgrew the dolls, Harriet didn’t want to throw them away so she started dressing them up for holidays. Her late husband, Rich, tolerated the silliness and eventually it became a hobby for the whole family. When the original dolls began falling apart from age and sun-bleaching, Jill Wilson found near-identical dolls as replacements for the family window in their southern St. Joseph County home.
They wore hats a lot, waved U.S. flags, held Easter baskets, and decorated a Christmas tree over the years. Harriet thought it funny to post them by the front window and dress them up for the holidays. In earlier media stories, Harriet said, “I didn’t want to just put them in the attic to let them rot, so I decided them to put them at the window,” she said. She even kept a dresser full of 10 outfits and additional accessories.
Gail said the family will continue stories about the dolls and decided to tell everyone the dolls retired in the Caribbean. Really, though, they don’t know what to do with the dolls.
Over the years, countless people have stopped at the yellow house to inquire about the real story behind the dolls. Some wanted to pray with Mrs. Mochel, trying to alleviate her make-believe pain in losing two daughters, even though they are still all alive and grown adults now.
Semi-truck drivers drive by and honk their horns at the girls. Others wave at the dolls, some have stopped and taken photos, and lots of their friends included the dolls in conversations with the Mochels over the years. Some would say, “I see the girls are growing,” or “the girls look so nice in their Easter bonnets.”
When Harriet died, the real Mochel sisters decided to remove the dolls from the window, replace them with a basket of flowers, and pull the drapes up to the flowers. It was a sign to the community, and a memorial to their mother, that Harriet had died.
Harriet and Richard Mochel celebrated 65 years together before he passed away in August 2015.