Debbie Merrick bought a doll (opens new window) for £5 and then placed the doll on eBay, after making international news by talking about the doll being haunted. Apparently the doll scratched Debbie's husband, although the doll was not seen causing the scratches - the husband simply woke up with scratches on himself. The determination that the doll caused the scratches came from a psychic friend.
The doll was then put in a box in the garden shed, and when it was retrieved it had "taken its necklace off". Other unexplained occurrences with the doll included the family's smoke alarm triggering and a creaking floorboard when everyone was in bed.
Of course, smoke alarms sometimes go off randomly - and also make noises when they have a low battery level. Floorboards can creak by themselves due to temperature changes. Scratches can be self-inflicted while someone is sleeping.
The media attention definitely helped the auction! The doll sold for £866, and was purchased by a "paranormal investigator", Lee Steer. Since then the father of the new owner has found scratches on his arm (opens new window), with the (premature) assumption being that the doll has been scratching people again.
The kinds of tests that the doll is now being put through include using a piece of software that spits out words. I've downloaded what I think is the app that's been used - Spirit Story Box - and it's unimpressive. It appears to throw random words out, and their own testimonials seem to suggest that people manage to make the words fit their needs. The software appears to be modelled on a Spirit Box, which is a radio device that automatically moves between radio stations, and allows people to hear jumbled up snippets of voices. Our brains usually do a good job of making sense of the muddle, and applying it to our lives.
I received the word "minimized" when I started the app, "cellar" when I said "hello" and "impulsive" when I picked my phone up. I suspect that, despite the app being described as one of "the next generation of paranormal apps designed from the ground up to meet the needs of paranormal investigators", it's just using a dictionary of pre-selected words that are likely to mean something to people and a random number generator (or a random number created from the microphone, gyroscope or other inputs) to pick which words to spit out. I reckon I could write a similar app in a couple of hours!