When Eric Dau and his wife, Sherrise, drove into their mobile home court in Camanche in the darkness of early Wednesday morning, he says they were startled and frightened to see what was in the roads ahead of them. There were neat rows as if in painted yellow lines hundreds of Ronald McDonald dolls.
"It was eerie, frightening," says Dau, who is corrections officer for the Clinton County sheriff's office. Why all those 14-inch stuffed dolls, with ceramic faces, had been so carefully placed in the middle of a half-dozen roads in Cedar Heights, is a mystery from "Twilight Zone."
Dau, who is also a volunteer reserve officer for the city of Camanche, was coming off duty at 12:30 a.m. His wife was in the car with him.
He estimates there were 500 of those Ronald McDonald dolls, in perfect formations, spaced about two or three feet apart in the center of six roads in the court that houses about 150 mobile homes.
"It was like we were seeing things not to be believed," he says. Dau's wife feared it was a bizarre trap to entice women out of their cars.
"It could have been a scheme. Some criminal would expect that a woman might stop to pick up a doll and assault her," he says.
All this, remember, was about 12:30 a.m. Dan Vosatka, who is a volunteer firefighter along with Dau, told him that he had driven the same roads about 10 p.m. and saw no Ronald McDonald dolls.
"It was so scary, all those Ronald McDonalds staring at us in our headlights. It gave us a very, very funny feeling. If you hadn't seen them with your own eyes, you wouldn't believe it," Dau says. The Daus stopped when a gray mini-van circled in front of them. The occupants were picking up the Ronald McDonald dolls. Dau rushed up.
"What's this all about?" he demanded. Being in uniform, he reasoned that if these were the culprits who set out the dolls, they would take off, or at least would be apprehensive.
"No, they were friendly, a man and woman. They said they lived over there' n pointing in the direction of a section of the mobile home park. The woman said that they, too, had spotted all those dolls in the road and were picking them up before something happened to them." Rain was expected during the night.
"I did not suspect them of anything. I didn't even get their names. They asked if we had any children; I told them I had two nieces and they handed me two of the dolls and said I should give them to them. They did not say what they were going to do with all the rest of the dolls. It looked like they were putting them in their van."
No apparent crime had been committed. Mr. and Mrs. Dau went to bed, disturbed by what he says was not an apparition, but the real thing. Next morning, Dau hurried outside to look at the roads. Not a Ronald McDonald doll was in sight.
Sherrise Dau had worked for McDonald's, remembering that the stores once sold these dolls for $10 or $12. They were not the stuff of Happy Meals, but large, stuffed Ronald McDonalds, with big, leather-like feet.
A McDonald's source says they haven't sold the dolls for four years.
Dau showed me one of the two dolls he kept. They have very spooky faces, which all the more reminded me of a Stephen King short story.
Bill Wundram can be contacted at (563) 383-2249 or firstname.lastname@example.org