New Documentary Looks at Baltimore’s Best-Kept Secret: The Dollhouse Murder Scenes

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The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death are the creepiest dollhouses you’ll ever see:  miniature scenes of murders, suicides, and bloody accidents, all painstakingly crafted in quaint dollhouse scale by an heiress in the 1930s. It’s always seemed fitting to me that these odd, gory dioramas make their home in Baltimore — the only problem is that they’re only available for viewing by appointment with the Maryland Medical Examiner. Which is why it’s all the more exciting that filmmaker Susan Marks’ documentary about the Nutshells, Of Dolls and Murder, was just made available on Netflix streaming. And it’s narrated by none other than John Waters!

According to Marks, the documentary “explores a haunting collection dollhouse crimes scenes, and our universal fascination with death.” Far more than just a creepy oddity, the Nutshells were an early forensic tool used to train police officers to look beyond their immediate assumptions.  “If you don’t read a crime scene correctly, then all the scientific tests you do afterward could be for naught,” Marks says. “Truth and science are often looked at as the same thing. While it’s true in many cases [that] the facts speak for themselves, they don’t speak for everything.”

The documentary also features scenes from the Body Farm in Tennessee, a St. Paul crime lab, and a ride in the squad car with Baltimore homicide detectives. We can’t wait to check it out.

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