LORAIN COUNTY, Ohio - Some people call them creepy and others think they are adorable: baby dolls called Reborns that look like real children.
“I’ve had people hold them and still didn’t know,“ said stay-at-home mom and artist Rachel Smith, who started the online business called “Bunny Bundles reborns by Rachel.”
The dolls, which began as an American-based hobby, have now gone global.
The goal is to take vinyl and silicone doll parts and make them look as lifelike as possible.
Rachel and her equally artistic sister Kathy Cadle say that each doll takes at least 40 hours to create and complete.
The bodies are weighted to move and feel like an actual infant and everything is customizable.
“You can get a breathing mechanism and the heartbeat...and there are silicone dolls that will poop and pee,” chuckles Rachel.
The dolls have inspired countless online communities and viral videos, with “reborn” parents feeding, bathing and even driving around town with a doll in an actual child's car seat.
In fact, they look so real, officers in New Jersey broke into a hot car last summer to rescue one, thinking it was a critically ill newborn. Kathy also had police show up at her door after a report that she was "selling a baby" over the internet.
“I said, 'do you want to see the baby?' He said, 'yeah,' so I brought it to him and showed him and he got tickled," said Kathy.
But aside from the lightheartedness, there is a potentially groundbreaking therapeutic use for the reborns.
The dolls are dramatically helping grieving parents who have lost a child, as well as Alzheimer's and dementia patients, as witnessed first-hand by Fox 8 News.
“It’s something to see,” says Rachel, struggling through tears, “People that haven’t talked in years and they start talking to this doll...it’s priceless.”