ELK — Police have been investigating whether a realistic Black girl doll that was hanged from a tree outside a home was an act of racist harassment or Halloween decor in poor taste.

The doll appeared to be a Black child, hanging from a noose with long, elbow-length hair, dressed in a white gauzy dress, as seen in a photo taken by Hassan Williams, who said the tree was along Route 55 toward Glassboro.

“We are currently investigating an incident that occurred in our township. We empathize with our community and we ask for cooperation and patience at this time while we thoroughly investigate the facts of the matter,” the Elk Township Police Department said in a post on its Facebook page.

Doll hanging outside Elk Township home (courtesy Hassan Williams)
Doll hanging outside Elk Township home (courtesy Hassan Williams)

In addition to sharing the photo with New Jersey 101.5, Williams had briefly shared it to Facebook, prompting a flood of comments before giving the update that “the owners of the house have nothing to do with the rental property. Police are handling the situation.”

He told New Jersey 101.5 that the property owners said that they have nothing to do with the tenants' activities. His own concerns included how life-like the doll was, as well as the impact it might have on families that have dealt with suicide.

The doll had been widely viewed by Sunday night and was removed by Monday, as reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The investigation was also confirmed by Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Detectives Thomas Gilbert, who said law enforcement was "waiting until we have a full understanding of all facts and circumstances."

Commenters on Williams’ now-removed Facebook post ranged from disgust to others pointing out there was also a witch, about 3 feet tall, standing at the base of the same tree.

There also was some kind of star or snowflake holiday lighting along the outside of the house.

Another commenter said the area has a history of racial tension, pointing to an incident two years ago in neighboring Franklinville, where some white men reenacted George Floyd’s killing under the knee of a police officer, alongside a passing group of peaceful demonstrators.

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at erin.vogt@townsquaremedia.com

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