The grave marker of Vivian May Allison should not be looked on as a morbid curiosity or the eccentricity of a distraught father. It should be seen for what it actually is…an embodiment of grief and love from a father to his daughter.
Vivian May Allison of Connersville, Indiana, died in 1899 at the age of six, breaking the hearts of her parents, Horace and Carrie Allison. At the time, Horace had been building a dollhouse as a Christmas present for Vivian, but his daughter passed away before receiving it. Instead, in his grief, he decided to place it over her grave, adding toys and trinkets his daughter loved in life.
For nearly seventy years, Vivian’s parents took care of the dollhouse’s upkeep. After her mother passed away, Vivian’s sister inherited the duty of watching over her sister’s grave. After she too passed, the house fell into disrepair. Vandals almost succeeded in ripping it from the gravesite.
From the top down the house was renovated from ceiling to cellar. New toys, fresh paint and a new foundation refreshed its look, while several long bolts embedded in concrete held it firmly above the grave, making further vandalism almost impossible.
Over the decades, the house has become a frequent stop for visitors traveling along US-44 with thousands stopping by to see the tiny, heartbreaking grave of Vivian May Alison.
What keeps bringing people back to that small grave in Connersville, Indiana? The dollhouse grave of Vivian May Allison represents a kind of salient: before becoming a parent, you may look on the dollhouse grave and shiver. Wouldn’t it make an excellent premise for a horror movie? When you have children of your own, however, that particular fold of the imagination doesn’t disappear, but gets shouted down by empathy. What if that had been YOUR daughter? You may still look at the house and shiver, but with the anxiety of a parent in a hard world.
That, in my opinion, is a thousand times more frightening than the worst movie monster.
If you consider visiting the grave, it’s in Connersville’s City Cemetery near the town center. Travel north from Historic Connersville along Western Avenue, and you’ll see the dollhouse from the road.
There’s no need to say this, but I will anyway: Please be respectful to the gravesite.
*Actually, Indiana is home to TWO of the most famous dollhouse graves. Vivian May Allison’s house is located in Connersville, Indiana. Only twenty-five miles to the west in Arlington, Indiana, is the dollhouse grave marker of Lova Cline. The first was built in 1899; the second, in 1908. Given the close proximity of both in time and distance, as well as similarity in construction, I would guess the parents of Lova Cline had been inspired by Vivian’s story.