In this small Ohio town, troll dolls outnumber people
Troll dolls enjoyed their first heyday in the 1960s. Known for their wild hair, the toys have gone through many iterations since - from gemstones on their bellies in the ‘90s to computer animations in the recent Dreamworks movies.
For whatever reason, these smiling toys have stood the test of time.
“In all the people I’ve pooled and myself, it's something about the eyes and something about the hair,” said Sherry Groom, who started the Troll Hole Museum in Alliance with her husband nearly a decade ago.
Inside a storefront on East Main Street, Groom shares her Guinness World Record-winning collection of trolls.
“When I started this project, I managed to amass about 2,000 trolls. Now I've amassed over 40,000 pieces - trolls, troll dolls and troll memorabilia,” Groom said. “The interesting phenomena is they continue to roll in on a fairly regular basis in donations.”
Rows of dolls fill display cases, from trolls dressed for the holidays to trolls dressed for the beach. There are also various troll scenes, such as the Rock ‘n Troll Hole of Fame, featuring musical acts like KISS, Dolly Parton and Michael Jackson.
A few trolls are dressed as Justin Timberlake, a nod to his contributions to the Dreamworks movies as the voice of Branch.
The Dreamworks team even knows about the Troll Hole Museum. Groom said she lent them a doll for a “Trolls” holiday special. (He didn’t make the final cut.)
Before opening the museum, Groom spent a career in nursing. She said it’s been a welcome change of pace operating the Troll Hole Museum, where she spends her days “talking trolls” with visitors.
“You don't have to be mainstream,” she said. “A lot of people get into thinking they have to do something mainstream, and trolls are certainly not very mainstream.”
Roy Henceroth also embraces the quirkiness of trolls as a tour guide at the museum. While not a collector before landing the job, he has since acquired some trolls of his own. Battle Trolls, sold in the early ‘90s, are some of his favorites.
“The ones that are kind of a combination of a GI Joe, like a troll and maybe a turtle,” he said.
Two recent visitors from Portage County laughed at a display of political trolls and enjoyed the nostalgia of seeing various trolls from their childhood.
“I had a lot of the Treasure Trolls for sure as a little kid, with the little gem bellies,” said Erika Manning of Randolph.
Troll dolls hail from Denmark and are credited to Thomas Dam. His original dolls were crafted out of wood.
Until recently Groom didn’t have a lot of rare, older trolls in her collection, but she drove to St. Louis to pick up a haul of more than 200 more trolls. She shops for bargains, but admitted she has spent quite a bit on trolls over the years.
“Now it's a business expense,” she said. “I used to have to justify spending money on trolls. I don't drink, I don't do drugs, I don't smoke. So, I should be able to spend my discretional money on troll dolls.”
Groom estimated the museum draws 3,000 people to the Troll Hole annually. Bringing people to the area has always been the goal. She and her husband continue to open other nearby businesses as well, and they are similarly non-traditional: a comedy escape room, a cat café and a metaphysical shop.
“People come to visit quirky, unusual things,” Groom said. “And that's how the trolls kind of took over.”