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The Troll Hole displays over 9,000 trolls, no two exactly alike.
The Troll Hole displays over 9,000 trolls, no two exactly alike.

The Troll Hole

Field review by the editors.

Alliance, Ohio

Trolls have a bad reputation -- their name is, after all, slang for online creeps -- but it's a stigma that is undeserved, according to Sherry Groom, owner of the Troll Hole. She is something of an expert, as she possesses more dolls, puppets, figurines, and other effigies of trolls than anyone else on the planet.

Troll Hole owner Sherry Groom and bearded troll friend.
Troll Hole owner Sherry Groom and bearded troll friend.

"Trolls are supernatural creatures that reward people who practice good behavior," Sherry explained, "but humans act pretty barbaric a lot of times." In other words, when trolls behave badly among humans -- say, by eating them -- it's not the trolls' fault. "You reap what you sow," said Sherry.

Sherry got her first troll as a gift when she was five years old: a classic pug-nosed, flap-eared, jewel-bellied, wild-haired naked little doll (Trolls are the world's most socially acceptable nude doll, according to Sherry). Invented in Denmark in the 1950s, the toy troll's vague copyright status was like catnip for unauthorized manufacturers, and for Sherry as well. "I love it when I find a good knockoff," she said.

The "sacred amber" belly jewel distinguishes female trolls and gives them magic powers.

Sherry wanted to share her troll collection with the public and, searching for the perfect spot, found Alliance, Ohio -- home, she said, to "the cheapest commercial real estate in the U.S." For a budget price, Sherry and her husband purchased not one, but 14 downtown buildings ("I complicated my life greatly," she admitted) and merged several of them into the Troll Hole in 2013.

Betty Miller, record-setting pilot, introduces JFK to her lucky troll.
Betty Miller, record-setting pilot, introduces JFK to her lucky troll.

The Troll Hole has made Sherry something of an outlier among top-tier troll collectors, most of whom, she said, avoid the spotlight because of trolls' questionable character. "I'm like the example for people to see," Sherry said. "I'm breaking the mold. I like trolls!"

The Troll Hole showcases over 9,000 of the creatures, some over eight feet tall, no two exactly alike, a population whose depth and breadth reveals Sherry's discerning eye and obsessive heart. If you thought that the customization of bobbleheads or PEZ dispensers had gotten out of hand, wait until you see a troll outfitted as a Chippendales dancer or half-rotted zombie. There are a few mass-produced two-headed trolls, and Sherry casually mentioned that, "Trolls can have up to 20 heads."

The Troll Hole is more than just shelf after shelf of oddly proportioned dolls (although there are plenty of those). It has 14 separate rooms, each with a different theme: mountain trolls, storybook trolls, pop culture trolls, etc. Posters from popular Norwegian troll movies line the halls. Elaborate displays are everywhere, handcrafted by local artists under Sherry's enthusiastic patronage. Troll folklore is traced back to the Vikings -- who made their troll dolls out of pinecones -- through Hollywood's recent animated film franchise (Trolls, Trolls World Tour, Trolls Band Together), with detours into marketing flops such as the "Trollz" fashion dolls of the early 2000s. The Troll Hole even pays tribute to other, more mainstream Ohio attractions with its troll versions of the Rock and Roll and Professional Football halls of fame.

The Troll Bowl at The Troll Hole.
The Troll Bowl at The Troll Hole.

Early troll dolls were made of wood, with wool for hair.
Early troll dolls were made of wood, with wool for hair.

One of the Troll Hole's more elaborate rooms is a replica shack of a Norwegian giant-troll hunter -- created, Sherry said, with the aid of Loren Coleman from the Cryptozoology Museum -- which displays a frighteningly large pile of troll snot and an immense troll toenail. A troll footprint cast looks suspiciously like the ones that we've seen in Bigfoot museums -- strong evidence, said Sherry, that trolls are Bigfoot (Sherry also believes that Santa may be a troll).

"If we had any more rooms, it would be overload," Sherry said. "By the time people are through with the tour, their eyes are glazed. They can't take any more."

Tours are tailored to the audience; the frightening parts are avoided if there are youngsters present, while an adults-only tour might include a peek into the troll toilet to see the remains of a partly-digested Barbie.

Giant troll molar and toenail in the troll hunter's shack.
Giant troll molar and toenail in the troll hunter's shack.

One of the many odd troll facts revealed during the tour is that trolls like to breed with humans. Sherry sometimes dresses as "Sigrid," a shapeshifting huldra troll who tempts men. "Trolls will take human children and raise them as their own because they're fascinated by them," Sherry said. "Sometimes in exchange they'll leave troll babies, who are really badly behaved. I can always tell when someone brings a troll baby to the Troll Hole."

According to legends and folktales, trolls live in dark places and eat naughty children. The Troll Hole doesn't shy away from that, although Sherry feels that trolls' worst attributes are exaggerated propaganda, spread by the rich and powerful. "Trolls teach us that we should be good to each other and practice kindness," Sherry said. "Because of that, trolls were condemned and vilified. They had to go underground." (We noticed that the partly-chewed carcasses outside the Troll Hole's replica troll cave were of deer, not of people).

Sherry's stature as the public face of Trolldom means that the Troll Hole will never run out of trolls; other fans entrust their collections to her, a responsibility that she described as "like a sacred honor." One old woman told Sherry, "Now I can die because my troll dolls have found a home." Another collector, a young man, had amassed trolls in a failed effort to impress a potential girlfriend. "His parents were so happy," Sherry said, "when we came and took all the trolls away."

The Troll Hole

228 E. Main St., Alliance, OH
Downtown. On the north side of E. Main St. between Mechanic Ave. and N. Arch Ave. Two blocks east of OH-183/Union Ave.
Tu-Su 10-4. Guided tours. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Adults $12.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Feline Historical MuseumFeline Historical Museum, Alliance, OH - < 1 mi.
Camelot in OhioCamelot in Ohio, Alliance, OH - < 1 mi.
Glamorgan CastleGlamorgan Castle, Alliance, OH - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Gray Elephant, Wampum, PA - 39 mi.

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