Miniature Murder Scenes, 1930s

‘Before forensics, DNA, and CSI we had dollhouses – an unimaginable collection of miniature crime scenes, known as the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. Created in the 1930s and 1940s by a crime-fighting millionaire heiress grandmother Frances Glessner, the Nutshells helped homicide detectives hone their investigative skills. Despite all the advances in forensics, the Nutshells are still used today to train detectives.’

- Of Dolls and Murder


The Judsons family didn't make it through Halloween night, 1937. All the windows and doors were locked from the inside.

The Judson's innocent baby daughter was found shot to death in her crib. Whose blood is on the floor?

A simple accident? Suicide? Or does the position of her body suggest something more sinister?

The downstairs neighbor heard arguing upstairs, a crash and a thud.

Around the boarding house, Maggie was known as a "good time girl" who never let a thing like epilepsy stand in her way...

In Unpapered Bedroom, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" checked in, but only Mr. Smith checked out...

According to Robin's husband, she committed suicide in the middle of making dinner. She made the kitchen air tight and turned on the gas from the stove and waited to die...

Hy-Da-Way was a secluded tourist cabin where Marion and Arthur loved to meet. Nobody needed to know, especially their spouses...

Arthur ended the affair and accidentally shot himself. Why is that so hard to believe?

Frances Glessner Lee

Documentary film Of Dolls and Murder explores the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, the woman who created them, and their relationship to modern day forensics.

This capsule was curated by Susan Marks


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