The Tribunal is In

Examining the rock solid case against America's favorite dead child.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

With her curly red hair, good-natured grin, and imp-like antics, Shirley Temple made America forget it was actively starving to death during the Great Depression. Since time immemorial (1934), Shirley Temple has been the gold standard by which we judge professional children.

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson cuts a rug with the Child Bride of Satan (1935) (20th Century Fox)

While there are no absolutes in popular culture, everyone who has ever seen Shirley Temple knows she’s better than every other kid before or since, including their own. But is that universal love because she was a precocious scamp with a song in her heart and dance in her step… or because she had weird powers, granted by Satan or a non-union equivalent? We examine the evidence…


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Exhibit A

Supernatural beings have a long history of preoccupation with numbers. Whether it’s because unnaturally long lifespans invite tedium or some even more quotidian reason, ghosts and goblins and gods alike just can’t resist leaving numerical clues about their existence and plans. Like Batman villains.

It tracks that Shirley Temple is no different. Shirley’s curls are iconic and some would say… sinister. Why exactly did her alleged mother, Gertrude, feel the need to put precisely 56 curls into little Shirley’s hair? According to the fine people at Affinity Numerology, 56 is “an expressive family and relationships number.” The “primary focus” of the “energy” of the number 56 is relationships.

But not just any relationships.

Relationships with an “inherent inclination to express a sense of freedom.”

And who loves freedom?


Santa Pause

Similar to this, except that’s not Shirley Temple.
(20th Century Fox)

One person who isn’t a fan of freedom is Santa Claus. Known for his year-round surveillance of girls and boys all over the world – as well as his penchant for moral judgment – Kris Kringle is easily the world’s most popular fascist. Beloved by everyone… except Shirley Temple.

Forbes quoted Temple as saying:

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.”

But was that the real issue? Or did the littlest ingenue have a problem with the fact that Santa Claus works for Jesus?

Papal Prevaricates

He thinks he’s papal.
(God Swill)

As the first child star, Shirley Temple’s popularity justifiably confused and scared many audiences. Not only could she sing and dance and act, but she could do all of those things well. And none of those things were traditional child activities like whitewashing fences, cleaning chimneys, or working in a meat-packing plant. As her popularity grew, rumors began to spread that she was some sort of adult dwarf pretending to be a child.

Audiences in the 1930s weren’t the same rubes who’d fled in panic from the first moving image, convinced that a runaway train had silently collided into the side of the theater. The public at large was far more shrewd than that. They noticed things like how Shirley never seemed to lose her baby teeth.

Unoccupied with anything else at the time, the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, sent Reverend Silvio Massante to investigate Temple’s decidedly unchildlike level of talent and charm. The priest left Hollywood convinced that Temple was in fact a little girl, but can his conclusions be trusted? 

Or could it be that Reverend Massante—true to form—said one thing to the public… and quite another to His Holiness?

(Not) Strange (Enough) Brew

Mocktail, Shirley Temple, Red

Not everything about Shirley Temple is questionable. The mocktail named after her is a pure delight. A non-alcoholic mix of ginger ale, grenadine, and lemon or lime juice, topped with a maraschino cherry, Shirley Temple is a sweet and zesty favorite of children, designated drivers, and teetotalers of all ages. Yes, everyone loves a wholesome Shirley Temple… except, of course, for the Princess of Lies herself. 

Why did the real Shirley Temple stop companies from putting her face on bottled varieties of the drink named in her honor?

The answer should be obvious.

Not enough eye of newt.


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Don’t forget to put an actual Oscar here. – ED

By the age of six, Temple was a Hollywood institution. By that point, she had starred in 10 movies in one year and was in serious consideration to receive an Academy Award (or “Oscar”). No one so young had ever been nominated before… or since. What terrible power did she have over the selection committee? Whatever it was, it motivated the Academy to cast a craven idol just for her, an honorary Academy Juvenile Award.

Many at the time believed that the Academy created a new juvenile category because they were unsure if children could or should compete with their adult counterparts, but that didn’t stop Tatum O’Neal who won a real Oscar in 1974. What was so special about Shirley that she was given this unique offering?

Perhaps the pint-sized prize contained the soul of someone who got in Shirley Temple’s way. Perhaps it was an offering from the Academy to appease Temple and keep her from cursing any more Barrymores. Perhaps it was simply an insulting tribute to condescension meant to put the little witch in her place.

The truth is anyone’s guess.*

Diplomatic Impunity

Behold, the Red Dragon (UN)

There’s no sign of evil more blatant than working for the government. Maybe wearing someone’s skin. And yet, don’t government functionaries wear the “skin” off the back of the working man, in the form of income tax?

Shirley Temple was never elected to any office. Instead, she leveraged the rich experience playing a little girl in the movies into a career in diplomacy. In 1974, President Gerald Ford appointed her ambassador to Ghana. Years later, President George H.W. Bush named her the first female ambassador to Czechoslovakia.

Note that at no point did we explicitly say “Whore of Babylon.”

Devil Dolls

Is it– Is it supposed to look like a coffin?
(Maria-V’s Dolls ‘n Smalls)

Though Shirley Temple allegedly died in 2014, there’s every reason to think her evil endures in the form of every sorceress’s favorite hope chest: dead-eyed dolls.

Released at the height of her career (and, thereby, power), the collection of Shirley Temple dolls was massively successful. The dolls came in a number of varieties (see Numerology): composition, baby, vinyl, porcelain – and different heights. The tallest of the dolls stood at 27 inches tall: just the right height to replace an innocent toddler and wreak unholy havoc.

Today, these infernal dolls fetch thousands of dollars on the collector market. Mint condition dolls still in their prisons boxes have sold for upwards of $2,000.

Did Shirley plan to use these dolls as a tether back to the land of the living? If we assume she was a witch, that only makes sense.

In conclusion, Shirley Temple was a witch. Just look at the evidence.

* No, it isn’t.

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As a comedy writer, the details of my life are depressing at best and sketchy at worst. I have written for all of the best comedy sites and none of the bad ones, resulting in a net gain of half a ham sandwich....