Moms are great at making holiday magic happen for their kids. And sometimes magic goes terribly, terribly wrong. Elizabeth Faidley's "tail" about the time she ordered a mermaid baby doll for her daughter, and it turned out to be creepy and also filled with cocaine, is the ultimate example of how far a mother will go to try to provide Christmas joy.
Faidley has posted the epic story on Facebook each year since it all went down, but this year, it's going viral.
More than one million people have viewed a video from 2015 of Faidley's then 6-year-old daughter, Ellie, opening her Christmas gift: A handmade "mer-baby" doll Faidley paid $500 for on Etsy. The doll has fuzzy green hair, scale-painted skin and a fin, and Ellie isn't having it.
Faidley, a single mom from Bergen County, New Jersey, says all her daughter wanted that Christmas was a mermaid baby.
"Not just a mermaid, and not just a baby. A mermaid baby," Faidley explains in her Facebook post.
"She dreamed of the name Pearl," Faidley told TODAY Parents. "She would get a real mermaid baby and it would be named Pearl. And as her mom, I would do anything for her to have what her dream was."
When Ellie saw the doll, Faidley quickly realized this was not the mer-baby of her daughter's dreams.
"When I cut the camera off, I sat her down and she stared at the doll and said, 'I wanted a pretty one,'" Faidley recalled. "And I said, 'It's not as much what's on the outside as what's on the inside. And then we had a whole discussion — it was a learning moment — and I was like, 'You're going to be able to love Pearl because she's soft. I cuddled her and wrapped her in a special blanket that had her name on it, and she was like, 'I'm never touching that doll. There's things messed up on that doll, Mom.'"
One of Ellie's biggest concerns about Pearl was her green hair, so Faidley bought several home coloring kits in attempts to dye the doll's hair blonde.
"I tried so many times to dye it," said Faidley. "My babysitters one by one would come through and see me in the bathroom with the hair dye and putting a net on Pearl and the babysitters were like, 'Elizabeth, just give it up.' One time, Ellie was like, 'Look Mom, it's just getting worse, just give up.'"
But Faidley wouldn't give up on making her daughter's Christmas dreams come true, so she found a doll and teddy bear hospital in New Jersey and contacted them about making the doll more visually appealing.
"I call them immediately and discover it is run by a group of very strict and serious Germans. They take their doll and teddy bear hospital very seriously," Faidley explained in her post. "They are interested in seeing Pearl's 'condition' and then will give me an estimate for all of the cosmetic work that needs to be done to make her 'lovable'... I pack Pearl up in a box and address it to the doll hospital. I tell Ellie that Pearl is going off to the hospital to have her face and hair 'adjusted.' Ellie wisely informs me that, 'Pearl has even greater problems than those.' Then, she proceeds write on the box, 'Please, please, help this doll. She has so many problems.'"
More problems, it turned out, than even a doll hospital could fix. After sending $500 to the doll hospital for the necessary improvements, Faidley received a shocking phone call while she was teaching music lessons.
"It was a detective from the Secaucus Police Department," Faidley's post continues. "The detective tells me that the Germans called the the police down to the doll hospital that morning. When they removed Pearl's head to repaint her offensive skin, they found two ounces of COCAINE. STUFFED IN HER HEAD."
Faidley managed to persuade the detective that she was innocent, explaining her desperate search on Etsy for a mer-baby for her child. Faidley remembers the conversation that ensued: "The detective then said, 'You spent money on this doll? Have you ever heard of Ariel? She is a pretty mermaid. You can buy her at any Disney store.'"
After authorities checked her out and determined she had no prior drug convictions, Faidley was told she was no longer a suspect — but Pearl would have to remain in the Drug Enforcement Agency's possession as evidence.
Ellie was OK with that.
Later, Faidley learned Pearl was purchased from an Etsy shop based out of Alabama that used their mer-baby dolls as a front for smuggling drugs.
"We got the wrong head," said Faidley. "This was my first time in any drug espionage situation — I'm a violin teacher — but I guess they were selling these terrible, ugly mermaids to idiots like me who spend $500 on Etsy because they're like, 'No one's going to buy these, but it looks legitimate.' They had a fake store but then I popped in like, 'Here's your money! Send me a mer-doll!' So then they accidentally sent me a head filled with cocaine."
"The detective was like, 'Your help in this sting is so appreciated. We've already got the person in Alabama.' I guess they were trying to get her to flip on her boss," Faidley continued. "That's all I know. I pushed him for more, because obviously I wanted to know, but he said the rest was 'need to know.'"
After clearing her name with the New Jersey and Alabama DEAs, Faidley contacted the doll hospital in an attempt to get her money for Pearl's repairs back.
"They refused to speak to me after Pearl was taken away because they thought the drugs were mine, so I literally had to call and be like, 'THE DRUGS AREN'T MINE!' until they would talk to me," said Faidley.
Finally, she received her money back.
Faidley says while the story is funny now, it wasn't at the time.
"I didn't post it for a year because nobody knew," said Faidley. "At the time, I was like, 'What if someone comes after their missing head?' But after a year went by, I posted about it. At first I only shared it with friends and family, so this is the first time the entire world is learning about Pearl."
Faidley's daughter is now 10 and remembers her mer-baby well.
"She still thinks I should not have bought Pearl and she doesn't know what was wrong with me," said Faidley. "She will attest to Pearl's gross hideousness and the fact that she knew there was something lingering inside that was not right. We just didn't know it was cocaine."
Here's a video about dolls (not cocaine):