Robert, otherwise known as Robert the Doll, Robert the Haunted Doll, or Robert the Enchanted Doll; is a doll that was once owned by Key West painter and author Robert Eugene Otto. The doll is alleged to be possessed by evil spirits and has a terrifying reputation.
The doll, which is allegedly cursed, has become a fixture of ghost tours in the Key West area since it was inducted into the Fort East Martello Museum. Aesthetically, Robert resembles an early 20th century American Naval officer. Contrary to popular belief, however, the doll’s hair is not made of human hair, but rather, it consists of a synthetic material resembling wool yarn.
Eugene was given the doll in 1906 by an Bahamian servant who, according to legend, was skilled in black magic and voodoo and was displeased with the family. Soon afterward, it became clear that there was something eerie about the doll. Eugene’s parents said they often heard him talking to the doll and that the doll appeared to be talking back. Although at first they assumed that Eugene was simply answering himself in a changed voice, they later believed that the doll was actually speaking.
Neighbors claimed to see the doll moving from window to window when the family was out. The Otto family swore that sometimes the doll would emit a terrifying giggle and that they caught glimpses of it running from room to room. In the night Eugene would scream, and when his parents ran to the room, they would find furniture knocked over and Eugene in bed, looking incredibly scared, telling them that “Robert did it!”. In addition, guests swore that they saw Robert’s expression change before their eyes.
The doll is annually rotated to the Old Post Office and Customhouse in October, with the museum staff claiming that strange activity in the museum increases during such times. The doll made an appearance at Taps CON,a paranormal convention held in Clearwater, Florida in May 2008. This was the first time that it had left Key West, Florida in the 104 (at the time) years of its existence.
Individuals who desire to visit Robert in the Fort East Martello Museum and wish to take a picture of him, according to legend, the person must ask the doll politely, and if he does not agree (by tipping his head to one side), and the individual takes a picture anyway, the doll will curse the person and their family.
|There are a number of stories about the nanny, obviously the pivotal figure in this doll drama. Many say that, although she dearly loved young Gene, she was mistreated and abused by his parents on a regular basis. Some versions of the tale have the nanny practicing the dark Voodoo arts and giving the doll to Robert out of revenge for her ill treatment, but there is nothing to support this being the case. Evidently, Gene received the doll, said to be a replica of him, as a gift of love. He promptly named it Robert.
To say that Robert stayed by Gene’s side is an understatement, for Gene was never without the little plaything. He even dressed it in his own clothes and spent hours on end playing in his nursery with only the doll as company. It is said that he was often heard talking to the doll and answering himself in an entirely different voice. Gene slept, ate and traveled with Robert by his side.
Soon the doll apparently became bolder. It no longer seemed to require Gene’s company to move about the house. In the still hours of the night, the servants would often wake to the sound of hollow, pattering footsteps. Too frightened to inspect the cause, they would usually cower in their beds until dawn. Weird humming and singing was heard to come from the nursery if Gene inadvertently left Robert there alone. None of the servants was eager to clean Gene’s rooms; nobody liked to turn their back on the doll.
From the moment The new Mre.s Otto arrived, the creepy doll disturbed the new Mrs. Otto and eventually she prevailed upon her husband to put it away. Robert was relegated to rooms in the attic, where he was to remain – mostly – for the rest of Gene Otto’s life.
“Mostly,” because, according to the stories, Robert often left the attic on his own. There are several accounts by the servants and Mrs. Otto herself of Robert being seen darting up and down the attic stairs. Mrs. Otto was often troubled by the sound of the doll’s dancing feet tapping the attic floor above her, and one time was alarmed to hear the doll’s voice singing in the old nursery. Upon entering, she found the doll sitting in one of Gene’s old rocking chairs. When she confronted her husband about taking the doll from the attic when it disturbed her so, she was met with the obtuse statement, “Robert did it!” yet again. When Mrs. Otto eventually preceded her husband in death, many wondered, “Did Robert do it?”
It was widely believed that the death of Gene Otto in 1972 would put an end to the ghostly activity of the haunted doll. It was quickly learned, however, that true evil never dies, and while the house stood empty reports of the awful doll still continued. Many people would hear the sound of singing coming from the house at night and on more than one occasion the gruesome doll is said to have frightened school children by peering out the window in the attic turret and making faces at them.
Eventually, a new family purchased the old house and Robert the Doll was discovered in his attic home and was promptly presented to the family’s youngest daughter, then aged 10, as a housewarming gift.
From the moment she received the doll the child was plagued by horrible nightmares. More than once, she claims, she awoke to find the doll sitting on her face, attempting, she believed, to suffocate her. It seemed that Robert intensely disliked being left behind by Gene and had no love for his new “owner.” It was also painfully obvious that he did not like little girls because he is blamed for having torn up and mutilated most of the young girl’s other dolls. When the family pet became mysteriously entwined in the cord of the nursery Venetian blinds, Robert was once again consigned to the attic.
When the family finally moved and the home was converted into the Artist’s House historic location as it stands today, Robert was donated to The East Martello Museum not far away. It quickly became evident, however, that Robert was still up to his old tricks.
Museum workers began to report strange activity after the arrival of the doll, including one volunteer who was terrorized when the doll apparently spent most of a day following her around. Eventually, the doll was encased in a plastic display case in which it remains to this day. Still, there are those who claim that even this cannot contain the evil doll and it is often blamed for numerous odd occurrences in and around the museum.
Once a year, in October, Robert the Doll (in his case) is taken to the Historic Custom House where he is placed on display. Some visitors comment about the seemingly odd practice of peppermints being placed in the display case along with the doll. They are usually fittingly creeped out by the explanation: Robert, it seems, loves peppermints, and placing some in his case will keep him from wanting to roam at night. Skeptics might scoff at this practice, but it is reported by museum and Custom House staff alike that each morning during his October visit there are empty peppermint wrappings littering the bottom of Robert’s display case…
The story begins in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Otto, the year 1896. It was well known that the Otto’s mistreated there servant’s, and were not the kindest of people.
One particular servant, that aided in the care of the couples son “Robert Eugene” (Gene) was said to be versed in the ways of voodoo. As the story goes the servant gave young Gene a doll. The doll stood three feet tall, and was stuffed with straw. The servant gave the doll life like features, that at first were very endearing to young Gene.
Gene decided to name the doll Robert. The doll became a constant companion to the little boy. Its said that the Otto’s often heard Gene upstairs talking to the doll. This in itself might not have been so bad? What unsettled and puzzled the Otto’s was hearing their son answering himself in an entirely different voice than his own?
Many Strange things began to occur in the Otto household. Frequently Neighbors’ claimed to see Robert move about from window to window, when the family was out of the house. Gene began to blame Robert for mishaps that would occur. The Otto’s claimed to hear the doll giggle, and swear they caught glimpses of the doll running about the house.
Gene began to have nightmare’s, and scream out in the night. When his parents would respond to Gene’s cries, they often found furniture over turned, and their child in a fright. As a rule they would find Robert the doll at the foot of their sons bed – with his glaring gaze on his face! With Gene shouting,”Robert Did It”….
The doll was eventually put up in the attic. Where he resided for many years.
When Gene’s father died, and the Otto home was willed to Gene. Gene decided that he and his new wife would move into his childhood home. He had become an artist in his adult life, and felt the larger home would provide him and his wife a spacious place to live, plus the large turret room on the second floor would make a great studio for his painting.
After moving back to his boyhood home It wasn’t long before Gene discovered Robert in the attic. He promptly moved him down to the turret room. Robert’s hold on Gene was strong, and from the moment Gene again laid eye’s on him, Robert’s influence could be felt in the house. Gene’s wife found Robert very odd and unsettling. One day while Gene was out of the house she decided she had enough of Robert’s glare…and returned him to his attic sanctuary.
When Gene returned home, and found that the doll had been moved, he was displeased. He declared that Robert needed a room of his own where he could see out of a window. He hurriedly returned Robert to the turret room. It wasn’t long after that Gene’s wife began to question her husbands sanity ?
The citizens’ of Key West began to spread rumors about Robert and his evil doings. Many people told stories of seeing and hearing Robert the doll in the turret room as they walked by the home. They claimed that Robert would mock them as they passed… School children feared walking by the Otto home , in fear of Robert’s mean glare from the window above.
Gene, himself reported when visiting the turret room on occasion he would find Robert in the rocking chair by the window rocking, and complaining of his displeasure with his accommodations.Finally Gene himself had enough of Robert’s antics, and put him back in the attic. Visitors to the Otto’s home would often comment on hearing something walking back and forth in the attic, along with strange giggling sounds. Guests” no longer wanted to visit the home.
Gene Otto died in 1972, and his wife sold the home promptly – leaving Robert the doll behind in the attic.A new family now lived in the home, and the stories of Robert died down…
Robert waited patiently up in the attic to be discovered once again. The Ten year old daughter of the new owners was quick to find Robert in the attic, and added him to her other toy’s in her bedroom. It was not long before Robert unleashed his displeasure on the child… The little girl began screaming out in the night,claiming that the doll moved about the room, and would climb on her bed and attack her as she tried to sleep. Even after more than thirty years later, she steadfastly claims that ” the doll was alive and wanted to kill her.”
Robert, still dressed in his white sailor suit and clutching his stuffed lion lives comfortably, though well guarded in Key West at the Martello Museum. Employs at the museum continue to give accounts of Robert being up to his old tricks still today…