Robert the Doll
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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.
When Eugene died in 1974, the doll was left in the attic until the house was bought again. The new family included a ten-year old girl, who became Robert's new owner. It was not long before the girl began screaming out in the night, claiming that Robert moved about the room and even attempted to attack her on multiple occasions. More than thirty years later, she still tells interviewers that the doll was alive and wanted to kill her.
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.
For individuals who 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. 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.
- David L. Sloan, Ghost of Key West, Phantom Press, 2003
- Moran, M, Austin, J, & Sceurman, M. (2006). Weird hauntings: true tales of ghostly places. New York City, NY: Sterling Publishing Company. p. 212.
- http://tapscon.com Taps CON Site
- http://www.robertthedoll.org/ - Official Robert The Doll website, hosted by the Key West Art and Historical Society