This story starts out benign enough. You find yourself in Key West and after soaking up some rays you decide to go to the East Martello Museum. As you’re walking through the exhibits, enjoying the exhibits of Native fishermen, military displays, as well as art from local artists, you come to an exhibit that is rather out of place. An unassuming toy, encased in glass, sitting on a wooden chair with a stuffed toy dog resting in his lap. He’s surrounded by what looks to be some letters, and above his head hangs a sign, “Robert the Doll”, and for some reason an extra cold chill runs up your spine as you look at this doll. He’s wearing a sailors outfit, and he is worn from countless years of being a child’s companion. You look down as you start to get your phone out to take a picture, but a chill wind stops you. You look up and the toys eyes seem to be following you, watching your every move. Thinking better of taking a picture you simply turn around and walk away…and that might be the best choice you ever made.
Ok, so now that I have your attention I’ll explain what and who Robert is, and how he came to be in a museum as well as how he got famous. Robert Eugene Otto was the son of Dr. Thomas Otto. Dr. Otto was an accomplished doctor and traveled the world with his wife. Robert Eugene Otto was born on the 25th of October 1900. He died on June 24th 1974. He was Robert the doll’s owner and while Robert Otto, or Gene as he liked to be called, is an important character in the story he isnt the main character.
Robert the doll was made in 1904 by the Steiff factory, interesting fact this company is best known for producing the first teddy bear and high-end collector’s bears of today, and was most probably part of an advertising window display of jesters or clowns, rather than a standard doll for purchase. The doll was bought by the grandfather of Robert Eugene Otto as a gift from overseas and was promptly named after the little boy. The sailor outfit that makes Robert the Doll rather iconic in paranormal circles was not a Steiff product and was most probably an outfit worn by Otto in his youth, making the boy and the doll undeniably intertwined. Gene was absolutely in love with this toy, and so he named him Robert, weird flex but hey kids will be kids. Now, Gene’s grandfather giving him Robert is one story. There is a more creepy, if not factual story behind Roberts origin.
The Otto’s were a very strict household, and also mistreated their servants by all accounts. One maid, who was Gene’s favorite, got fired, the reason I could not find, and she got angy. Like real angy, no touch my joos angy. It is said she was a practitioner of voodoo and black magic, is said to have placed a curse on the doll, and gave it to the boy as a gift before she left the residence. After this things began to go a little side ways. Otto’s parents would hear him and Robert conversing in the boy’s upstairs bedroom. Initially, they thought Gene was doing both voices but after listening closely they became convinced it was actually two different voices.
Periodically his parents heard Otto screaming, heard fiendish laughter and would rush upstairs to find him cowering in the corner with furniture overturned and toys scattered throughout the room. Gene always said “Robert did it.” As time went on these paranormal events became even more disturbing. Silverware would be found thrown around the dining room and kitchen, servants would be locked in a room while cleaning and some of Gene’s favorite toys would be found mutilated. Neighbors reported seeing Robert in the attic window rocking in a chair and yelling threats at them. In the meantime, Gene took Robert everywhere with him, Gene even insisted on the doll being in the room while he bathed, and he tucked Robert in next to him every night. Robert even had a place at the dinner table in the home where he would be with the family while they ate. Eventually Gene became an accomplished artist, and married Annette Parker, a concert and jazz pianist. Now, at this point Gene was still obsessed with Robert. He would insist Robert be with them while they ate, and even took Robert on every vacation the couple had…hopefully not their honeymoon. As can be expected this disturbed Anne and she insisted the doll be put in another part of the house, so Robert was put up in the attic sitting on a chair and looking out the window. Robert seemed to not be happy up there and Anne reported hearing little footsteps and malicious giggling from the attic at times.
As is the way of the world, both Gene and Anne passed and the house was sold to Myrtle Reuter who purchased the Otto home in 1974. She became Robert’s companion and kept him when she moved to Von Phister Street six years later. A plumber doing work on the house said he heard giggling and turned to find the doll had moved across the room on his own. Solares Hill reporter Malcolm Ross visited Robert and said:
“It was like a metal bar running down my back. At first when we walked through the door, the look on his face was like a little boy being punished. It was as if he was asking himself, ‘Who are these people in my room and what are they going to do to me?’
Ross’ friends told him Robert’s back-story and pointed out the children’s furniture. It was at this point Malcolm noticed a change in the doll’s expression as if he was following the conversation. One of the men made a comment about what an old fool Gene Otto must have been. Robert’s expression turned to one of disdain.
“There was some kind of intelligence there. The doll was listening to us.”
Reuter said Robert terrified their daughter and said once they woke to find Robert at the foot of their bed holding a butcher knife. Some people attribute this as the inspiration of CHucky from the Child’s Play horror franchise. From what I found I did not see any of the directors or producers say that this story was inspired by Robert the doll, but its cool to draw similarities nonetheless. Robert was donated to the East Martello Museum in 1994 and has been his home ever since.
In most instances Robert is benign. He is just a doll, but some people say that when they try to take a picture of him the photos don’t come out right. Where the doll would be in the picture it’s just a blur, smudge, or even a black haze around the doll obscuring it from view. Others report that after scoffing at the idea of Robert and him being haunted, they have had a run of extreme bad luck. Some say they’ve lost jobs, wrecked cars, had good relationships gone completely sour very quickly, some have either died or lost loved ones suddenly and in strange ways; all after they come home from seeing Robert in Florida. People write to him, and ask for his forgiveness and ask him to lift the curse he put on them. That’s what the letters surrounding the doll are. People also write him fan mail as well. He has been visited by numerous different TV shows and even has a new documentary about himself on Discovery!
Researched by Ranger from The Squonk & The Hag