“Robert the Doll” lives in Key West, Fla.
Innocent looking with his sailor suit and toy bear, Robert is said to wreak havoc on anyone that takes his photo or chides him in any way.
Hundreds of letters are sent to Robert, begging for forgiveness, as visitors’ lives fall apart after crossing the infamous doll.
His history is an interesting one, and the haunting even more so.
Robert the Doll started out his life as a gift to a lonely boy.
The doll was given to Robert Eugene Otto (known as “Gene” to family and friends), who lived in Key West, Fla.
The doll was German, made by the Steiff Company, and was purchased by Gene’s grandfather while he was on a trip to Germany in 1904, and given to young Gene as a birthday gift.
The doll wore the same little sailor suit that the young boy liked to wear, and the doll and the child became inseparable.
The Ottos had servants who would be cleaning the upper floors where the young boy’s room was located, and would swear they would hear conversations in different voices and tones coming out of the bedroom, only to find the child and the doll were completely alone in the room.
Sometimes at night, the parents would find young Robert Eugene screaming and crying, furniture upended and his room a mess.
As things progressed in his childhood, mysterious sounds would occur, other toys would be torn apart, and giggling could be heard outside of the rooms.
Gene always had a perfect excuse, “Robert did it.”
Some feel placing the blame on an inanimate object led the doll to take on negative energy.
Gene grew up and after his parents’ death, he inherited their family home.
At this point, he was a working artist and used the second floor turret room as his studio.
Many people say the adult man would still spend time with his doll, painting and talking to the doll as he worked. He began to travel for work, and Robert the Doll was forgotten and locked up in the attic for a long period of time.
Eventually, Gene got married and came back home with his new bride, Anna.
The doll was rediscovered by Gene in the attic, and it seemed to place a hold back on the adult man.
Anna found the doll unsettling, and his influence on her husband negative, so she locked Robert back in the attic, only to find him downstairs in a rocking chair of several occasions, not in the attic where she put him.
The doll caused much fighting and discussion in the household, as if it was creating friction and wedges in the new family.
Gene put Robert back in the attic to appease Anna, but passers-by would report Robert looking out the turret windows, chiding school children walking by, and visitors to the house would hear running feet going back and forth across the attic floor.
Eventually, after Gene’s passing, Robert was rediscovered by a new family, and it was said he played mind games with the new girl who lived in the house.
Word had gotten out about Robert and his notorious hauntings, and he was eventually given to the East Martello Museum in Key West.
The doll reportedly got out of his case one night and claimed a small bear that he holds as his own.
The bear was not with him when he first arrived at the museum, legend has it.
He does not like his picture taken unless you ask permission.
It is said if you take his photo without the permission granted, bad things will happen to you, and hundreds of letters arrive yearly to the museum, posted with the doll on a wall, telling tales of misfortunes of every sort and begging for his forgiveness.
Employees of the museum report that sometimes fresh dust can be seen on Robert’s feet, and that he is repositioned in different poses than when they left him the night before.
Tapping on the glass can be heard by guests, and the intrigue seems as if it will never leave this doll.
Robert the Doll is said to be the most haunted doll in the world.
Some people say that he has some sort of voodoo curse upon him, or that a small child’s energy and beliefs absorbed into the doll and made it alive, but no matter what you believe,
Robert is a huge, haunted attraction, and some whisper upon a visit with him that evil never dies.
(Editor’s note: DeeDee Wood is the store manager at Tharpe Antiques, in Easton, part of the Talbot Historical Society.)
The legend of the Robert the Doll
“Robert the Doll” lives in Key West, Fla.