Mischievous Adventures of Robert, the Haunted Doll

In one part of Fort East Martello Museum, people leave candies, cards, money and even joints as homages to Robert. The museum is his home since 1994. However, museum staff reported that Robert is a haunted doll.

Robert is a handmade doll fashioned by Steiff Company, the maker of teddy bear. Towering 40 inches, the doll is ballooned with wood wool, his face is sketched with nub of nose, beady black eyes and is covered with brown scratches. He held a toy dog in his lap. He was dressed in a sailor suit believed to be a garb of his owner while on his face, a vindictive grin.

haunted doll
Gene would blame Robert for destroying his other toys (bttm.co.uk).

History held that the doll was a gift from a house maid of Thomas Otto and his family. The Ottos who lived in Key West, Florida were known to be maltreating their servants. A Haitian servant was hired to take care of their son Robert Eugene. Mrs. Otto accused the nanny to be practicing black magic and she fired the woman immediately.

The servant gave the young Otto a doll with button eyes and human hair believed to be Robert’s as a gift before she leave. Since then, the doll was Robert’s companion. The young boy even call the doll his own name Robert and use his middle name Gene for himself.

Gene would blame Robert for destroying his other toys. Servants would find furniture and household objects overturned or thrown across the room. Gene always said, “Robert did it!” The boy was often caught talking to Robert and responses and giggles could be heard.

One time, Mrs. Otto saw her son trembling in a corner of his room. Robert sat on the brink in a chair looking angrily at Gene. Relatives and friends suggested to remove Robert from Gene’s room and to place him in a box in the attic.

Despite being locked, Robert continued his aggressive behavior. Servants who came into the attic reported being trapped. They claimed that they would hear footsteps and laughs from the attic.

Gene became a well-known artist and decided to take his childhood toy in his home called “The Artist House.” Robert was placed in a window. The doll could be seen from the street where people insisted they would appear and reappear. He abandoned his mansion and Robert when he died on 1974.

haunted doll
Fort East Martello Museum houses Robert, the doll (tripadvisor.com).

The Artist House was bought by Myrtle Reuter. She became the new caretaker of Robert. Visitors swore they heard giggling and footfalls from where Robert was placed. Some claimed they noticed a change in Robert’s expression. Myrtle said that the doll would move from room to room on his own. One night, she found Robert, the doll in her bedroom standing with a kitchen knife in his hand.

Myrtle donated the doll to the Museum. She died few months after.

The staff at the Museum noticed the doll move. An employee was assigned to clean him only to find Robert sitting in a different position from the night he left him. Cameras and electronic devices also crashed in his presence. Visitors should ask permission before taking his picture, lest accidents happen to risk takers. Still, people flock to visit Robert, the doll.


Source:     Atlas Obscura    Key West

Further Reading

Robert The Doll

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