Robert the Doll: Beware of this extremely haunted doll from the 1900s!

Most people would agree that the following is accurate about Robert the Doll: He’s dreadful. That unsettling sensation that something or someone was watching us, as if an inanimate item had come to life. Many people in Key West have not only felt that way, but have also seen it when they see Robert The Doll, the infamous toy.

Robert the Doll is an allegedly haunted doll exhibited at the East Martello Museum. Robert was once owned by Key West, Florida, painter and author Robert Eugene Otto. ©️ Wikimedia Commons

The beginning

Robert the doll Robert Eugene Otto
Robert Eugene Otto on the right. ©️ Monroe County Library collection.

In the early 1900s, there lived a little boy named Robert Eugene Otto or shortly called ‘Gene’ in the Otto Family in Key West, United States, who got a strange straw-filled doll from one of their family maids to play with. He was only 4-year-old at the time.

Day by day, little Gene showed an immense love to his life-sized doll and liked to bring it along everywhere, even naming it ‘Robert’ after himself. It was not so long, however, before people begin to notice the signs of Robert the Doll’s evil and mischievous nature.

As rumour has it that the Otto family members and their servants would often hear Gene in his bedroom, having conversations with himself in two entirely different voices which spooked them out so much.

To make things more strange, the Ottos would wake up in the midnight hours to screaming from Gene’s bedroom, only to find him terrified in bed, surrounded by scattered and overturned furniture. Gene would blame Robert the Doll for all those awkward messing, while Robert would glare at him from the foot of his bed.

Gene’s sole words were, “Robert did it,” which he would subsequently repeat many times throughout his youth whenever anything unusual, unexplained, or harmful occurred.

Was all that Robert’s doing?

Robert the doll
Close up photo of Robert The Doll. ©️ Flikr

Nobody knows for certain why or how this child’s toy could wreak havoc on a child’s bedroom or do anything at all; after all, it was only a toy, right? But the strange and incomprehensible events didn’t end there.

Gene’s parents would frequently hear their kid upstairs conversing with the doll and get a response in a completely different voice and Gene asserts each time, “Robert did it!”. Though the Ottos thought these were all mischievously done by Gene, they also claimed to have seen the doll talk and his countenance alter. There was also giggling and sightings of Robert racing up the stairs or looking out the upstairs window.

The passersby used to claim to see a small doll peering and moving from window to window when the family went somewhere else, as well as some visitors to the house would even describe how the doll’s facial expression changed according to the conversation in the room.

Robert lived with Gene for the rest of his life, and once Gene’s parents died, he inherits their Key West Mansion and returned back there with his wife, Anne. Gene felt that the doll required his own room, so he put him in the upstairs room with a window facing the street.

By then, Gene started working as an artist, and local folklore insists he would often spend his time alone in the home, painting with his old childhood friend Robert. But Anne always despised the doll utterly and was unhappy having Robert in the home, while she couldn’t put her finger on it, she wanted Gene to lock the doll up in the attic where he couldn’t hurt anyone. Gene agreed, and as one might expect, Robert the Doll was dissatisfied with his new place.

Soon there were noises of someone walking back and forth and chuckling in the attic. Children in the neighborhood reported seeing Robert observing them from the upper bedroom window and hearing the doll taunting them as they headed to school. Gene rushed to check as soon as he heard this, knowing that he had locked Robert in the attic and that he couldn’t possibly be sitting at the window of the upstairs bedroom.

When he entered the door to the bedroom, however, he saw Robert seated in a chair by the window, much to his surprise. Gene had numerous times locked Robert in the attic, only to find him seated by the window in the same upstairs bedroom. And after her husband’s death in 1974, Anne demanded to keep the doll in a cedar chest forever, and some local stories say that Anne gradually dies from ‘insanity’ after locking Robert in the attic.

A new family to mess with

A few years after Anne’s death the spooky Robert The Haunted Doll was found again when a new family came into the Eaton Street property, their ten-year-old daughter was overjoyed to discover Robert the Doll in the attic.

Her joy was short-lived, however, as she claimed that Robert was still alive and that the doll intended to harm her. She awakened frequently in the middle of the night, terrified, and informed her parents that Robert had moved around in the room.

Today, Gene’s Key West Mansion operates a bed and breakfast called the Artist House, and the visitors could even stay in that Gene’s old turret bedroom, whereas Robert the Doll now lives at the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, along with his teddy bear, and some believe his hair color and soul are both gradually fading.

Is Robert truly possessed?

Many people believe that Robert’s wickedness stems from the person who gave him to Gene Otto in the first place — a servant who worked for Gene’s parents. This lady was allegedly abused by her superiors, so she cursed the doll with Voodoo and Black Magic to punish them.

That might explain the many odd and terrifying encounters individuals have had with Robert the Doll. But, if that’s the case, wouldn’t the haunting cease when the owners died? Nobody knows for certain.

Wait, the story is not ending yet!

robert the doll
Robert the Dall heunits the halls of Fort Esst Martello, Key West, Fixida. ©️ Joe Parks Flickr

Obviously, Robert still has some mischievous acts and his current favourite act involves casting curses on those visitors who take his photo without first asking permission. Many people have stated that when they attempted to photograph Robert, their cameras were unusable, only to resume operating after they left the museum.

Robert The Doll is housed in a glass case, but that doesn’t seem to prevent him from terrifying museum employees and tourists. Staff members have reported changing facial expressions, hearing demonic laughter, and even seeing Robert put his hand up to the glass.

To this date, the walls near his glass case can be seen covered in numerous letters and words from the previous visitors and naysayers, begging for Robert’s forgiveness and asking him to dispel any hex he has cast. So, beware before you mess up with Robert the Haunted Doll..!!