Sunday, April 22, 2012
Robert the Doll
Before there was Chucky the Doll there was ROBERT THE DOLL, fashioned of straw and a strong voodoo curse...
The year was 1896. The wealthy Thomas Otto family resided in Key West, Florida. It was well-known the Otto’s mistreated their servants, one of which was well-versed in voodoo. Upon her dismissal, the Bahamian servant gifted the Otto son, Robert Eugene (called Gene), with a 3-foot straw-stuffed doll replete with sailor suit. The servant used the son's hair for the hair of the doll. The son named the doll after himself, and it became his constant companion.
Strange things immediately began to happen in the Otto household. Gene would be heard talking to the doll in his room; the response would be in a different voice. Neighbors would say they'd see Robert move from window to window when the family was away from the house. The Otto's would catch glimpses of the doll running about the home. Gene began having nightmares. Crying out in the night, his parents would check on him to find furniture overturned. "Robert did it!" Gene would frightfully shout. The doll was put in the attic.
When Mr. Otto died, Gene inherited his boyhood home. An artist, Gene made the large turret room on the second floor into a painting studio. Robert was discovered in the attic and promptly moved into the turret room to again be Gene’s constant companion.
Gene's wife, Anne, found Robert odd and unsettling and wanted Robert returned to the attic. Gene adamantly refused. Reports began circulating that Robert the Doll would glare at bypassers, Gene would find Robert rocking in his chair by the window, his facial expression would change, and conversations between Gene and Robert had resumed. Robert returned to the attic, but was still heard giggling and walking back and forth in the rafters. People began refusing to visit the Otto’s. After Gene Otto’s death in 1972, Robert the Doll eventually made his way to the Martello Museum in Key West where he is kept under lock and key. Yet his exploits continue: Three pacemakers have stopped in front of him; numerous reports of camera batteries have died in front of him; cameras have stopped working in front of him. Although Robert’s glass case is locked with 3” wooden doors and bars on every window, he will change position overnight as do his facial expressions directly in front of visitors.