• Smart Living

I Visited a Notoriously Haunted Doll, and Bad Luck Followed Me Everywhere

Updated on 9/8/2019 at 3:55 PM

robert the haunted doll rules

I'm a relatively superstitious person. I would never walk on someone's grave in a cemetery, I believe in ghosts, and I'm careful to not walk under any ladders. So while I was on my honeymoon in Key West recently and heard about a ghost tour that involved Robert the Doll — a famously haunted doll that brings bad luck to those who visit him — I was pretty intrigued.

For an inanimate object, Robert is pretty well-known . He's been featured on several TV shows and is even toted around to various conventions that center on the occult. Eager to see what all the fuss was about, my husband, Chris, and I booked a tour with a company called Ghosts & Gravestones , which included a stop at the Fort East Martello Museum where Robert resides. While the tour was awesome, our brief encounter with Robert was . . . less than ideal. Why? Well, because he "haunted" me for about 36 hours afterwards .

In order to understand the full extent of this, it's important to know Robert's sordid past. Originally given as a gift to Eugene Otto, an author and painter, by his grandfather in 1904, the two were instantly inseparable. It's said that Robert the Doll's outfit was even modeled after one Eugene wore. As a boy, Eugene would often blame the doll for accidents and misgivings, claiming, "Robert told me to do it." Seems like somewhat normal little kid behavior, right?

According to our tour guide, the real trouble started when a woman who worked for the Otto family was fired abruptly without cause. But rather than packing her bags and leaving, she reportedly used voodoo to put a curse on the doll as a form of revenge. And while it may seem pretty far-fetched to some, others believe it actually worked.

"Once he was put on exhibit, cameras and electronic devices malfunctioned in his presence, and soon letters began arriving addressed to the doll offering apologies for disrespectful behavior or asking forgiveness."

As an adult, Eugene became an artist. Considered by many to be "eccentric," Eugene returned to his family home in Key West with his wife, Annette Parker, after they got married in 1930. And despite being an adult, Eugene's love of Robert never wavered (legend has it that Robert sat right next to Eugene while he painted). Annette obviously wasn't a huge fan of her husband's best friend, and vice versa, so once Eugene died in 1974, Annette left Key West. She left Robert behind in the attic of the home, where he was found years later by the home's new owners. While strange things had often happened in Robert's presence before — people hearing voices, noises, and other unexplained sounds — it wasn't until he was donated to the Fort East Martello Museum in 1994 that his less-than-kind attitude went full-scale.

Before walking into the museum to get a peek at Robert, the tour guide gave us some strict rules to follow: you must greet and introduce yourself to Robert; if you want to take a photo of him, you must ask first; and you can't leave the museum without saying goodbye. While a bit weird, that all sounded doable to Chris and me, so we did as we were told. After snapping a few photos, we learned about what happens to people who don't follow the rules or poke fun at Robert. A nearby TV showed thousands of letters from people from around the world who experienced terrible luck after rubbing the doll the wrong way.

According to some of the letters, visitors have been met with all kinds of misfortune, from getting burned by hot water to missing their flights to — yep — even getting divorced. "Once he was put on exhibit, cameras and electronic devices malfunctioned in his presence , and soon letters began arriving addressed to the doll offering apologies for disrespectful behavior or asking forgiveness," says the website. "Letters continue to arrive daily."

As a respectful visitor, I thought I was off the hook. I followed the rules and was genuinely interested in learning about him. But boy, was I wrong. I made ONE comment about a grown man carrying around a doll, and my fate was sealed. As soon as I woke up the next day, the bad luck began. First, our flight home was delayed. Then, we were forced to rebook our flight because the plane was too heavy, resulting in us having a five-hour layover and getting transferred to another connecting flight. While both of these things were annoying, I also knew they happen sometimes. It couldn't have been because of a doll, right?

I realized that Robert might actually have had it out for us when we finally landed back home around midnight. The problem? Our luggage never showed up. We were told to go home and that the suitcase was probably on the next flight in. Fast forward to the next morning — still no sign of the bag. And no one on either airline that we used could locate where the suitcase was. It was simply missing without a trace. Frustrated and near tears, we decided to give into our superstitions and write letters to Robert in the hopes of reversing whatever bad luck he gave us and finding our lost bag.

robert the haunted doll rules

Chris's Letter

robert the haunted doll rules

After sending them, we went to bed and promptly called the airlines at 9 a.m. when they opened. And guess what? We were immediately told where our bag was: back in Key West with an airline we didn't fly with. While things were still somewhat up in the air, our luck seemed to completely change as soon as we apologized to Robert. Coincidence? Maybe. But do we regret writing letters to a doll just to be sure? Absolutely not!

I had heard of something similar called Pele's Curse , which is the belief that if you take anything natively Hawaiian — like a rock or sand — out of Hawaii, you'll have bad luck until it's returned. And if you look into it, you'll find thousands of accounts from people who did just that and experienced such severe bad luck that they sent the lava rocks back to the island immediately. So, we knew we couldn't be too careful.

Although I might be pushing my luck writing this story — God knows I don't need anymore bad juju! — it's been said that Robert loves to be the center of attention. Fingers crossed this keeps me in his good graces!

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Caution: Mind Your Manners When Visiting Robert the Doll

robert the haunted doll rules

As far as haunted dolls are concerned, those interested in the paranormal are most familiar with Annabelle, who reportedly tormented a nurse and her roommate during the 1970s. Annabelle’s story has been popularized by a big-budget film franchise, but, have you ever heard of Robert the Doll? People come from miles around to visit him at the Fort East Martello Museum at Key West, Florida. Those visiting are advised to mind their manners in Robert’s presence. Visitors are urged to introduce themselves, ask permission before taking a photo, and thank Robert before leaving. Those who don’t send letters to the museum, often addressed to Robert, detailing all the bad luck they’ve had since their visit. Among The misfortunes suffered by visitors who disrespected Robert include job loss, divorce, financial troubles, and even sickness. Many letters conclude with the writer pleading with Robert to lift his curse. There’s a rumor about Robert being the inspiration for Chucky, the homicidal doll of the Child’s Play franchise—he wasn’t.

According to a 2019 article, “How Greed and Consumerism Inspired Chucky—Film’s Creepiest Talking Doll” on Bustle, Chucky’s creator Don Mancini wasn’t inspired by Robert. Bustle quotes Mancini from an interview on Mick Garris’ podcast, Post Mortem, “Because of my exposure to the world of advertising and marketing through my dad, I was very aware from an early age of the cynicism inherent in that world, particularly selling products to children […] Madison Avenue refers to children as ‘consumer trainees’ and I discovered that as a child. I thought, I wanted to write a dark satire about how advertising affects children.” There’s a trilogy of independent movies bearing Robert’s name that offers a very creative fictionalized story of Robert’s origins : Robert the Doll ( 2016), Robert and The Toymaker (2017), and Robert Reborn (2019). However, truth is more fascinating than fiction.

Robert lived with the Otto family of Key West during the early 20th century. Robert was the most treasured possession of their youngest son, Robert Eugene born on October 25, 1900. The doll was given as a birthday gift for his fourth birthday. Those who knew the family said that the son was attached to the doll and took him everywhere. He even gave the doll his first name, Robert, while he insisted on being called Gene from then on. Strange things started to happen. Gene’s parents, Thomas and Minnie, would hear Gene talking late at night in his room. They heard a distinct voice answering him but when they opened the door, they found Gene alone in his room talking to Robert. They would also hear Gene scream at night. When they went into his room, they found Robert holding Gene down on the bed. Objects also began to fly across rooms and his parents would find Gene’s other toys mutilated. When they would try to discipline Gene, he would usually tell them, “I didn’t do it—Robert did it!” Thomas and Minnie Otto didn’t get rid of Robert, but eventually, put him in the attic.

The Otto’s were a prominent family who emigrated from Germany during the 19th century and eventually settled in Key West. Thomas Otto was a physician and pharmacist. The family owned two pharmacies in Key West. In those days, doctors often doubled as pharmacists since they did not make as much money as they do nowadays. Doctors often treated patients regardless of their ability to pay and often accepted goods and change in exchange for healthcare services. Gene was the youngest of four children: Mizpah, Joseph, and Thomas Osgood. Gene reportedly shared a close relationship with his sister, Mizpah. [1]

Accounts differ as to where Robert the Doll came from and who gave it to him. The origin story that circulated over the years was that Robert was a voodoo doll, made by a Haitian servant. The servant gave Robert to Gene as an act of revenge against the Ottos for mistreating her. Robert was said to be made with human hair and stuffed with straw. A team from Key West Art and Historical Society gives Robert an annual examination to make sure he stays in good condition. The team recorded every detail about Robert. Robert’s hair is not human hair but most likely mohair, he is stuffed with a strawlike material and covered with felt. For those unfamiliar with Robert, he stands about 3′ tall, weighs 6 lbs., has short blonde hair, black button eyes, and is dressed in a sailor suit complete with a hat. He also holds a plush lion who the museum staff named Leo, in his arm. Gene gave Robert the sailor suit that belonged to him when he was little and also gave Robert his plush pet. [2]

Gene went away to college as an adult to study architecture at the University of Virginia for two and a half years. Robert didn’t accompany Gene. Gene went on to study painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago for three years. Besides playing with Robert during childhood, Gene reportedly loved to paint. According to the family, Gene took up a paintbrush before he learned to speak. He spent the following two and a half years working with the Art Students League in New York. From New York, he moved to Paris, where he established himself in a studio and met his future wife, Annette Parker. Parker was originally from New England and was in Paris studying music. The two married on May 3, 1930, at the American Cathedral in Paris. Gene and Anne Otto eventually moved back to the U.S. in the mid-1930s and settled in New York City. This was during the Great Depression and times were difficult financially for Gene, Anne, and both their families. Gene worked as a furniture salesman and Anne performed some shows at The Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center as “Anne Girard.” The two composed and copyrighted more than 30 songs with Gene writing the lyrics to Anne’s music. One song, Of Time and The River, was recorded by singer Jimmy Brierly. During the 1940s, Gene learned that his mother was sick and the couple moved to Key West. [3]

A childlike vintage doll, dressed in a sailor suit, sits in a display case.

Robert hadn’t been with Gene during his travels and had been left up in the attic. After his mother’s death, Gene’s siblings signed over their shares of the estate to Gene and Anne. Gene and Anne moved into the family home, now known as the Artist House. The house currently serves as a bed and breakfast and is also a stop on a ghost tour. It’s also one of the most photographed homes in Key West other than Hemingway’s former residence. Once he settled in with his wife in the family home, Gene resumed his close friendship with Robert—much to his wife’s dismay. Anne didn’t like Robert and insisted Gene keep Robert in a separate room. Gene created a room especially for Robert in the attic. He even furnished the room with child-sized furniture and toys for Robert. Gene made Robert’s room his studio and painted with Robert at his side. Myrtle Reuter, who later owned the Artist House, said that a neighbor told her that Anne said that when Gene would say or do something hurtful to her, he would tell her “I didn’t do it, Robert did it.” It was during the 1940s that stories about Robert began to circulate. Many children who passed the Artist House on their way to school reported seeing Robert moving from window to window in the attic room. In Key West, Gene became a respected citizen and artist as an adult. He had many art openings attended by prominent Key West residents. He also supported community organizations such as the Key West Woman’s Club and Garden Club. [4]

Gene Otto passed away on June 24, 1974, in a Miami hospital. It was determined that his death was caused by Parkinson’s disease. An article in the Sun Sentinel, written 10 years after his death, said that in the months leading up to his death, Gene spent most of his time in the attic talking to Robert. After his death, Anne found out that she was written out of her husband’s will. According to a letter written by Gene’s sister, Mizpah Otto deBoe to a nephew, Gene was hurt when he found out that he had been written out of Anne’s mother’s will. Gene left everything to his sister, Mizpah. Anne owned the Artist House jointly with Gene. She sold it to a neighbor and friend, William Gaiser. She gave Robert to Gaiser and told him, “That doll was Gene’s best friend. Of course, he never had any other friends.” Anne moved to Massachusetts to live with her sister. She died five years later, in January of 1979, of pancreatic cancer. She was buried in Norwich, Connecticut. [5]

Is Robert a voodoo doll? Robert has been analyzed and examined by a team from the Key West Art and Historical Society. Thanks to the analysis of Robert the Doll and some detective work by paranormal investigator and author, David L. Sloan, much more is known about Robert’s origins. Sloan’s book, Robert the Doll: The True Biography of Key West’s Haunted Doll (2014), includes extensive research on Robert and his caretakers, the Ottos. Sloan had access to family documents including letters and diaries.

Sloan tracked Robert’s physical origins to the Steiff Company in Germany. The Steiff Company is a toy company established during the late 19th century. The company was started by a seamstress Margarete Steiff, who made elephant-shaped pincushions. She noticed that children enjoyed playing with the pincushions and decided to start making more animal-themed toys. Eventually, her hobby developed into The Steiff Company which became a reputable and innovative toy manufacturer. Steiff is credited with creating the most popular children’s toy of all time, the plush bear in 1902, which would later become the teddy bear (named after former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt). [6]

Getting back to Robert, the trademark that designated an authentic Steiff toy was a metal button inserted into a doll’s ear with an elephant engraved in it or the company name. However, the evaluation team and Sloan have noted that Robert’s right ear was originally missing. Sloan assumed that Gene may have torn it off accidentally as a child during play. Sloan contacted Rebekah Kaufman, Steiff’s consultant and archivist for North America. He sent her detailed photos and provided descriptions and Robert’s measurements. Kaufman and a colleague agreed that Robert could be a Steiff toy. The following year, Kaufman found a doll similar to Robert that is a confirmed Steiff toy up for auction. Kaufman’s theory on Robert is that he was originally made to be used as a window display because of his lifelike proportions. Kaufman also said that Robert would have been very expensive. [7]

So, now it’s been confirmed Robert wasn’t constructed as a voodoo doll. Theories as to why Robert could be haunted are that the servant could have put a curse on the doll after Gene received it. Robert could also be haunted by the spirit of a deceased child connected to the Otto family, and the most interesting theory is that Robert could have been charged by Gene’s energy through his attachment and affection for Robert. [8]

Two children---a girl and a boy dressed in a sailor suit walk outdoors.

Most accounts agree that Gene received Robert as a gift for his birthday. It’s been established that Robert was most likely manufactured by the Steiff Company in Germany around 1904. The Otto family emigrated to the United States from Germany. According to Gene’s sister, Mizpah’s family history, Gene’s grandfather, Joseph Otto maintained a relationship with relatives in Germany, and both German and American Otto’s exchanged gifts. There’s evidence that Gene’s mother may have brought Robert to the U.S. after returning home from a trip to Hamburg on September 4, 1904. Minnie Otto is on the passenger list for Hamburg-Amerika Line’s Graf Waldersee—a little over one month before Gene’s birthday on October 25. [9]

What about the paranormal half of Robert’s origin story—a voodoo curse by a disgruntled servant? The Otto family employed two servants from the West Indies, William and Emeline Abbott. The Abbotts were a married couple who worked for the Ottos for many years, starting with Gene’s grandfather, Joseph. The Abbotts are even buried in the Otto family plot. Emeline Abbott gave birth to two children—in 1900 and 1910. While there’s no evidence to prove it, there’s speculation that Emeline Abbott may have had an affair with Gene’s father, Thomas. Information obtained from several documents is cause to suspect that Thomas may have been unfaithful. According to Minnie Otto’s journal, her husband received a lot of attention from women and that women in the community resented her because she wasn’t from a wealthy background. Minnie also didn’t want to be buried in the family plot for some reason. There’s also a mention of some interesting fatherly advice that Joseph gave to Thomas. Gene’s grandfather is quoted as advising his son about venereal disease and to practice “not abstinence but prophylactic care.” Emeline tried to file a lawsuit against the Ottos after Thomas’s death. Something was going on but there’s no evidence to prove that Emeline Abbott and Thomas Otto had an affair. [10]

The following are theories as to who haunts Robert: the spirit of Thomas Otto and Emeline Abbott’s child, or that it is her deceased child conceived with her husband, William. Another theory is that Emeline used magic to trap her child’s spirit in the doll. Perhaps Gene’s attachment to Robert stems from Robert being haunted by a half-sibling. Visitors to the museum as well as members of the staff have said that they’ve seen the apparition of what appears to be a female child of mixed race around Robert the Doll. She’s described as about 5-years-old with long brown curly hair, wearing an old-fashioned type nightgown. Poochie Myers served as a caretaker for the Artist House during the 1980s. She described seeing the spirit of the little girl sitting on a staircase. Myers said that the little girl seemed angry. [11]

Robert has lived at the Fort East Martello Museum since 1994. Myrtle Reuter brought him to the museum. Reuter became the owner of the Artist House after William Gaiser and was Robert’s caretaker for 20 years. At first, Reuter said that she didn’t have any problems. She said that she would dress Robert in PJs and put him by the tree on Christmas Eve. She and her husband sold the Artist House in 1980. She took Robert to her new home where she let him sit on the porch. She said that it was after moving into the new house that strange things started to happen. [12]

Key West Art and Historical Society Assistant Director Joe Pais spoke with Reuter. She set Robert down in a chair in his office and said, “This is Robert and he’s part of the Otto family and I can’t stand him being in my house anymore.” Reuter said that she locked Robert in a room after noticing that he moved on his own. After that, she said Robert locked her in a room. “He’s haunted,” she said to Pais. When Pais suggested that she should keep Robert, Reuter insisted that she wanted the doll out of the house and eagerly filled out the paperwork to donate him. She died less than three months later. After Robert arrived at the museum, paranormal activity decreased at the Artist House and increased at the museum. [13]

Pais noticed something different about Robert. He kept Robert in a small antique chair in his office. Pais said that when he looked at Robert, he stared back at him in an unchildlike way. Pais believed that Robert was moving the chair around and made a mark near one of the chair legs to see if the chair was moving. Pais shared his office with Museum Director Susan Olsen. She didn’t like Robert and didn’t want to be in the office if the doll was in there. Eventually, Robert was moved to the museum’s artifact storage room. Robert stayed there for two years and visitors could see him by appointment. Museum employees were so frightened of Robert that they often suggested visitors come back to visit on a day that they weren’t working or put the responsibility of retrieving Robert on a coworker. In mid-1996, a local ghost tour was encouraging guests to visit Robert. After requests for Robert increased, he was placed on display. [14]

A plush male doll dressed in a sailor suit holds a plush lion.

Two men rented the house from Myrtle Reuter during the mid-1970s and said that they heard noise coming from the attic of children laughing and someone “rummaging around.” When they went upstairs to investigate, they noticed that Robert changed his position. The activity became more frequent. They invited a friend to see Robert, Malcolm Ross. Ross said that he experienced a strange feeling when he was around Robert, described as a metal bar running down his back. Ross also describes Robert changing facial expressions. He describes Robert as looking like a child being punished and that as he talked to his friends about the room, Robert seemed to be following the conversation.[15]

Some examples of strange things that happened to Robert’s visitors at the museum include the story of a couple who spent their honeymoon in Florida. After visiting Robert, they lost all of their vacation photos as well as their wedding pictures. For their first anniversary, the couple decided to visit Robert again and this time they brought Robert peppermint candy and showed Robert the candy. When they were alone with Robert, the lights in Robert’s room went out for a minute. The couple felt that this was Robert’s way of expressing his thanks for the candy. [16]

David Sloan said that he had some strange experiences while doing research and writing his book on Robert. He said that he lost four hard drives and that computer techs were able to retrieve everything except the book manuscript. Backups of the manuscript also disappeared. More than one spirit medium also advised him to build a fireproof safe for his valuables while he was working on the book. Sloan was told that if Robert didn’t approve of the book, he would give Sloan cancer. Sloan also said that he was pulled from his bed, held suspended in mid-air, and that he had been levitated. Sloan also founded the ghost tour in Key West that in 1996 influenced Robert’s move from museum storage to permanent display. [17]

Jessica Schreckengost Nauman (Schreckenghost interestingly means, “frightened of ghosts”) manager of the Artist House, put a decorative bowl of plastic lemons on the reception desk. The lemons suddenly started to disappear. Guests checking out would return them. They didn’t say anything but just put the lemons back. About a month later, a package arrived with no name, no note, and no return address, just a lemon. [18]

Months later, a guest asked if she had seen a letter to Robert at the Fort East Martello Museum. The letter was from a woman who found a lemon among her and her husband’s belongings when they returned home from Florida. She wrote that she and her husband had seen Robert several times but never experienced anything negative. [19]

During their last visit, they stayed at the Artist House in the Turret Suite, below the attic room where Robert lived for many years. They decided to take a look in the attic and popped up into the hatch door. They took pictures thinking that they might catch something paranormal on camera. The next day before check-out, they were doing some last-minute shopping. She began to feel pain, started running a fever, and noticed a rash. After arriving home, a doctor diagnosed her with shingles. Her husband started to feel pain and was diagnosed with kidney stones. When she was unpacking, she found a plastic lemon wrapped up in one of her shirts. She didn’t know how it got into her suitcase. She thought that Robert was the cause of her and her husband’s sickness. She thought that Robert was punishing them for taking pictures of the attic without his permission. She mailed the lemon back to the Artist House. Once the lemon was on its way back, she and her husband began to recover. She requested that her letter be posted near Robert. [20]

Another story is from someone who said that they followed Robert’s rules. The writer told Robert their name, asked permission before taking his photo, and thanked Robert. Later that night, their bottom lip swelled to twice its size and they developed a rash on both their arms and hands that lasted for a couple of days. They looked up Robert on the Internet and didn’t find any information to suggest that the rules weren’t followed. As they closed the tab, they noticed another tab open with no title on it. There was only one sentence on the page that read, “You did not say where you were from.”  [21]

There is one positive letter mentioned. The writer was a woman who said that she had nothing but the best of luck after visiting Robert. The specifics aren’t mentioned but the woman expresses her appreciation and thanks to Robert. The letter goes on to refer to Robert as a demon whose role is to teach people to ask permission. She goes on to say that Robert is specifically a demon in charge of good manners. [22]

Robert the Doll has long been the subject of speculation in the paranormal community. He’s currently the main attraction of a ghost tour in Key West. Paranormal activity is still reported at the Artist House, including the apparition of a woman who appears in the garden. There’s a theory that the feminine presence is Anne Otto and that she’s there to protect people from Robert. According to a report from October 25, 2003 (Gene Otto’s birthday) a gathering of 80 people witnessed a blue orb come from the sky, through the guest house roof, and appear to the crowd in front of the house. The orb went through the balcony and disappeared into the ground. This orb is said to have appeared again in October 2012 as a tour guide was sharing new information uncovered about the Otto family. The orb reportedly circled this head for several minutes. [23]

Whether you believe it’s voodoo, a child’s spirit, Gene Otto’s energy charging Robert, or maybe that Robert is simply an antique doll with an eccentric caretaker—Robert the Doll’s story is fascinating. There have been many attempts over the years to try to communicate with the spirit surrounding Robert the Doll. Robert currently has two Facebook pages—one run by the Fort East Martello Museum and the other is the Robert the Doll Experience organized by David Sloan. The museum also has a gift shop online of Robert merch, including, of course, a mini replica Robert.

After first learning about Robert, I went online and purchased a mini Robert replica. I’ve had him for about three years, and no, I haven’t suffered any misfortunes since receiving him. If you decide to visit Robert the Doll, remember to be respectful, introduce yourself, tell him where you’re from, ask permission to take his photo, and thank him before you leave.

Works Cited:

[1] Robert The Doll: The True Biography of Key West’s Haunted Doll, by David L. Sloan, Phantom Press, Key West, 2014. Kindle Edition. p. 74.

[2] Sloan pp. 23-33

[3] Sloan, pp. 39, 84, 92-93

[4] Sloan, pp. 101-102

[5] Sloan pp. 124-130

[6] Sloan, pp. 58-60

[7] Sloan, p. 62

[8] Sloan, pp. 152-153

[9] Sloan, pp. 62-65

[10] Sloan, pp. 74-75

[11] Sloan, pp. 75-76

[12] Sloan, pp. 143-144

[13] Sloan, p. 147

[14] Sloan, p. 150

[15]  Sloan, p. 133

[16] Sloan, p. 150

[17] Sloan, p. 155

[18] Sloan, pp. 106-108

[19] Sloan, pp.  106-108

[20] Sloan, pp. 106-108

[21] Sloan, p. 120

[22] Sloan,p. 127

[23] Sloan, pp. 138-139

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Robert the Doll Gene Otto haunted doll haunted objects paranormal

I feel bad for this doll like what did he half to do to take the blame

first of all j would like to apologize to robert the doll for looking at him without his permission. apologies by me.

Dear Robert I’m sorry for looking at your photo without permission I respect you deeply.

Dear Robert, Im sorry for looking at your photo when i dont have permission, Please forgive me. I respect you very much. From your friend Shane.

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Written by MD Bastek

Just a person who loves horror and writes about unusual things

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robert the haunted doll rules

Ghost Key West


Meet the world's most haunted doll, no visit to key west is complete without visiting robert the doll. here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the world’s most haunted doll..

  • Chevron down Who is Robert the Doll?

Robert the Doll is a haunted doll that lives in Key West, Florida. He was created by the Steiff Company around 1904 and gifted to a Key West boy who developed an unusual relationship with the toy. Some theories suggest Robert the Doll was created with voodoo.

  • Chevron down What does Robert the Doll do?

Some of the earliest reports of Robert the Doll doing things that most dolls don’t do emerged in the late 1940s when children in Key West saw Robert the Doll moving in the window of the Otto family home at 534 Eaton Street. Through the years, people have seen Robert move on his own, laugh, and throw objects across the room. Ghost Hunt guests at the Fort East Martello have seen Robert’s chest move as if he is breathing and felt an unknown entity touching their knee. Cold chills and orbs move about Robert’s room at times.

  • Chevron down Is Robert the Doll really haunted?

Robert receives daily letters from people who had a paranormal experience with him. Visitors to Fort East Martello regularly report strange encounters to the staff.

  • Chevron down Where does Robert the Doll live?

Robert the Doll lives in an old, haunted Key West Civil War fort known as the Fort East Martello Museum. He is protected by a plexiglass case and receives hundreds of visitors each week. The Fort East Martello Museum is operated by the Key West Art & Historical Society and is located beside the ocean in Key West at 3501 South Roosevelt Blvd.

  • Chevron down How does Robert the Doll give permission?

Robert does not give permission. This is an often-repeated legend that has no basis, in fact. People who experience problems with Robert are usually disrespectful. Asking for permission from an entity is a bad idea.

  • Chevron down How does Robert the Doll curse you?

People who disrespect Robert the Doll report days, weeks, or months of mechanical problems, accidents, strange occurrences, and misfortune. Some people end up with lost luggage. Others report being struck by lightning.

  • Chevron down Does Robert the Doll kill?

Though it is rare for a death to be attributed to Robert the Doll, it has happened. A Key West ghost tour guide had the image of Robert the Doll tattooed on his arm and died shortly after it was completed.

  • Chevron down Why does everyone say sorry to Robert the Doll?

The trend of #SorryRobert evolved from the false belief that Robert the Doll does not like to have his picture taken and that you must ask permission before looking at his photo.

  • Chevron down Is Chucky based on Robert the Doll?

No. Robert was around long before Chucky, but Chucky was based on the My Buddy Doll.

  • Chevron down Where do I send a letter to Robert the Doll?

Send apologies, well-wishes, and other letters to Robert at: Robert the Doll, 3501 S. Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, FL 33040.

  • Chevron down How can I see Robert the Doll?

You can see Robert the Doll in the daytime or experience him after dark on an intimate lockdown or ghost hunt. Fort East Martello Museum is open most days from 10 am to 5 pm. Ghost Key West offers ghost hunts and VIP lockdowns most nights after the sun goes down. The Ghosts & Gravestones Trolley does not bring people to the fort to see Robert the Doll. Ghost Key West is the only ghost tour in Key West that includes a visit with Robert the Doll.

You can see Robert the Doll in the daytime or experience him after dark on an intimate lockdown or ghost hunt. Fort East Martello Museum is open most days from 10 am to 5 pm. Sloan’s Ghost Fort Adventures offers ghost hunts and VIP lockdowns most nights after the sun goes down. The Ghosts & Gravestones Trolley does not bring people to the fort to see Robert the Doll. Ghost Key West is the only ghost tour in Key West that includes a visit with Robert the Doll.

Robert the doll sitting on a chair

Forget all of the Internet legends! Discover the truth about Robert the Doll in his true biography by David L. Sloan.

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robert the doll

Robert The Doll

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Learn about..., robert the doll.

We’ve all experienced it: That eerie feeling that something or someone was watching us; that an inanimate object had, in actuality, come alive. In Key West , many have not only experienced that feeling, but have also witnessed it when viewing the famous toy – Robert The Doll.

You may visit him at the East Martello Fort!

The Beginning

The story of Robert the Doll dates back to the early 1900’s when a young boy named Eugene Robert Otto was given a one-of-a-kind handmade doll by a servant that worked for his parents in his home. Eugene, who everyone called Gene, named the doll Robert and quickly became attached to his new friend.

The home where Eugene lived, now called the Artist’s House, is located at 534 Eaton Street and was built between 1890 and 1898. It was here that Eugene was given Robert The Doll and where a friendship that lasted throughout his lifetime… and beyond was forged. While he seemed like an ordinary cloth doll, it wasn’t long before Robert was involved in strange and somewhat terrifying events. The first hint that something out of the ordinary was happening was one night when Gene, who was only ten years old, awoke to find Robert the Doll sitting at the end of his bed staring at him. Moments later his mother was awakened by his screams for help and the sounds of furniture being overturned in her son’s bedroom. Gene cried for help, begging his mother to rescue him. When she finally was able to wrench the locked door open, she saw poor Gene curled up in fear on his bed, his room in shambles and Robert The Doll sitting at the foot of the bed.

“Robert did it,” were the only words Gene could get out – the same words he would later use, many times throughout his childhood, when something strange, mysterious or destructive would happen.

Did Robert Do It?

Nobody knows for sure why or how this child’s plaything could actually wreak havoc on a child’s bedroom or do anything at all; after all, it was just a toy, right? But the weird and inexplicable didn’t stop at that one occurrence. Gene’s parents would often hear their son upstairs talking to the doll and getting a response back in a totally different voice. They reported seeing the doll speak and witnessing his expression change. Giggling and sightings of Robert running up the steps or staring out the upstairs window were also reported. Robert continued to live with Gene throughout his lifetime and after Gene’s parents died, he moved back into their home with his wife, Anne. Gene decided that the doll needed a room of his own and placed him in the upstairs room that had a window overlooking the street.

Anne felt uneasy with Robert in the house and although she couldn’t put her finger on it, she wanted Gene to lock the doll up in the attic where he could do no harm. Gene conceded and as one could imagine, Robert the Doll was not happy with his new digs. Soon, visitors to the home heard footsteps in the attic, the sounds of someone pacing back and forth and devilish giggling. Neighborhood children reported seeing Robert watching them from the window in the upstairs bedroom and told accounts of the doll actually mocking them as they walked to school. When Gene heard this, he immediately went to investigate, knowing that he had locked Robert in the attic and there was no way he could be sitting by the window of the upstairs bedroom. But to his complete shock, when he opened the door to the bedroom, there was Robert, sitting in the rocking chair by the window. Gene locked Robert back up in the attic several times; each time discovering him again sitting by the window in the same upstairs bedroom.

A New Child to Terrorize

Gene Otto died in 1974 and when a new owner moved into the house on Eaton Street, their ten-year-old daughter was delighted to find Robert the Doll in the attic. But her delight ended soon when she claimed that Robert was alive and that the doll wanted to hurt her. She awoke often in the middle of the night screaming in fear and told her parents that Robert had moved about in the room.

It wasn’t long before Robert the Doll was given away – and today he lives in the East Martello Fort where visitors from all over the world come to see him.

Is Robert Really Possessed?

Many believe that the origin of Robert’s evil lies in the one who originally gave him to Gene Otto – the servant who worked for Gene’s parents. This woman was supposedly mistreated by her bosses and to punish them it is believed that she cursed the doll with Voodoo and Black Magic. That might explain the many mysterious and frightening experiences people have had with Robert the Doll; but if so, wouldn’t the haunting end when the owners died? No one really knows for sure. But one thing remains constant: Robert The Doll continues to taunt and scare those who come to view him – especially guests to the museum who attempt to take photos. Many have reported their cameras becoming inoperable when they tried to take a picture of Robert, only to begin working again when they left the museum.

Robert The Doll sits inside a glass case; but it doesn’t seem to stop him from inflicting fear and discomfort to museum staff and visitors.

Staff members report that Robert’s facial expression changes, hearing demonic giggling and have even seen Robert put his hand up to the glass.

Meet Robert at the East Martello Museum . Visitors are welcome to view Robert in his special case at the museum and of course encouraged to try and get a photo. Though, most who’ve tried have been unsuccessful. If nothing else, get a close look at Robert and watch him carefully, try to catch a glimpse of him smirking at you, moving about in his case or watching you as you watch him.

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All You Need About Robert the Doll in Key West, Florida

Since its appearance in Fort East Martello Museum in 1994, Robert the Doll has captivated a horde of fans who now flock to the historic fort in Key West to catch a glimpse of him and his powers at work. However, many who make the journey to visit the doll were not only enthralled by its jester-like appearance but also cursed by it.

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Are you a fan of the infamous Robert the Doll? Here are a list of questions that you may have about the doll that have earned its named as the most haunted object in Florida.

What Is the History Behind Robert the Doll?

The history of Robert the Doll dates back to 1904 when it was gifted to four-year-old Robert Eugene Otto, the youngest son of the Otto family, by his grandfather who bought the doll during a trip to Germany. An alternate version of the story says that the doll was actually a voodoo doll gifted to Otto by a Haitian servant; it was rumored that the Otto family were abusive towards their servants.

Instantly, Otto fell in love with the stuffed doll and the two became inseparable. He decided to name his newfound toy by his first name, Robert while insisting everyone else to call him Gene from then on. The Otto family would find Otto talking to Robert as if he was real. Whenever Otto’s parents try to discipline Otto for leaving his toys strewn across the playroom or even tearing up other stuffed doll, he would tell them, “I didn’t do it! Robert did it!”

robert the haunted doll rules

Eventually, Otto grew up and left home to study architecture at University of Virginia and later, painting at the Arts Students League in New York. There, he met her wife Annette Parker. The couple soon moved back to Key West and Otto was reunited with Robert the Doll. However, Parker was upset by Otto’s obsession with Robert. Apart from furnishing a room with child-sized furniture, Otto spent most of his free time painting and talking to his doll, up till his death in 1974.

robert the haunted doll rules

With the passing of Otto, the house (now known as the Artist’s House) where Robert lived was sold to Mrytle Reuter, who became his caretaker. Often, Reuter would find Robert in a completely different room with his face expression changed. In one story, Reuter reported being locked at the house’s attic only to see Robert the Doll in the middle of the hallway when she manages to escape.

Two decades later in 1994, Reuter donated Robert the Doll to Fort East Martello Museum; she claimed that the doll was haunted and she had enough of his antics. Robert went on to become the star attraction of the museum and soon earned a reputation of being the most haunted object in Florida.

robert the haunted doll rules

What Is Robert the Doll Made Up Of?

Robert doll is stuffed with a wood woll known as excelsior and furnished with felt. The sailor suit that now defines Robert the Doll reportedly belonged to Otto; he gave Robert a complete makeover along with a plush lion after finding his original clown suit and jester appearance ‘ugly’.

Robert the Doll supposedly originated from The Steiff Company, a toy company in Germany that manufactured pincushions and stuffed toys during the late 19th century. The Steiff Company was famously known for being one of the earliest creator of teddy bear (named after U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt). As with all of The Steiff Company’s toy collection, a metal button (tag) is attached to prove the toy’s authenticity. However, Robert’s right ear, which was where the metal tag was supposed to be inserted into, was missing.

robert the haunted doll rules

Standing at almost 40 inches tall and 5 pounds heavy, Robert the doll was almost twice the size of the toys manufactured in the late 19th century to early 20th century. It was concluded by local researchers and consultants of The Steiff Company that Robert the Doll was originally made to be a window display rather than an actual product for children due to his life-size proportions.

Did Robert the Doll Inspire Chucky?

It was widely believed that Charles Lee “Chucky” Ray, commonly known as Chucky, was inspired by Robert the Doll. This is largely due to Chucky’s killing antics and heinous behavior in the Child’s Play media franchise bear resemblance to Robert’s paranormal activities in real-life, albeit a toned down one. However, original screenplay writer Don Mancini debunked the claims, stating that Chucky the doll was inspired by the Cabbage Patch Kids and My Buddy Doll craze in the 80s while the movie plot was based off horror films such as the 1975 movie Trilogy of Terror and the “Living Doll” episode of The Twilight Zone aired in 1963.

robert the haunted doll rules

What Are the Rules When Visiting Robert the Doll?

Mishaps that have happened to those who visited and disrespected Robert the Doll have prompted the community to compile a set of informal rules that one should observe. This rules are not exhaustive and serve as a general guideline. They include:

  • Always greet Robert and introduce yourself when you are meet him.
  • Do not tap or knock on the glass case that Robert is encased in.
  • Do not make fun of Robert or his stuffed pet dog.
  • Never question Robert’s power or taunt him.
  • Do not critique Robert’s appearance or outfit
  • Do not critique the letters pinned to the wall.
  • Always ask for Robert’s permission before taking a photo of him.
  • Thank Robert when you are leaving the exhibition or the museum.

Can You Look at a Picture of Robert the Doll?

There are no explicit rules on whether you can look at a picture of Robert the Doll without asking for permission or offending in. In fact, it is rather impossible to not look at a picture of Robert if when you are searching for it on the internet.

Nonetheless, users on Twitter have shared their stories of accounts happening to them right after surfing the internet for articles and videos of Robert the Doll. In spite of not being physically present in front of Robert the Doll, his presence and powers have transcended the internet and cursed users who are researching him.

That said, it is generally agreed that one can look at a picture of Robert the Doll without facing any serious consequences. However, it is best if one were to apologize and thank Robert the Doll; it is better to be safe than sorry!

What Happens if You Disrespect Robert the Doll?

Many who have offended Robert the Doll or disobeyed the rules above have had misfortunes or setbacks not long after their visitation to Fort East Martello Museum where Robert is housed in. Some of the minor incidents experienced by visitors include:

  • Cameras that malfunction in the museum, only to work again when they leave the property
  • An unexplainable sense of uneasiness after staring at Robert’s face
  • Slipping and falling at Robert’s exhibition area even though the floor is dry
  • Getting in car accidents right outside the museum, at S. Roosevelt Blvd
  • Job losses, illnesses, relationship breakups, and financial woes, days after visiting the Robert the Doll

robert the haunted doll rules

While many of this misfortunes can be attributed to ‘general bad luck’, the numerous reports by visitors and timing of it (just after visiting Robert) have led many to believe that it was the nefarious work of the haunted doll..

How To Apologize to Robert the Doll?

If you feel that you have unintentionally disrespected Robert the Doll, it is best that you apologize to Rober to prevent any bad luck from befalling on you. There are many ways to do so, including a formal spoken apology in front of Robert the Doll or a picture of him. However, the most popular and sincere way is to send a handwritten letter to the museum, detailing the date of your ‘offence’ and a short apology to Robert.

robert the haunted doll rules

For those who are looking to send in an apology letter, you may mail it to Fort East Martello Museum, 3501 South Roosevelt Boulevard, Key West, Florida 33040, or via an email to ro [email protected] which is managed by staffs of the museum.

The advent of social media in the past decade have also prompted many to take their apologies online. On Twitter, fans and visitors would post their apologies along with #SorryRobert, hoping that their curse would be lifted by Robert.

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