Pictured above is Robert, a purportedly cursed doll given to Key West artist Robert Eugene Otto in 1906 by a Bohemian family maid said to practice voodoo. Eugene, a mere six at the time, became at first attached to and then obsessed with the doll, keeping it until his death in 1974.
Eugene’s parents would spot him talking to Robert — and sometimes it seemed like the doll was talking back. In the beginning they believed it was just Eugene disguising his voice to speak for Robert but in time their opinions changed; they would even go on to swear they sometimes heard the doll emit a frightening laugh or saw it darting between rooms. Some nights Eugene would wake up screaming and they would rush to his bedroom to discover the furniture scattered all over and their child, still in bed, yelling “Robert did it!” in a terrified frenzy. Neighbors claimed to see Robert moving in the windows and guests sometimes said they saw his face change expression before their eyes.
When Eugene was older, he took up painting and managed to make a career of it. He would do the lion’s share of his work alone in the house he grew up in and now owned, accompanied always by Robert. By this point he had married a lady named Anne; his wife detested the doll but humored her husband, who would take Robert everywhere with him and insisted that he sleep in a chair by their bed. Eventually Anne tried to give Robert a “room of his own” away from them in the attic, but it didn’t take long for Eugene to insist that Robert was angry with this new arrangement and wanted a bedroom with a proper view.
Robert’s new home became the house’s turret room, where passersby would again claim to see him moving about in the window and watching them as they passed. Eugene, becoming increasingly obsessed and impossible to deal with, eventually locked himself away in the turret room with Robert and ultimately died there with the doll by his side. Finally free, Anne fled from the house.
The house’s next owners discovered Robert tucked away in the attic and the doll fell into the possession of their ten year old daughter. She too would soon begin to wake screaming in the night, claiming to see Robert move and that he would even sometimes try to attack her. Supposedly, she insists to this day that the doll was alive and attempting to murder her.
These days, Robert lives in a locked glass case at the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West. Visitors are warned not to photograph the doll without first politely asking him for permission. As the legend goes, if you don’t ask nicely or if Robert doesn’t agree by tipping his head to one side, he hasn’t deemed you worthy of photographing him and will curse you and your family if you try to…