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A small handmade straw-filled doll dressed in a sailor suit doesn’t sound too terrifying, but if you look closely at his vaguely human facial features you’ll find small glass beady eyes, a creepy pinhole nose, scarred body, and the mischievous smile that could be mistaken for a scowl. You might just think twice before cuddling up to this unique toy.
Thankfully, this 111-year-old toy that coldly holds a small stuffed lion in his hands is situated in a glass case inside the well-guarded Fort East Martello Museum in Key West. It is here that you’ll find Robert The Doll, the inspiration behind one of the most terrifying film franchises to date – Chucky. Like the movie, the doll is said to be cursed and possessed by evil spirits.
Originally owned by Gene Otto in the 1800’s in a Victorian mansion now known as the Artist House in Key West, the young boy adored Robert The Doll. Gene was said to have an unhealthy relationship with the doll, carrying it around everywhere, speaking to him in first person and replying in a different tone of voice. Researchers even discovered that the doll didn’t come with the sailor suit, meaning Gene most likely factored it himself to match a similar childhood outfit.
As the legend goes, Gene’s parents were well off but treated their household staff poorly, leading to a former employee gifting the 3-foot tall voodoo-cursed doll to the child. It is then that strange and unfortunate things started happening to the family, and Gene immediately blamed his doll.
Things started getting creepy when the neighbors started spotted the doll pacing in front of the windows when the family was away. Gene’s mother would find household objects thrown across the room and toys mutilated, leading to the storage of Robert in the upstairs attic.
A few years later when his parents passed, Gene rediscovered Robert in the attic and neighborhood children started seeing the doll appear and disappear from the windows. Gene’s wife wasn’t too keen on Robert, insisting he be stored in the attic, as visitors claimed to hear demonic giggling and unexplained footsteps.
After Gene passed, a later occupant of the home and next owner of Robert claimed that the doll would change facial expressions if someone talked badly of Gene and would often move around the house by itself behind their backs. The last straw for the owner’s happened when they allegedly found Robert at the foot of their bed giggling with a kitchen knife in his hand, according to legend.
It is then in 1994 that Robert was donated to the museum where he became an instant hit. Since becoming a worldwide paranormal phenomenon, Robert the Doll now has full-fledged email and social media accounts. It is here that fans send messages of regret for failing to respect the doll in his presence, attributing their misfortunes to this disrespect and asking Robert for forgiveness. You can either email him at [email protected] or find him on Facebook or Twitter.