Haunted Doll Museum Gallery

Many of you are already acquainted with Robert, the lifelong companion of painter Robert Eugene (called Gene) Otto, who received the three-foot-tall straw companion from his Bahamian nanny when he was just a small boy. The doll would be with him for the remainder of his life.

There are a number of stories about the nanny, obviously the pivotal figure in this doll drama. Many say that, although she dearly loved young Gene, she was mistreated and abused by his parents on a regular basis. Some versions of the tale have the nanny practicing the dark Voodoo arts and giving the doll to Robert out of revenge for her ill treatment, but there is nothing to support this being the case. Evidently, Gene received the doll, said to be a replica of him, as a gift of love. He promptly named it Robert.


To say that Robert stayed by Gene’s side is an understatement, for Gene was never without the little plaything. He even dressed it in his own clothes and spent hours on end playing in his nursery with only the doll as company. It is said that he was often heard talking to the doll and answering himself in an entirely different voice. Gene slept, ate and traveled with Robert by his side.


Within months after the arrival of the doll in the Otto household, strange things began to occur. Objects would go missing and turn up broken, Gene took to the unhealthy habit of sneaking out of his window and wandering the grounds at night, and his parents began to suspect him of all kinds of mischief. If he was caught in the act, Gene would always hold out Robert and say, “Robert did it!”

Once a year, in October, Robert the Doll (in his case) is taken to the Historic Custom House where he is placed on display. Some visitors comment about the seemingly odd practice of peppermints being placed in the display case along with the doll. They are usually fittingly creeped out by the explanation: Robert, it seems, loves peppermints, and placing some in his case will keep him from wanting to roam at night. Skeptics might scoff at this practice, but it is reported by museum and Custom House staff alike that each morning during his October visit there are empty peppermint wrappings littering the bottom of Robert’s display case…


Robert the Doll, still clad in one of Gene Otto’s sailor suits and clutching a small teddy bear, can be visited at The East Martello Museum and, in October, at the Historic Custom House in Key West, Florida.

Read More About Robert The Doll here:

LIVING DOLLS
Tales from a truly creepy toy chest
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