Last October, I went on a cruise with my mom and sister for Mom’s 60th birthday. The cruise ship left Miami and went to Key West and the Bahamas. The whole trip was an absolute blast. I had never been on a cruise before, so I had no idea what to expect, but since this trip, I want to go on more cruises in the future. If COVID allows it, Jeremy and I want to plan one for next spring.
The first stop the ship made was in Key West. Mom had signed us up for a walking tour of Key West that would show us places like Hemingway’s house. Before the tour started, Mom wanted to buy some water from a gift shop. I went with her because I wanted to pick up some souvenirs for Jeremy and our friends back home. While I was checking out, I saw a book by the register. It was one of those local books about the area’s ghosts that most gift shops have. What caught me off guard was that I recognized the face on the cover of the book. It was someone I grew up hearing about from my dad and shows like Unsolved Mysteries. It was Robert the doll. I had somehow completely forgotten that he was from Key West!
I quickly bought the book and left the store to show my sister. Both of us started to get really excited because this was one of the most familiar paranormal tales we had known from our childhood. After talking to Mom, we decided that after the tour, we would try to go to the museum that he is featured at before heading back to the ship.
The tour was fascinating, and I enjoyed seeing the sights, but both Magan and I were anxious to get to the museum. After the walking tour was over, we ordered an Uber to take us to the museum. The gentleman who picked us up inquired about why we were going to the museum. We explained that we wanted to see Robert. He said that we were in luck because we would be driving past his old home on the way to the museum. He pointed it out to us as we stopped at a stop sign across the street. He said that Robert use to be kept in the upper part of the turret.
The museum itself was fascinating to visit, but it was hard not to speed through the first half of the exhibits because of our excitement to see Robert. When we finally got to the part of the museum where he is set up, both Magan and I started to fangirl over him. It honestly felt like we were meeting a celebrity. We did ask his permission to take his picture and to take selfies with him. As a thank you, I left three gold dollar coins in the slit in his glass.
It wasn’t until we were back on the ship later on that we realized something weird was going on with our pictures of Robert. We have a group chat on Viber, so Mom, Magan, Magan’s former roommate, Jeremy, and I can all talk without having anyone being a middle man. We were sharing pictures in the group chat of some of the things we had seen that day. When we went to click on the images, all the ones not of Robert would open correctly. The image of Robert, though, opened sideways for no reason. The picture wasn’t even taken sideways. You see in the video below what was happening. It was happening on all of our phones despite Magan and Mom both have androids, and I have an iPhone. Magan and I chalked it up to Robert’s mischievous behavior. Either way, we are grateful to be able to meet a childhood friend of sorts.
THE HISTORY OF ROBERT THE DOLL
Robert was created by a servant in the Otto household in 1904 for Robert Eugene Otto, who was four years old. The child named the doll Robert and insisted that he go by Gene. Robert was made to look like Gene. Some stories say that some of Gene’s hair was used to construct the three-foot-tall doll to help bind the doll to Gene. There are various stories of why the doll was made. Some say that it was because the servant was the primary caregiver to Gene, while others say that she made it to get back at Gene’s father, who may have slept with the young girl and forced her to get rid of the child she became pregnant with after their affair. Whatever her intentions were, Gene and Robert became inseparable.
Robert quickly started developing a reputation. If anything went wrong in the house from a dish breaking, a messy room, or a bathtub leaking, Gene would be quick to say, “Robert did it!”. Gene’s parents used to hearing conversations between himself and the doll. Sometimes they would hear another voice responding that didn’t sound like their son. Some claim to see Robert’s facial expressions change or notice that the doll had seemed to move locations on its own.
Gene and Robert’s friendship lasted long past childhood. It wasn’t until he was married that Gene was able to be convinced not to spend as much time with Robert. Gene’s wife, Anne, suggested putting him in a chest in the attic, but Gene let Robert have a room to himself where Robert could sit in a window to watch the street below. Eventually, Anne would move Robert to the attic. Guests would comment that they could footsteps in the attic and giggling. When Gene or Anne would go to investigate, Robert would no longer be in the attic. Instead, they would find him sitting in a rocking chair by his window. No matter how many times they moved him to the attic, they would always find him sitting in his rocking chair a few days later.
After Gene died in 1974, the house and some of its contents were sold. The new owner tried to give the doll to their ten-year-old daughter. While the daughter loved the toy at first, she soon said that Robert was alive and wanted to hurt her. Shortly after that, Robert was donated to the museum he calls home now.
Since moving to Fort East Martello Museum, Robert seems to still be up to his mischievous ways. Some of the staff at the museum claim to hear footsteps in the museum, seeing his expression change, or hearing giggling come from his area when no one else is there. Visitors to the museum are supposed to ask Robert for permission before taking his picture. Those who don’t ask him usually have trouble with their camera. They have reported having black photos or the camera not turning on until they have left the museum. The staff at the museum remind visitors to treat Robert with respect. They have received letters addressed to Robert apologizing for their behavior. After the visitor left the museum, the notes go on to say that the visitor was either involved in an accident, lost their job, or some other calamity that happened shortly after being rude to Robert.
Over the years, Robert’s story has inspired movies such as Child’s Play, The Doll, and Robert. His story has appeared on shows like Unsolved Mysteries and Ghost Adventures.
Have you met a paranormal celebrity? If you have, let me know. I would love to hear about it. If you haven’t met one yet, please tell me who you want to meet in the comments below.