The World’s Most Terrifying Toy: Robert The Doll

Robert, a 114-year-old fabric sailor boy who clings to his own stuffed dog, has made a name for himself as one of the world’s most malicious toys, and has been blamed for broken marriages, shattered bones, and car crashes.

August 10, 2021
Zak Bagan in Doll Room

Zak Bagan in Doll Room

Zak poses next to Robert the Doll in the Doll Room.

Photo by: 2016; The Travel Channel; L.L.C. All Rights Reserved

2016; The Travel Channel; L.L.C. All Rights Reserved

Zak poses next to Robert the Doll in the Doll Room.

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Long before Chucky or Annabelle hit the big screen, one family was grappling with their own demonic doll.

Robert sits on display at his current residence, the East Martello Museum in Key West Florida

The Ottos, a prominent Key West family, welcomed their son Robert Eugene to the world on October 25, 1900. When Robert, who had started going by “Gene”, was 4 years old, he was given a unique gift: a stuffed doll that, at 3 feet tall, was unusually large. The child christened the toy Robert, after himself, and dressed it in one of his old sailor suits. Gene and Robert swiftly became an inseparable pair.

It all started innocently enough, a child shifting blame from himself to his toy. When household objects disappeared or turned up broken, young Gene would point to his life-sized-companion and claim, “Robert did it!” But as the strange occurrences escalated, they could no longer be explained away by the child’s imagination.

The Ottos often heard Gene talking with the doll while at play in his room. Eventually, the one-sided chats turned into full-on conversations featuring two distinct voices. The family would hear the doll giggling when it was supposed to be alone in a room and upon entering, would find its position and facial expression had changed.

At the height of the activity, Mrs. Otto was awakened one night by the sounds of furniture being hurled across her son’s room. Running to investigate, she found Robert huddled in his bed at the center of a tumultuous scene. He told her that he had awoken amidst the chaos to find his doll sitting at the foot of his bed, its vacant eyes turned toward him.

Gene eventually left his family home and childhood toy behind to pursue a career as a painter in New York and Paris. During his time in France, he met and married Annette Parker. However, the passing of Gene’s parents ultimately brought the couple back to Key West to take up residence in their newly inherited mansion.

Upon their return, Gene uncovered his stuffed companion. Converting the house’s tower into his studio, the artist rarely worked alone, accompanied always by the doll. “What people really remember is what they would probably term as an unhealthy relationship with the doll,” caretaker Cori Convertito told Atlas Obscura. “He brought it everywhere, he talked about it in the first person as if he weren’t a doll, he was Robert. As in he is a live entity.”

Annette, put off by the toy’s unsettling presence and the unexplainable events that surrounded it, demanded that the figurine remain locked away upstairs. School children passing the home often reported that they’d seen Robert at the window, watching them, before vanishing.

Gene passed away in 1974. Two years later the Otto’s mansion was sold to Myrtle Reuter, and Robert the Doll finally changed hands. Reuter kept him for 20 years, despite her daughter ‘s insistence that the doll was malicious.

Robert The Doll

Screenshot via VisitFlorida.com/Youtube

Screenshot via VisitFlorida.com/Youtube

Zak Bagans visits Robert for the premiere of Deadly Possessions

In 1994, Robert was donated to his current residence, the East Martello Museum. In the intervening years he has become one of Key West’s most famous attractions. Museum goers and staff have reported seeing Robert change his facial expressions and move. Visitors who’ve taken the doll’s picture without asking for permission have relayed bizarre experiences. According to Convertio, he receives 1-3 letters every day, apologizing and asking for forgiveness. Robert Sloan, author of the toy’s biography and curator of the “Robert the Doll Experience” at the museum told Key West Florida Weekly, “They write postcards, double-sided letters, emails, describing bankruptcies, canceled flights, car crashes, divorces and sudden illnesses. But in the end, they all beg for the same thing: for Robert to make the bad things stop, to “lift the curse.”

Robert has drawn paranormal investigators, ghost hunters, and believers from far and wide. He had a visit from Ozzy Osbourne for the singer’s show World Detour and was featured on the series premiere of Deadly Possessions. Cursed or not, visitors all seem to agree that there is something deeply unsettling about Robert.

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