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Robert the Haunted Doll

RobertthedollFrom Atlas Obscura -

Here is something that most people would agree is true about Robert the Doll: He’s terrifying.

Ostensibly a little boy in a sailor suit, his careworn face is only vaguely human. His nub of a nose looks like a pair of pinholes. He is covered in brown nicks, like scars. His eyes are beady and black. He wears a malevolent smirk. Clasped in his lap he’s holding his own toy, a dog with garish, popping eyes and a too-big tongue lolling crazily out of its mouth.

Here are some other things that people also agree is true about Robert: That he’s haunted and that he has caused car accidents, broken bones, job loss, divorce and a cornucopia of other misfortunes.

Robert is 111-years-old and lives at the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida. Before that he was the property of Robert Eugene Otto, an eccentric artist and member of a prominent Key West family. (Yes, the doll and the owner had the same name, but the boy answered to “Gene”.) Robert was a childhood birthday gift from Otto’s grandfather, who bought the doll during a trip to Germany. Otto’s relationship with the doll continued into adulthood.

“What people really remember is what they would probably term as an unhealthy relationship with the doll,” says Cori Convertito, curator of the museum and Robert’s caretaker. “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.”

According to legend, young Otto began to blame mishaps on the doll. While this could have been laughed off as childish storytelling, adults also started noticing odd occurrences, especially as Otto and Robert grew older. As an adult, Otto lived in a stately home he called “The Artist House”, where Robert could be seen positioned at the upstairs window. Schoolchildren swore that he would appear and reappear, and they avoided the house. Myrtle Reuter purchased the Artist House after Otto’s death in 1974, and also became Robert’s new caretaker. Visitors swore they heard footsteps in the attic and giggling. Some claimed Robert’s expression changed when anyone badmouthed Otto in his presence. Rueter said Robert would move around the house on his own, and after twenty years of antics, she donated him to the museum in 1994.