Honestly, I think one of the most terrifying images I’ve ever seen in a horror movie is that scene in “Poltergeist” where the evil Clown Doll reaches up and pulls the little boy under the bed. Until that moment, I’d never put much stock in those “Can’t Sleep. Clowns will eat me!” T-shirts, but that movie certainly opened my eyes to the fact that evil lurks in some of the last places we’d ever expect to find it.
Some might say I have a vivid imagination, but on more than one occasion I’ve walked into a roomful of colorful, harmless looking toys and felt their beady little eyes boring staring at me. Even perfectly ordinary plastic fire engines or dump trucks can send shivers down my spine. What if their headlights were to suddenly flash on? What if the siren started blaring? What if all the toys in the room suddenly decided to attack?!
But it’s dolls that bother me most and I think it’s because you can never be sure if that was a movement you just saw out of the corner of your eye. Did that doll just turn her head a little? Did she wink, or blink? Did she wiggle her foot? Wasn’t her hand resting on her knee a moment ago? Bah! That’s impossible. It’s only a doll. Or is it?
You can do an Internet search and find hundreds of haunted dolls, most of them fake and available for sale on Ebay. But over the last few years I’ve tripped over two that have been the subject of official and expert paranormal investigations and found to be truly creepy little dolls. Today I’d like to introduce you to Robert the Haunted Doll, from Key West, Florida.
In 1906, a young boy named Eugene Ott received Robert as a gift from one of the household servants. Eugene’s first name was actually Robert, but he went by his middle name, Eugene. At the time, no one thought to question Robert’s origins but later, after strange things started happening, the following theory arose:
Eugene Otts parents were strict with Eugene and very stern taskmasters with their servants. It’s said that they treated their servants very poorly – low wages, long hours of exhausting physical labor, as well as a little physical abuse thrown in from time to time.
One of these servants was a Bahamian woman who, some say, practiced Voodoo, and it was she who gifted Eugene with Robert the Doll. It’s said that she cursed the doll before giving it to the boy. Some folks claim she stuffed the doll with rags that had been mixed with human blood, and some say the doll has real human hair.
As the story goes, young Eugene quickly became attached to Robert and took the doll with him every where he went. He would ‘feed’ Robert at the dinner table and sleep with him at night, and on more than one occasion, Mr. and Mrs. Ott could hear Eugene conversing with someone who had a low, sinister-sounding voice when they passed by his room. But of course, they assumed Eugene was just “playing” with Robert.
It wasn’t long before strange things began to happen outside the playroom, too. Lamps would fall and shatter, for no apparent reason. Silverware and drinking glasses would go flying off the dinner table. Torn clothing and rumpled beds were found in rooms that weren’t being used.
Each time something strange happened, Mr. & Mrs. Ott would turn to Eugene for an explanation and Eugene always said, “It wasn’t me! It was Robert!” And each time, Eugene was strongly disciplined by his stern parents.
Over the years, Eugene and Robert continued to get closer and closer, and after Mr. & Mrs. Ott died, Robert and Eugene were alone in the home.
Servants came and went due to the unholy atmosphere in the home. They’d hear giggling when no one was in the room – except Robert, of course. They’d hear strange voices and footsteps, and combined with all the other mysterious activity, Eugene was hard pressed to keep servants around.
Eventually, Eugene decided it was time to get married, but it wasn’t long before his new wife became frightened, not only of Eugene’s obsessive attachment to Robert, but by the mysterious things that kept happening, too.
The new Mrs. Ott could sense the evil in Robert. She often saw his expression change from one of innocence to one of pure malevolence and she sense a threat to her life whenever she was alone in the room with the doll. Terrified, she told Eugene that if he wanted to keep the doll he’d have to keep him up in the attic and away from the rest of the house.
After relegating Robert to the attic, the neighborhood children and passersby began to notice movement as they walked by the house. Robert would follow from one end of the attic to the other, maniacally giggling, watching as people passed by, growing angrier and angrier by the day at his confinement.
With Robert locked away in the attic, Eugene’s health began to suffer. Soon, he defied his wife and set Robert up in his own comfortable bedroom in the main house again. Alas, Eugene’s health continued to deteriorate and when he died in 1974, his wife was left alone in the house with Robert.
But not for long. Mrs. Ott, free at last, stashed Robert back in the attack and quickly sold the house, leaving Robert for the new owners to contend with.
When the new owners were investigating the attic their 10-year old daughter discovered Robert, sitting in a little chair, hidden under a blanket. The little girl fell in love with Robert, moved him into her bedroom and, you guessed it, that’s when Robert really stepped up his plan.
The girl began screaming in the night, terrified, claiming that Robert was moving all around her bedroom and the he even attacked her on several occasions, trying to kill her. The girls’ parents quickly removed Robert from the house and knowing a little about his history by then, they donated him to the East Martello Museum in Key West.
But our story doesn’t end there. Robert is kept in a locked, glass case in the center of the room. Museum workers report seeing him move his hand or his foot and he frequently changes position during the night, while no one is in the museum. Workers who remain in the building after hours hear strange noises and giggling.
For two weeks every year Robert is moved from the museum and put on display at the Custom House in Key West and while he’s away from the museum the paranormal activity actually increases.
While he might be enclosed in a glass case, Robert still manages to go about his evil ways. Visitors who take pictures of Robert, without first asking his permission, report a wide variety of results.
Some have just blank film, with no picture at all. Other see Robert in one position in the picture, but it’s not the position he’s posed in in the case. Some see an evil expression on his face, or his eyes are half-closed, his head is turned, or his foot seems to have moved because it’s blurry in the picture.
Worse, though, is what happens after they leave the museum, as evidenced by all the letters posted on the walls surrounding Robert. Visitors who neglected to ask his permission and snapped their pictures anyway, or people who laugh at Robert and don’t take his evil seriously, meet with horrible luck ranging from flat tires, to serious injuries, and even to death. Many of the letters you see are people begging Robert’s forgiveness for not asking his permission before they took his picture.
The picture you see posted here was taken for me personally. One of my cousins moved to Key West, Florida about a year ago and I asked her to stop in the museum and take a picture of Robert for me. I warned her, though, to respectfully ask his permission before she started snapping away.
Thankfully, she followed my advice and neither she nor I have had any problems, and I even use this picture as the screensaver on my computer. But you can bet your boots I’d never enter a room with the real Robert the Haunted Doll. One giggle from that malevolent little creature is all it would take and I’d be out the door in a heart beat.