|Photo courtesy of Susan Smith via Flickr|
The doll pictured here was owned by Key West painter and author Robert Eugene Otto. It's said to be possessed by evil spirits and has become the subject of urban legend and Creepypasta. It was difficult to separate fact from fiction when researching this post. I do think that Robert Eugene Otto experienced mental illness and poured a lot of energy into this doll. Energy which may have something to do with the issues surrounding the doll today.
In 1906, a Bahamian servant gave the doll to 6-year-old Robert as a gift. One story claims she was skilled in black magic and voodoo and was displeased with the family. Other sources say it was a gift of love and the 40" doll, stuffed with wood wool known as excelsior, was meant to be a replica of the boy. Regardless, Robert (nicknamed Gene) took an instant liking to it. He named the doll "Robert" and would often dress the doll in his own clothing. His parents would hear their son talking to it and answering himself in a changed voice. Later, as the family began to feel there was something eerie about the doll, they claimed it was actually speaking to him. Gene blamed the doll for mischief he would have otherwise gotten in trouble for...but he and the doll were inseparable.
When Robert "Gene" Otto married, his wife tried to convince him to store the doll in the attic. He wouldn't hear of it. He insisted the doll needed its own room where it could see out the window. The doll ended up in the Turret Room of the house where Gene would spend countless hours painting. The Otto's marriage was a rocky one. Gene would go through extreme personality changes and fits of rage (oftentimes directed at his wife) and blame the doll for his behavior.
Today, the doll is on display at Fort East Martello. People taking a photo of Robert must ask permission first. Those who don't, experience camera malfunctions and other misfortunes. Guests claim to have seen Robert's expression change right before their eyes. To appease his spirit, peppermints are left in the glass case where Robert sits, only to have them gone in the morning--wrappers discarded and laying off to the side.
If you're interested, here's a short video: