Blog Post

The legend of Robert the Doll, a famous Key West tale of possession

Baby Girl and I first saw Robert the Doll when we went to Key West in 2007. He was displayed in a glass case and looked adorable … in a creepy way. He wore a little sailor suit and a jaunty hat. But Robert’s story is anything but quaint: according to legend, he is possessed.

Sweetums just sent me a trailer announcing the debut of a story on Robert the Doll on Lore, a podcast made exclusively for Amazon Prime members. It’s an anthology series on the real stories behind legends. You can read more about it here.

It reminded me of our visit to Key West and I decided to share Robert’s story with you. The boy who owned the doll, Robert Eugene “Gene” Otto was real. The two were always seen together and, whenever Gene got into trouble, he would say, “Robert did it.”

Here is the story from the Key West Art & Historical Society:

(Source: Cayabo via Wikimedia Commons)

“Legend speculates voodoo played a part in Robert’s formative years, while interviews with those close to the Otto family indicate a great deal of emotional energy was placed upon the doll during Eugene’s lifetime.”

Gene grew up to be an artist and “his home became known as the Artist House and stories of the doll’s strange behavior became commonplace with those who encountered him after Gene’s death in 1974. Tenants heard footsteps in the attic room above them. A plumber heard giggling and turned to find the doll had moved across the room on his own.”

Reporter Malcolm Ross reportedly once saw the doll’s expression change and said: “There was some kind of intelligence there. The doll was listening to us.”

The museum website continues the story:

Myrtle Reuter purchased the Otto home in 1974. She became Robert’s companion and kept him when she moved to Von Phister Street six years later. In 1994 she donated Robert to the Fort East Martello Museum claiming he moved around her house on his own and was haunted.  Myrtle died a few months later, but Robert remained active.

“Museum staff noticed a shift of energies at the Fort East Martello Museum. Though Robert was not initially on display, he started receiving visitors as word spread about his new residence. Once he was put on exhibit, cameras and electronic devices malfunctioned in his presence, and soon letters began arriving addressed to the doll offering apologies for disrespectful behavior or asking forgiveness.”

What do you believe?

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