The story of “Robert”.

This story is not so much about a person, a ghost, or even a haunted building as it is more about a straw doll given to a small boy, with something other than generosity on the mind of the giver.

As the legend goes, in Key West Florida there is a house known as the Artist House, which was built in 1898 by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Otto. The word passed down from generation to generation is that the Otto’s were very abusive to their servants. Many of their servants were locals from the area that at this time in history were versed in the arts of voodoo. One serving girl that had been very badly treated by them made their son Robert Eugene a straw doll that was three feet tall.

Robert, called Gene by his family and friends, gave the doll his first name of Robert and took this doll with him everywhere he went. His parents often heard him talking to the doll and answering himself in a different strange voice, however, many children do this with imaginary friends. However, some believed that Gene used the doll to get himself out of trouble, when bad things occurred Gene said without a seconds thought, “Robert did it.” Most people around the area presumed that Gene was one behind the bad things, but close family and friends somehow knew differently. They knew “Robert”; the straw doll was the culprit. Family members and friends alike, claim to have heard the doll giggle and even see him running up the stairs or staring down at them from the turret-room window.

As Gene got older, his parents thought he was too big to be carrying around a doll and decided it was time to give the doll some rest. They hid “Robert” away in the attic. Gene of course, did not know what became of his close friend until his parents death. Gene inherited the house and there he found “Robert” in the attic. When “Robert” was found, Gene was grown and married. Gene was very excited to have found his old friend and once again wanted him in plain sight. Gene’s wife on the other hand, could not stand the doll and had unsettling feelings when in its presence. A matter of fact, she told that she had seen the dolls expression change. She locked “Robert” away in the attic, just as his parents did so many years before; however, Gene was no longer a child and became outraged. Gene told his wife that “Robert” needed his own private room where he could see the street below and not locked away in the attic.

Gene gave “Robert” a room and then his own sanity began to be questioned along with unexplainable events. Because of these events, Gene decided to place “Robert” in the attic. Whether Gene placed the doll in the attic or not, guests would hear someone walking in the turret-room, which was “Robert’s” room, giggling and some even saw “Robert” staring down at them from the same room. Gene said that the doll was in fact in the attic, but upon investigation found him sitting in the rocking chair by the turret window. He would put “Robert” back in the attic, only to find him a few minutes later in the rocking chair by the time he returned.

Gene passed away in 1972 and many believed the curse was over. However, “Robert” was not ready to die away with Gene. Another family moved into the house and the little ten-year-old girl found “Robert” in the attic and of course wanted him for her very own. Not long afterwards, the little girl claimed the doll tortured her and wanted to kill her.

Today, “Robert” can be seen at the Key West Martello Museum. Do not worry he is being guarded!



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