We’ve all heard of haunted houses, but have you ever heard of a haunted toy? Visitors to Key West, Florida’s Fort East Martello Museum can see just that: a reputedly haunted doll by the name of Robert.
Gene Otto received the doll (a very expensive one made by the German toy company, Steiff) as a gift from his grandfather in 1904. Gene named him “Robert” and took him everywhere he went. Robert had his own chair at the family’s dining room table, and Gene slept with him at night like many other kids do with a favorite teddy bear. He would also hold conversations with Robert in his room, and he would change his voice to make Robert reply.
All this sounds pretty typical for a pampered child and his toy, but things were a bit stranger under the surface. Gene had a terrible temper and would often go into violent fits of rage, where he would knock over furniture or destroy things. Gene began to blame the destruction on Robert. People often described Gene’s relationship with the toy as unhealthy. He even referred to Robert as though he were a living person.
Eventually, Gene grew up, got married, became an artist, and bought a mansion that he called the “The Artist House.” Robert ended up stashed away in an unused upstairs room, near a window. Local schoolchildren sometimes claimed that the doll would disappear and reappear at the window, which scared them.
After Gene Otto’s death in 1974, a woman named Myrtle Reuter bought the house and its contents, including Robert. She and her guests claimed to hear giggling and footsteps coming from his storage place in the attic. Some who saw the doll also said it changed its expression when it was angry and that it could move around the house on its own, as it was sometimes found where no one could remember leaving it.
Ms. Reuter eventually decided she could not put up with the stress Robert caused her anymore and donated him to the museum in 1994. He is so popular that he even receives his own fan mail. He recently also got his own Facebook page.
Museum employees do not report any strange occurrences connected with the doll since he has been on display. But just to be sure, they take very good care of him.