Robert The Doll: The World’s Creepiest Toy From Key West

The story of Robert the Doll is one of hexes and curses and misfortunes… and, scariest of all, it’s all happened in our very own backyard. 

There’s no dispute that this haunting tale began in 1904. The real question is how did the hexed doll land in the hands of Robert Eugene Otto?

Considering the doll was reportedly manufactured by the Steiff Company, the predominant theory is that toy was bought as a birthday gift by Otto’s grandfather while he was in Germany. 

The second origin story theory is that an ex-nanny of Key West’s wealthy Otto family returned shortly after being fired to drop off the cursed parting gift. 

Whichever story it is, the first creepy turn was taken when Robert Eugene Otto, the giftee of the toy, told his family that the straw doll, with its blond hair and beady black eyes, wanted his name. 

“Gene,” as he wished to be known as after giving up his first name, became obsessed with the doll. 

“What people really remember is what they would probably term as an unhealthy relationship with the doll,” Key West Art & Historical Society curator Cori Convertito told Atlas Obscura

The 4-foot tall doll’s white sailor suit and cap most likely belonged to Gene, who was inseparable from his toy. Gene’s unhealthy fixation continued into his adulthood, causing problems along the way.

“He brought it everywhere, he talked about it in the first person as if he weren’t a doll, he was Robert. As in he is a live entity, Convertito said.

Gene’s parents were the first to witness supernatural, unexplainable events involving Robert the Doll. 

It was reported they would hear Gene and Robert having conversations or that Robert would move from window to window on his own. When items in the house were missing, moved or broken, Gene would tell his parents that “Robert did it.”

According to 10 Daily’s Jessica Lynch, Gene’s aunt, who was living with the Otto family, pleaded for the doll to be locked in the attic. It was a fatal request as she was found dead in her bed the next night. With a death connected to Robert, it’s not a stretch to think he was the inspiration for Chucky, the murderous toy from the horror film “Child’s Play.”

Myrtle Reuter, who inherited Robert after buying the Otto family’s home, said the supernatural occurrences continued, such as hearing footsteps and disembodied laughing.

After 20 years in Reuter’s possession, she donated Robert to the East Martello Museum in Key West.

Thousands of people flock to the museum each year to meet the world’s creepiest doll. 

But museum-goers must never disrespect Robert. If they do, he’s been said to hex them with years of misfortune.

Those stricken with Robert’s curse pen him letters. Convertito said he receives as many as three a day.

Whether hastily scribbled on hotel notepads or carefully written on decorative postcards, they nearly all ask for the same thing: his forgiveness. 

So, if you go, always introduce yourself, ask for permission to take a photo and always thank Robert when you’re done. Otherwise, be ready to write a sorrowful letter.