In his faded, jaunty sailor suit, Robert the Doll looks like your regular creepy 113-year-old doll, but beneath his frozen smirk is a much darker secret.
Robert the Doll was given to 4-year-old Robert ‘Gene’ Eugene Otto back in 1904, reportedly by a servant who practiced voodoo and black magic. Naming him after himself, the boy would take the child-sized doll everywhere, even giving him his very own seat at the dinner table.
It’s believed that Robert’s face once bore features similar to that of a jester (just in case clowns didn’t freak you out enough already) but the wear of the years have left him curiously blank. His hair is apparently human.
Gene’s parents would often hear their son speaking to the doll in his room at night, with another, very different voice answering back. They assumed Gene, like many kids, was putting on a new voice for fun. However, as the years passed they weren’t so sure, and would sometimes find Gene cowering in the corner, while Robert glared at him.
Children visiting the house would see the doll scowling at them or even peering down at them from windows. Whenever something strange happened, such as toys being mutilated, Gene would utter the bone chilling words, ‘Robert did it’.
Some believe the unusual closeness between the ‘best friends’ led to some emotional energy being transferred from the living boy to the doll. As Gene grew up, he kept his best doll pal close, maintaining what some viewed as an ‘unhealthy relationship’.
There are rumours he dedicated an entire room to Robert in his house, as if he were a real child, and his friendship with the doll reportedly put a strain on his marriage. Mrs Otto’s mental health was said to deteriorate as a result, before she died of unknown causes.
I spoke with Cori Convertito, a Curator for the Key West Art & Historical Society, who was able to confirm Gene’s unusual personality:
Robert Eugene Otto was, in a nutshell, an eccentric artist. While he did have an extroverted personality, many who knew him regarded him as a bit weird, peculiar. He had a doll for a best friend, that is not a trait that acquaintances found ‘normal’.
Eugene married a woman named Ann, who hated Robert the doll and banished him back to the attic
— spooky frecklez ? (@miboatbabe) August 3, 2017