Sarah's Site

Florida or bust day 3…

by on Nov.21, 2009, under Florida or Bust!

Today was a really nice day… We did the touristy thing believe it or not!!!

We slept in this morning… till all of 8am LOL We took a stroll down to the “beach” (all of the beaches here are private beaches that you cant get on unless you stayed at the Marriott or something lol).

Here are some pictures of the “beach” a couple of blocks down from our hotel.

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After seeing the beach, we decided to go for a bike ride around the island. We decided to stop at the East Martello museum and see what it was all about. The museum was pretty cool, it was an old civil war fort. In some of these pictures you can see the old cannon mounts. There is also an airport right behind the museum.

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In the museum there was a doll named Robert… and.. there is a whole story about him, apparently he is haunted. here is a pic and the local legend about him (it pertains to later in the days events too!).

The story of Robert the Haunted Doll is well known to students of the macabre and paranormal devotees around the world. Images of his bizarre little face — a face that can call to mind any number of notable characters, from Curious George the monkey to Michael Jackson and even Elijah Wood’s famous “Frodo.” But one thing is for certain, those who have a close encounter with this particular little Florida treasure won’t ever forget it.

Although stories of haunted dolls are as old as children’s playthings, the story of Robert is notable due to the number of people who claim to have witnessed the evil doll at work or who claim to have been victimized by him in one way or another.

The dark story of Robert the Haunted Doll began near the turn of the century when the family of eccentric Key West artist Robert Eugene Otto took up residence in the famous Artist’s House in the heart of the city. Affluent and well-travelled, the Ottos found the easy and unhurried lifestyle of the Florida Keys most agreeable. They settled in with their young son and a large staff to wait on their every need.

Local legend holds that the Ottos were stern people who held their son to rigid expectations and expected strict obedience from their staff. It is said that the Ottos took on a Jamaican woman as a nurse for young “Gene,” as they called him, and it was she who spent the long hours with him while his parents travelled the States and other parts of the globe. But the idyllic relationship was not to last, and the story is told that the nurse got on the bad side of Mrs. Otto and was promptly dismissed. But before she left the household she gave a gift to her favorite charge — a hand-sewn stuffed doll, made in the likeness of young Gene. A slightly imperfect replica who Gene took to immediately.

The doll was christened with Gene’s first name, Robert, and from the moment he received him from his Jamaican nurse, Gene never let the doll out of his sight. It went everywhere with him and was often seen accompanying the boy on day trips into town, both neat little gentlemen in pressed white sailor suits sitting perched among the Otto servants or straggling along behind Mrs. Otto as she shopped.

At meal times Robert sat in his own little chair beside Gene who would sneak little bits of food to Robert out of the sight of his parents. At bath time Robert would assume his spot on a dry towel while Gene soaked and played with wooden ships and corks in his nightly ritual. And when it came time to settle in for the night, Robert was tucked neatly in beside the drowsing boy ready to accompany him even into his dreams.

Soon, however, the relationship between Gene and his doll took on a troubling aspect. Gene could often be heard playing joyfully in his toy room one moment and then, after a solemn silence, the sound of low conversation would trickle down to the servants’ ears, first in Gene’s boyish voice and then in an entirely different tone. Sometimes Gene’s voice would sound agitated, but the responding voice only sounded insistent, and it was these moments that began to trouble first the servants and then Mrs. Otto most. On occasion the concerned mother would burst in upon her child and, oddly and unexpectedly, find her son cowering in a corner of the room, and the doll perched in a chair or on the bed, seemingly glaring down at the boy.

Eventually, the disruption to the household left the playroom and the nursery and it became evident to all who lived in the household that something just wasn’t right about the little doll and the odd hold it seemed to have over the youngest resident.

More troubling were the inexplicable events that began to occur — glassware and silverware thrown about the dining room, servants locked out while on their nightly rounds, clothing torn up and bedding in rooms long unused disturbed and crumpled on the ground. Most troubling, other beloved toys belonging to young Gene began to turn up mutilated and brutalized while deep in the night there was the sound of giggling.

Of course, young Gene was blamed for committing mischief and was soundly disciplined by his parents. On each occasion the boy took the punishment but not without first pleading and insisting each time that “Robert did it!” Although his parents never believed this, it didn’t take much protesting to convince the servants, and the staff turnover at the Otto house was understandably high. At one point, concerned relatives attempted to intervene and on the recommendation of a great aunt, Robert the Doll was taken from young Gene and sent to live in a box in the Otto attic. One night later the aunt was found dead in her bed, the victim, it was believed, of a stroke, but immediately following her untimely demise, Robert once again took up his place at Gene’s side.

Gene Otto never left the family house and when his parents finally died he was left there to live unhindered, with Robert by his side. Unlike most mature men of his age, Gene never put away this particular childhood relic — later it would be suggested by some close to him that the doll would not allow Gene to abandon it in such a way. As Gene got used to life “alone” at the Artist House, Key West began to talk — and not about the living resident they knew to be there.

Stories abounded of the sounds of giggling and maniacal laughter coming from “the Turret Room” — the Victorian corner of the house that Gene had inhabited as a boy. This had now become Robert’s domain, or so it was said, and everything there — the furnishings, the curtains, the “tolerated” toys that Robert had not destroyed all were left as they had been in Gene’s childhood.

Servants were kept sporadically and even the most stout hearted of them didn’t stay for very long at the Artist House. Finally, the staff dwindled altogether to a couple that came in for a few hours a day; while the wife cooked Gene’s meals the husband would tend to minor chores around the house. But both would be long gone before sunset, and neither would venture into the Turret Room or near that end of the house no matter how they were threatened or cajoled.

Soon, the needs of manhood (at least temporarily) over rode the attachment to childhood and to Robert the Doll when Gene Otto took a wife. The marriage was troubled from the start, not the least because Gene insisted on Robert accompanying the couple everywhere, having a place at their dinner table, and even, amazingly, that he assume his place in his favorite little chair beside the newlyweds’ bed. Not surprisingly the marriage went sour quickly and ultimately Mrs. Otto went insane and died of undisclosed causes. She is said to haunt the Artist House to this day.

Eventually, Gene Otto followed her in death and for a time Robert the Doll was left alone in the huge house. When new owners bought the house to restore it to its place as a Key West showcase, Robert was committed once again to an attic box. But this is said to have pleased him no more than it did the first time it was tried, and the nights became unbearable for the new owners who reportedly found Robert in all manner of places, in all manner of predicaments. When the doll was found giggling and holding a kitchen knife at the foot of the new owners’ bed, there wasn’t any Gene Otto to blame it on. The new owners left in a hurry and Robert the Haunted Doll was moved to his new home at the East Martello Museum in Key West, where he is well guarded.

Still, tourists who visit the Artist House today say Robert is not necessarily “attached” to his new home, as they have reported the sounds of giggling and small scampering feet in the empty rooms where the tour guides feared to take them. Sometimes children on their way to school pass the Artist House and flee in terror from the face of Robert peering down from the Turret Room windows. Doors are still found unlocked, windows left slightly open in the areas that Gene and Robert frequented all their lives.

But his displeasure at being a display item at the East Martello Museum seems unceasing. Visitors are chilled by the sight of him. One woman was disturbed to find that the expression on the doll changed right before her eyes. “One minute he was smiling, then he was frowning and mad,” she said.

Other visitors who try to take a photo of the famous doll have been disappointed to find black frames instead of photos. Digital cameras are useless and the lighting in the area where Robert now “lives” is consistently bad, despite the museum’s repeated attempts to provide more illumination. Of course, “Robert did it” is still the motto when things go bump in the night, and no member of the museum staff wants to be the last to leave at night.

Each October, Robert the Doll goes to stay in a glass display case at the Custom House in Key West. Museum curators say that this is the best chance to “meet” Robert and that anyone stopping by should not fail to introduce him or herself to the doll. Stories from those who failed to show this little courtesy are numerous, such as the woman from Orlando who reports that Robert, or something like him, followed her home after a Custom House visit. She reported that the silhouette of the doll was repeatedly seen in her bedroom window and throughout the ordeal of that night there seemed to be no electricity in her bedroom, although lights remained on in other parts of the house.

Robert the Doll welcomes you to the Customs House each October where he waits in his glass case, perhaps sucking on peppermints that the Custom House staff place beside him to keep him content. Although the Museum and Customs House don’t advertise it, Robert is always in the market for a new home with a nice family and a child who will love him as if her were a REAL boy.

Could this be you?”

The rest of the museum was an art museum. Some art was done by local artists, and some by school children.

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This is Fred, the museum’s cat. He is 27 years old and deaf… but, he loves to get his chin scratched! :0)


On the way out of the museum, we decided to finish up our tour of the island.. Going down the road not even a couple of blocks away, Rick got another flat tire, but the front one this time. I say it’s because he said Robert the doll was stupid, but he says he pinched a bead LOL! We stopped by a Yamaha store to get the tube fixed, but they had no mechanic on duty. So we got the tube and headed to the local electric scooter/car/thingy shop (Sunshine Rentals) where they let us use some of their tools to fix the bike. If you ever make it to the Keys, make sure to stop by and check them out, they have some neat looking electric car thingies! BTW, Anthony, the guy helping in the picture says it was Robert’s doings LOL!

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Getting tired of messing with the bikes, we decided to park them and head down Duval St. On our walk I happened to see something about sunset boat rides and the woman in the shop sucked me in :0) We reserved a spot on the glass bottom boat at sunset…. To kill some time before the boat ride, we stopped at the local Hard Rock Cafe. I had never been to one before, so I thought it was completely awesome!!!  Some of the B.A.D.D.(bikers against drunk driving) bikers were there trying to rally off a really awesome motorcycle. Here are some pictures.

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Here are some pictures of Duval Street

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After exploring Duval Street, It was time to get on our boat. It was really awesome!! The boat took us a little over six miles off shore to a reef where we saw nurse sharks, eels, Wahoo’s, barracudas, dory fish, sting rays, jelly fish, little striped fish, and parrot fish and more!!! In one of the pictures you’ll see buoy 13, that buoy means that you are entering the Bermuda triangle!!!

after the boat ride, we decided that we were far away from the hotel, so we hitched a ride with the bicycle cart dudes!!! It was pretty cool! I think we wore him out though hehehe!

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once back at the hotel we played in the pool and hot tub…

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That’s about all for today. We are leaving tomorrow at 8am or so. We are going to try and make it past Savannah, Georgia. Here are a couple more pics Rick got of me when i wasn’t paying attention!

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2 Comments for this entry

  • Daddy Nodirt

    Nice pics, nice trip, nice company, what more could one ask for ? Have a safe trip back home and glad you and Rick had the chance to go. Leave Robert at home though, if you don’t mind. Don’t think he would like WV.

  • Anthony

    Glad you guys were able to continue on your trip! Happy to have been able to help you out. Thanks for the recommendation in your blog. If you come back to key west let me know, ill get you into that car you liked.

    Have fun, stay safe.


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