Key West #1– Robert the Doll

Robert the Doll

A perfect week in Key West was marred– MARRED!!– only by the disappearance of a ring containing my house and car keys. Okay, I’m being dramatic– the trip wasn’t ruined or anything, but the last twenty minutes in the room were colored by the fact that we’d spent them searching high and low for the keys rather than spending them in the cafe having a final cup of coffee. We’d packed pretty carefully, too, considering that we were departing with a third more luggage than we’d arrived with, all for naught– everything was torn apart and dissembled and rearranged, with no satisfactory end result. Kirk luckily carries my car key on his ring, so we weren’t exactly going to be marooned when we arrived at the Orlando airport’s parking lot, but still… what a waste of time!

And it was all Robert’s fault.

In Key West’s East Martello Tower– a history museum inside a fort– lives Robert, the Haunted Doll. So they say. He was made by a family servant for little Gene Otto in 1904, when he was five years old. From the very beginning, Robert has been imbued with a disturbing presence, and the usual movements, eye blinks, giggles, etc. have been attributed to it over the years. Gene died in 1974, his wife three years later, and Robert, after a stay in the house where it was reported he liked to move around, ended up in the museum. He rests in a glass case there and it’s said (and testified to by dozens of accompanying letters) that he doesn’t like to have his picture taken: he’ll drain your battery or jam the camera’s mechanism if you try, or he’ll come up with ways to inconvenience your visit.  Well, I had no problem getting pictures of Robert but, when trying to photograph the Elena Hoyos effigy in the next display (that’s another, horrifying tale), my camera gave up the ghost. Granted, the rechargeable battery was weak and I expected trouble– if not with Robert, then eventually. But the camera worked fine after I rubbed the battery contacts, and I had a fresh battery back at the guest house– a fresh battery, but no keys. Thanks, Robert.

48 responses

  1. Robert DOES look like a petrified coconut! Is that what he’s really made of? Can I ask if anyone changes his clothes periodically? Even the remains of Mother Cabrini in Manhattan have had a change of clothing—they even update her wax face, so that she could appear to be aging in a natural way. (Of course, she’s just bones underneath.) Don’t let Robert spook you, Jimmy. He deserves a good spanking.

  2. Just go to and type in robert the doll…
    you should find a video on him.everyone has there oppinions
    so im not sayin nothing.i believe in him…he waved to me when i was was seriously the strangest thing in my life and i thought i
    was dreaming.

  3. It might be the angle of the photo, but to me, his feet seems to be in a different position compared to other photos. In most photos, the left feet turns sideways, horizontally. And based on my vision, in this photo, it is vertical.

    I’m not saying it’s anything caused by paranormal activity, but search for some other photos of the doll on Google, and you can see what I am trying to say.

  4. Hi Badcastd:
    I wouldn’t discount anything at this point: the doll is BAD, imbued with a disturbed spirit which, in the light of day, seems relatively harmless. But then night falls…

  5. Old sins cast long shadows. But this is just superstitious fear. There are a lot of reasonable answer for those happenings, and I mean other answers than those beliefs that magic or luck can do or undo things.

  6. It is so great to somehow be in contact visually with my old home of the Keys.I am moving back with my fiance soon to Big Pine Key from the Alps of Switzerland.May I keep in touch with your blog?Best wishes :
    James Wilkinson

  7. Pingback: Robert the Doll: The Doll « What Can I Say ?

  8. I have met Robert… I was at TAPSCON last year and didst ask permission to take his picture. Well, On our way home from there we got to the airport and were ready to board the plane…. engine Failure. at least he didn’t wait tell we were in the air.

  9. robert the doll is so damn real.
    you can think what you want but my friend and i have ESP, and when we went to the keys, we decided to test our abilities with him. skeptics will say that its mechanically operated and people monitor events in a control room but we know what happened..we talked to him and at one point he put his hand to the glass when we werent looking[we saw the handprint]at another moment we both had a gut feeling and the room got really cold, he moved his head, and our other friend who didnt believe in him took a pic without asking and insulted him and later when she walked back into the room, at that exact moment all the lights of the museum turned off[and to turn them back on it was a very complicated process]and then afterwards she almost choked on water and was taken to the was all too real, especially if youre in touch with the paranormal, like us.

  10. I just saw Robert a week ago today (8/12/09) and must say the experience was rather creepy but still extremely fascinating. It doesn’t help that the East Martello Towers are just about as scary as the doll but it adds to the ambiance. Robert didn’t do very much except stare at us from the confines of his glass box. All of us were too scared to take his picture though! We passed through the towers and came back to him to say goodbye- as we were reading the hundreds of apology and thank you notes, the lights in Robert’s section of the museum went out! It was for a brief moment and they quickly came on but it had 4 twenty-somethings holding onto each other! The lady working at the towers claimed they were on a timer…pretty GOOD timing!

    See Robert if you have the chance- and be nice! It was a fun experience. I did end up losing my CDs and camera…maybe it was Robert or bad packing! Who knows!

  11. Robert rocks! Just be nice and ask before you take his picture – you should be okay. Got great shots of him and his stuffed lion a couple months ago with no problems afterwards. Be sure to check out the Ghost Tour too.

  12. hello robert. i have told all my friends your story and now they are interested in you too. i have a t shirt with a picture of you on it and i never want to take it off.thank you for letting me take a picture with you and for giving me good luck. because of you i saved my fish from 10 degree water during our nor’ easter, and keeping my hamster alive by keeping my room warm. THANK YOU ROBERT OTTO!!!!!!!

  13. Robert you need to go to heaven. What ever your real name is please ask God for forgiveness. See I know you are the voodoo servant who made Robert. I know you transferred your soul into him, but it’s time to let him go. its time for your spirit. Mrs. or Ms. Please your life will be better up there although you’ll be your regular Caribbean self it’s better than down here. Please take a vantage of the time and life the Robert Doll, and glide throught heaven.

  14. Um, your welcome for finding your KEYS! Come with us next February. I wonder what OTHER items of yours I’ll find among my dirty laundry when I get home . . .

  15. hi robert i live in flordia 2 and have been fishing in the keys but never seen u i really want to see uand i konw ur really but do get to see this or other peole how run the website 🙂

  16. Yes, I remember that doll well. One time I stayed at the Author House Hotel, which I believe is where Robert was found. I was in the top room and there were creaks and moving shadows all night. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. That face haunted me all night and I never stayed there again.

  17. No offense robert but you kinda pissing me off !I know your a doll and your like the main tourist attraction but i’ve read stories about your little pranks and dude seriuosely NOT COOL ! Sorry but true.

    LOLS im actually planning to visit you in the summer so umm please dont do anything bad while im on my trip. Luckly i wont be one of those dumbasses who take a picture without your permission.

  18. I’ve been researching Robert and hope some day I would actually get to meet this very precious doll, If you don’t believe that he is actually haunted then that is what you think but fair warning please be nice and he will be nice back. Respect and respect shall be earned.

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  25. I’m interested in knowing if there are any videos of “Robert the Doll” either changing facial expressions or moving. Its hard to know what to think from hearsay and reports without any proof. People can say anything but where is the actual evidence? If you can show me fine.

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