The Curse of Robert the Doll

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The Curse of Robert the Doll
Image: Flickr/Cayobo via CC by 2.0

In 1906, young Robert Eugene Otto received a doll from his family’s servant.

It was, at first blush, unremarkable: a doll of wire, cloth and straw, with beige skin and human-like hair. It wore an outfit similar to that of an American Naval officer.

But the doll held an ominous secret that would reveal itself in time.

You see, legend has it that the Otto family, who lived in Key West, Florida, weren’t kind to their servants. One servant, a Bahamian woman, grew tired of her mistreatment.

Some say she was skilled in voodoo and black magic. As an act of revenge, she infused a doll with dark spirits, and cursed it with hatred. She crafted it with human blood and hair, and stuffed it with rags soaked in the liquid of the dead. It was this doll she bestowed upon young Robert.

A terrible gift.

A Haunted Soul

Robert Eugene Otto, unaware of its sordid history, took to the doll almost immediately.

He named it Robert, after himself (he actually went by his middle name, Gene). His parents would hear him late at night conversing with Robert the Doll, and sometimes — perhaps it was their imaginations, or was that strange, guttural voice really coming from their son? — they could hear the doll speaking back.

Gene would go on to blame Robert the Doll for countless strange occurrences. Plates falling from tables, lamps falling from walls. Torn clothing and misplaced objects littered throughout the house.

His parents, when reprimanding him, would simply be met with the reply, “Robert did it.”

Eventually, Gene grew older and traveled to Paris to pursue a career in art. He got married, and life went on. However, when he and his wife returned and moved back into his old Victorian home in Key West, Gene made special accommodations for the doll. It was still very important to him.

He constructed a small room in the third floor turret, scaled perfectly for Robert’s size. He placed small furniture inside. Robert sat in a chair, motionless. Most of the time, of course.

Allegedly, neighbors would claim they could see Robert the Doll through the third-floor windows, moving from room to room. The sound of laughter occasionally echoed throughout the house, as well, glimpses of shadows as the doll made its nightly walkabouts.

In 1974, Gene died and Anne moved away. But Robert remained, and the strange occurrences continued to be reported by new occupants and utility workers.

Unexplained footsteps, strange noises, laughter. Some would turn their backs on the strange little doll, and it would have moved, just slightly, when they looked again.

The Curse of Robert the Doll Continues

The doll was lost in time, packed away by nervous occupants who couldn’t bare to keep it in plain sight. It eventually surfaced again, however, when a new family found the doll in the attic.

Their 10-year-old daughter welcomed the old doll, becoming its new owner. But she, too, would learn of its secret terrors. She would scream in the night, shouting that Robert was moving. On at least one occasion, she claims (to this day, in fact), that the doll tried to kill her.

Robert the Doll was ultimately given to the East Martello Museum, where it has been on display — locked behind glass — ever since.

For two weeks every year, it’s brought to the Custom House in Key West, where visitors may have a look for themselves.

A word of caution, however:

You may be wondering about all those notes and papers pinned to the wall in this photograph.

Before taking a picture of Robert the Doll when he is on display, each person must first ask for his permission. If his head tilts, that means permission has not been granted.

Those letters were sent to the museum by people who dared to tempt the curse of Robert the Doll, who didn’t ask for permission. They contain true testimonies of the bad luck and misfortune that followed.

In those letters, they ask for forgiveness.


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  • Goutham satheesh


    • Robert

      Don’t disrespect me like that.

  • Linux Master Race


  • Katie

    I’m sorry Robert.

  • Charlotte didcott

    Robert I am sorry if me or my family offended you in any way.

  • Fat Albert

    Truth is ., you NEVER mess with the supernatural! You have NO control over that stuff! My aunt was into voodoo. When she died, we came into possession of a wall decoration. It was one of those pieces that consisted of a wooden frame, a candle in a glass, and a little mirror. Just above the glass was a neatly carved wooden face. When we put that thing in the house, you could feel this eerie “force and presence” that came from it. Then the freak accidents started to occur. And the nightmares. We sent this object to John Zaffis ( NO return address! ) and instructed him to lock the object in a box PERMANENTLY! Upon getting rid of this decorative wall piece, all the freaky accidents stopped, and the awful eerie feelings went away! My assessment of “Robert” is this: The only SAFE way to even “look” upon him is through pictures posted online! That cursed doll may be even more dangerous than Ed and Lorraine Warren’s doll “Annabel!!!”

  • phishy

    I either have a cursed hat, or fishing is a dangerous activity. My great grandfather and grandfather both died while fishing, wearing the same hat. Luckily, I don’t fish and the hat doesn’t fit me.

  • Megan

    I’m sorry Robert.

  • carl

    Im sorry robert.

  • Erik J.

    Robert, I apologize for viewing a photograph of you without your permission.

  • Laura Elizabeth

    I believe in you Robert. Just wanted to learn more about your legend. Truly Sorry I didn’t ask first

  • Laura

    Im sorry Robert, please forgive me.

  • Matt

    Robert I


    I am sorry I viewed pictures of you online and read your story please forgive me.


  • Kierstyn


    I’m so so sorry I watched your video… It won’t happen again I’m sorry please forgive me..

    I’m sorry, Robert.


  • Ted

    Robert, I’m sorry I didn’t ask your permission. I was just learning about you. Please forgive me.

  • Car

    Hi Robert, I am sorry I viewed your pictures online without your permission. Just wanted to learn about your story

  • Cece

    I’m sorry Robert for read your story and view your photos without your permission, I’m really sorry.

  • SoaR Acid

    Plz forgive me Robert I saw your pic online plz forgive me

  • SoaR Acid

    Again am super sorry Robert

  • Saikat Banerjee

    I’m sorry Robert I saw your picture online and read about you, just wanted to learn about you. I’m really sorry.