As of 2022, Robert the Doll is 118 years old, making it one of the oldest haunted doll in the United States. The toy was a birthday gift from the grandfather of Robert Eugene Otto, an author and painter, who purchased it in 1904 while on a trip in Germany. An alternate version of the legend says that a young girl of Bahamian descent gave Otto the doll when he was 4-years-old as a friendship gift, albeit a cursed one.
The infamous doll stayed with the Otto family for well over seven decades before it was handed over to Myrtle Reuter, who purchased the Otto family home in 1974. In 1994, Reuter donated Robert the Doll to Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida, after claiming that the toy was haunted. Today, the 118-year-old doll is not only the star attraction of the museum but also the source of all alleged hauntings in the site.
History of Fort East Martello
Constructed on the western tip of Florida at Key West in 1862, Fort East Martello was built to protect the Union-controlled territory and defend against a possible sea attack by the Confederates during the Civil War. It was built concurrently with West Martello Tower located two miles to the west. A series of yellow fever outbreaks between 1862 and 1864 forced the constructions to be halted. After the end of the Civil War in April 1865, construction of the Fort East Martello and West Martello Tower resumed. However, a catastrophic hurricane in October 1865 damaged sections of the forts, forcing the construction to be halted indefinitely.
In spite of its uncompleted state, the weather battered forts stood still for decades on the edges of the Coast. The forts were put into action once again during World War I and World War II when it was deployed as a radio station and barracks for soldiers stationed in Key West. After World War II, the sites was briefly used as training grounds for the U.S. Navy. In 1950, the Navy granted permission for Key West Art & Historical Society (KWAHS) and a team of volunteered worked to restore Fort East Martello to its former glory.
Today, the museum—now listed on the National Register of Historic Places—houses a collection of relics and historical artefacts from the Civil War as well as metal sculptures of Stanley Papio. However, many visit Fort East Martello for its star attraction: the ill-famed Robert the Doll.
Admission tickets to Fort East Martello museum is free for active military and KWAHS members while a fee of $12 and $16 is charged for retired military veterans and college students, and adults respectively. To purchase your tickets online and get a 10% discount, visit here
Hauntings of Robert the Doll
The first reported hauntings of date back to 1994 when then-owner Mrytle Reuter donated the haunted doll to Fort East Martello Museum. She claimed that for the past twenty years, the doll had been moving on its own at the attic.
Robert the Doll was initially placed at the museum’s storage area due to its lacklustre popularity among visitors. A showcase of Robert during a ghost tour organized by the museum in 1996 led to the doll’s increasing popularity in the museum. It did not take long before Robert the Doll was given a permanent display in the museum. Through word of mouth, the mischievous doll earned a horde of fans who now flock to Fort East Martello to catch a glimpse of him.
However, unexplainable activities would follow. Lights would flicker, cameras would malfunction, and visitors would slip and fall. Visitors have also claimed to have suffered job losses, illnesses, and breakups short after visiting the museum and disrespecting Robert the Doll. In one incident, a man reported having a car accident right outside the museum after pointing out that the doll was ‘boring’. Soon, letters of apologies flooded the museum, many coming from visitors who had ‘offended’ the doll during their previous visit. The most popular letter sent to Robert was however, not an apology letter, but instead a birthday ‘letter’; it was sent to former president George W. Bush wishing Robert a happy 101st birthday.
Terrifying events such as laughters and changing facial expressions were also reported by the museum’s staff. On one occasion, the cleaner was alone at the museum when he spotted Robert the Doll lifting his hand, seemingly to wave at him.
The countless inexplicable activities experienced by visitors would go on to earn Robert the Doll a reputation for being the most haunted doll in the world.
Rules When Visiting Robert
Over the years, fans of the haunted doll created informal rules that one must abide by to prevent misfortune from befalling on them. For instance, one must greet Robert when meeting him for the first time. Visitors should also ask for his permission before taking a photo of him. Last but not least, thank Robert when you are done with the exhibition and are leaving the museum. Anyone who fails to do that would experience bad fortune ranging from an inoperable camera to grave illness.
Find out more about the haunted Robert the Doll in All You Need About Robert the Doll in Key West, Florida.