Robert The Doll
Legendary doll to be on display at upcoming paranormal convention BY MANDY BOLEN Key West Citizen Staff KEY WEST — One of Key West's most intriguing residents is leaving the island for the first time in more than 100 years. Robert the Doll, with his unblinking eyes, faded sailor suit and haunted legends, will be a featured guest at a paranormal conference July 19 and 20 in Clearwater. "We really think Robert can promote Key West as a haunted history destination, which is why we're taking him to Clearwater," said Claudia Pennington, executive director of the Key West Museum of Art and History at the Custom House. The organization also operates the Key West Lighthouse and East Martello Museum. Robert will appear at TAPSCON, The Atlantic Paranormal Society Convention, which is described as a "paranormal-themed convention that features exhibits, demonstrations, speaking engagements, film screenings, merchandise and ghost-hunting." The straw-filled doll belonged to Key West artist Robert Eugene Otto, who received the toy as a child when his parents lived in the mansion at the corner of Eaton and Simonton streets, now known as The Artist House. It's a regular stop on the ghost tours. In the late 1800s, Otto and the doll became unnervingly close, with the boy often blaming the doll for mishaps and strange events. The doll eventually began to frighten even his best friend, and was relegated to an attic room. As the legend goes, Robert the Doll was displeased with his new accommodations and would taunt schoolchildren from the window as they walked past the house, so much so that they eventually took a different route to school.
When Gene Otto inherited the house from his parents, he reunited with Robert and brought him back downstairs, where their connection was rekindled, to the chagrin of Otto's wife. She promptly returned the doll to the attic, where he remained until Otto died in the 1970s. Robert now "lives" in a secure glass case at the East Martello Museum, where he is rumored to ruin photographs and cause unexplained events at the museum. Pennington emphasized that Robert the Doll "is not Chucky." "He's not evil; he's the doll who took the blame," she said. "He may be mischievous but he won't pull you apart." Robert the Doll is easily the most popular exhibit at the East Martello, and the wall behind his display is filled with letters people have written to him, Pennington said. "And while he's away, we're redoing his exhibit space at East Martello," she said, hoping that Robert's visitors in Clearwater will be interested in the "real history" part of his story, as well as the unexplained mysteries. The historic doll, which is between 105 and 107 years old, will be treated as a valuable, historic artifact, much like the treasured wood carvings of Key West folk artist Mario Sanchez, also on display at the East Martello. "The people who built this island are slowly disappearing from our collective memory," Pennington said. "We're redoing the exhibits at East Martello to reflect the ghosts of our past."
Source: Robert The Doll Website: http://www.robertthedoll.org/