This story from Key West, Florida, has always aroused and continues to arouse great curiosity: the protagonist is a life-size doll donated in 1906 Otto family’s maid to Robert Eugene, a 5-year-old boy at the time.
The child immediately ties himself to the strange, straw-filled doll with the look and clothes of a naval officer and in his arms a little dog, deciding to call her with his first name, Robert. Instead, he prefers to call himself Eugene, or Gene, as his family called him.
It wasn’t long, however, before people began noticing signs of Robert’s evil and mischievous nature. In front of his parents, Eugene accuses Robert of leaving the rooms untidy, and as story goes, the Ottos and their servants would often hear Gene in his bedroom, having conversations with himself in two entirely different voices.
Furthermore, the Ottos would wake up in the middle of the night to Eugene’s screaming, only to find the frightened boy in bed, surrounded by overturned furniture. Gene would blame, of course, the doll.
Soon after, mutilated toys and mysterious happenings would appear in the home, only to have Eugene proclaim each time: “Robert did it!”. Even if the family didn’t quite believe Eugene, it was reported that they could hear the eerie sound of Robert giggling around the house, and passersby even claimed to see a doll moving from window to window when there is nobody at home.
Over the years Eugene’s affection for the doll does not diminish despite the distance. When Eugene goes to study in Paris, Robert was moved to the attic, where he remained for a number of years.
In Paris Eugene meets Anne: the love of his life.
The two married and return to Key West in the mansion where Eugene grew up, inherited after his parents died.
Robert the Doll returned to his old bedroom, Eugene’s turret room on the second floor. By then, the man had been working as an artist, and locals insists that Eugene would spend his days alone in his mansion, painting with his old friend Robert.
So, there are different version of the story: it seems that Eugene later puts Robert in the attic at the request of his wife. Anne is in fact frightened by the rag creature, considered evil. In 1974 Eugene dies, Eugene died, it seems with Robert by his side, and Anne moves to Boston.
According to another version, Eugene’s wife died from “insanity” after locking Robert in the attic.
Another family later bought the house of the Ottos. The new owners have a ten-year-old child: the child finds the doll and keeps it with her. However, during one night, something unexpected happens: the little girl screams and tells her parents that she was attacked by Robert, who wanted to kill her.
The doll has left forever the house of mysteries, and is now at the East Fort Martello Museum, where some believe his hair color and soul are both slowly fading.
According to various witnesses, anyone wishing to photograph Robert must ask for permission. If this does not happen the photo will be blurred, and there are those who then claim to have had problems with the same camera inside the museum for not believing Robert’s powers. Problems then disappeared outside the museum.
To date, the walls near his glass case are covered in numerous letters from previous visitors and naysayers, begging for Robert’s forgiveness and asking him to remove any hex he has cast!
It seems that at the base of Robert’s powers there would be the curse thrown by the maid who had given the doll to the child. The man, an expert in black magic and voodoo rituals, wanted in this way to hit the Otto family for the bad treatment of servants.
Today, the mansion operates as a bed and breakfast called the Artist House, and visitors can even stay in the old turret bedroom…