Real life Child’s Play “Chucky” doll – Robert the evil Doll
It has long been rumored that Chucky, the evil serial killer doll in the movie Child’s Play, was based in part on a real-life, 104-year-old doll known as Robert the Doll. The pint-sized chunk of straw-stuffed clothing and cloth was alleged to be possessed by evil spirits that terrorized every family that was unfortunate enough to come into possession of the devilish toy.
Robert the Doll (known variously as Robert the Haunted Doll, Robert the Evil Doll, Robert the Possessed Doll, or Robert the Enchanted Doll) was first owned by talented Key West artist and book author Robert (Gene) Eugene Otto who was given the doll in 1906, when he was just six years old, by an angry Bahamian servant who was well-versed in black magic and voodoo. It was rumored that the Otto family often mistreated the servant girl and the three-foot, sailor-suited doll (with human hair said to have been taken from the young Gene himself) was her revenge for the abuse she suffered at the hands of the Otto family.
Shortly after coming into possession of the doll, which soon became Gene’s best friend (it was said the doll never left Gene’s side), Gene assigned him his name and called him “Robert”. To distinguish between Gene, whose given name was “Robert”, and the doll, Gene’s parents referred to the stuffed toy as “Robert the Doll”.
Gene’s parents noted that they often heard him talking to Robert the Doll. Soon they began to hear the doll answering Robert in return. At first they believed that Eugene was simply changing his voice but after neighbors reported seeing the doll moving from window to window while the family was out of the home, they came to suspect that the doll itself had somehow come to life.
Robert the Doll never left Gene’s side. It even had its own place at the family dinner table. Despite the “friendship” and love Gene had for the doll, its powers grew in intensity and devilishness. The Otto family reported that sometimes the doll would emit a terrifying giggle. They began to catch glimpses of the doll skittering from room to room, staying just out of sight. On more than one occasion, Gene would scream out in the middle of the night and when his parents ran to the room, they would find furniture knocked over and Gene in bed holding Robert the Doll, looking incredibly scared, telling them, “Robert did it!”
The Otto family and their neighbors were not the only persons to witness Robert the Doll’s antics. Several guests to the home swore they saw the doll’s expression change when they looked at it and that it often blinked its button eyes. Some guests were known to end their visits suddenly telling their hosts that “the doll frightened them”. A plumber once fled from the house after turning to look at the doll and seeing it snicker at him with a grimacing, evil grin.
Gene grows up but Robert the Doll refuses to leave
When Gene’s parents died, he and his wife inherited the family home. Upon moving into the house, Robert the Doll was discovered locked away in the attic storage (it is presumed that Gene’s parents put it there). The doll’s influence on Gene was immediately noticeable and despite his wife’s (Anne) pleas to keep the doll locked away (she swore she had seen the doll’s expression change), Gene insisted that the doll remain in the house and in fact, demanded that it have its own room so it could “see the street”.
As Eugene grew older, and the doll’s antics began to wear thin, he eventually allowed Robert the Haunted Doll to be placed back into the attic. Despite once again being secured in the upstairs room, Robert the Doll continued to affect the family and their friends. Guests to the home claimed to hear footsteps and movement in the attic, often followed by demonic laughter. Pedestrians on the street noted seeing the doll peering from the attic’s turret window. School children told their parents that the doll taunted them as they walked past the home (soon all children began crossing the street to avoid passing in front of the house). It was even rumored that Gene often found the doll in a downstairs rocking chair and that he would seize the doll and return it to the attic only to find it again rocking in the chair some time later.
In 1974, Eugene Otto died and the Robert the Doll, which had remained Gene’s companion and friend for the entirety of his life, was placed in a locked trunk in the attic of the home (which by this time, was known as the Artist House) where it remained until a new family moved into the home. One of the new residents, a ten-year-old girl, fell in love with the stuffed toy. Soon after taking possession of the doll, things took a turn for the worse. The young girl often found her dolls with their heads popped off. It was not long before the girl began screaming out in the night, claiming that Robert moved about the room and even attempted to attack her on multiple occasions. When the family discovered their dog in the living room tied tightly with cord, they returned Robert the Doll to the attic. After the girl reached adulthood, she still stood by her childhood claim that Robert the Doll was alive – and evil.
The Artist House and Robert the Doll today
Located at located at 534 Eaton Street, the Artist House is now a bread and breakfast business and is included on many of the city’s ghost tours. The Discovery Channel was intrigued enough to feature the Artist House on a program called Would you Believe It. It reported that Anne has been seen descending the turret room staircase. She was described as beautiful and wearing her wedding dress. The Artist House was also featured on William Shatner’s “Weird or What” as well as Travel Channel’s “Mysteries at the Museum”.
Today the Robert the Doll resides in the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West (it occasionally rotates out of the museum for display). It is enclosed in a sealed plastic case. Museum staff claim that strange activity occurs when the doll is nearby. Weird US reported one employee’s experience:
“A museum employee once cleaned Robert and left for the evening, locking the doors behind him and shutting off the lights. When he arrived the next day, several lights, including the one near Robert’s case, were on. Also, Robert was placed differently than when the employee last saw him. Stranger still, the bottoms of Robert’s shoes were coated in fresh dust as though he’d been walking around the museum.”
Visitors today can see Robert the Haunted Doll at the Key West Martello Museum or at the Historic Custom House a few blocks down during the month of October. Some say that the doll occasionally taps on the glass to scare visitors and employees always leave a bag of peppermints in his case with him in an attempt to cajole him into misbehaving. They swear there are always candies missing when they return the next morning.
If you want a snapshot memento however, be forewarned – legend says that in order to take a picture of the doll, you must ask for its permission first. If the doll moves its head in agreement then it is OK to snap a picture. If not, and you choose to take a picture without the doll’s permission, the doll will “curse the person and their family” for eternity. The walls of the museum are covered with letters from people asking Robert to remove the curse.
The following is an email from a Key West resident that provides a bit more history on how Robert the Haunted Doll came to be.
“The servant was dismissed from the Otto household because Mrs. Otto spotted the 4 servants in the backyard doing some form of what she thought to be black magic. Robert (the little boy) did not go by the name Gene, he was called “Robert”. He only started going by Gene when one day his mother scolded him using his name, and he told her that his name was not Robert, the doll’s name was Robert, and his name was Gene.
According to several residents of Key West (not me, I don’t know whether this part is true) the government did acknowledge Robert (the doll) and actually granted the doll property rights. Also, the servant who made the doll used Gene’s hair for the doll. It’s a known fact that once a person’s hair is cut it can’t change colors (of course!), however, the doll’s hair is now white.”
Atlantic Paranormal Society Investigation
While Robert was making a brief appearance at the Atlantic Paranormal Society’s Convention in Clearwater, FL., a researcher user an Aura detecting camera to take Robert’s picture. When the image appeared it was very apparent Robert does indeed have an Aura. The colors are blue on the top and purple at the bottom. According to photographer and paranormal researcher Sandy Duveau, a blue aura conveys, “deep feeling, communication, peace and love,” while a purple (or violet) aura conveys, “Magical, unifying, deep spiritual understanding.”
Travel Channel filming mishap
Lara Benario, Associate Producer of the Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum, said that the crew attempted to film Robert the Doll for their television series but experienced many problems with their best HD camera. At first the camera would not work at all. The film crew presumed it was due to the weather. Eventually the camera began to function and the segment was filmed. Before packing up and leaving, they checked the film and were surprised to find that it was blank. After attempting, but failing, to have another camera shipped to the location, a backup camera was used but this time the film crew asked Robert the Doll for permission before filming. They got the shots they were seeking.