Robert the Doll is terrifying, and this is what most people would agree with.
His careworn, sailor-suit-clad face suggests a small boy. His nose looks like a pair pinholes. Brown nicks are like scars on his nose. His eyes are dark and beady. He smiles with a malevolent smirk. He is snorting in his lap, holding his toy dog, which has ghastly, pop-like eyes and a large tongue that flies out of its mouth. Robert is also believed to be haunted, and has been involved in car accidents, broken bones and job losses, as well as a host of other misfortunes.
Robert, now 117 years old, lives in Key West's Fort East Martello Museum, Florida in a display case that was donated recently by a Roberts fan, Cori Convertito (curator of the museum). Robert did not seem to be able to adapt to his new, comfortable digs. They have humidity control and UV filtering glass to preserve it. There are still frequent reports that the doll has caused evil. *
Robert Eugene Otto was Robert Eugene Otto's property before he came to the museum. He was an eccentric artist from Key West and was also the owner of the doll. The doll and its owner were the same name. However, the doll was given to Robert by Ottos grandfather as a birthday present. He bought the doll on a trip to Germany. Otto's relationship with the doll lasted into adulthood.
Robert was manufactured by The Steiff Company. Courtesy Key West Art & Historical Society
Convertito says that people will remember what they consider an unhealthy relationship with the doll. It was with him everywhere. He talked about it as if it were a doll. He is a living entity.
The museum did some digging and found Robert's roots at the Steiff Company. This is the same company that made the first Teddy bear in the name of Theodore Roosevelt. Robert was not intended to be sold. A toya Steiff historian stated that Robert was likely part of a set made for a window display featuring clowns and jesters.
Convertito says that Roberts little sailor costume is adorable. It was likely Otto's childhood outfit.
Legend has it that Otto, a young boy, began to blame the doll for his mishaps. Although this may have been dismissed as childish storytelling, it was a sign that adults started to notice odd occurrences as Otto and Robert grew up. Otto, as an adult, lived in The Artist House, a stately house where Robert could be seen at the upstairs window. The schoolchildren believed that he would return and appear, but they avoided the house. After Otto's death in 1974 and his replacement, Myrtle Reuter bought the Artist House. Visitors claimed they heard footsteps and giggles in the attic. Many claimed Robert's expression changed when Otto was present. Rueter claimed that Robert could move about the house by himself, and she gave him to the museum after 20 years of antics.
Robert's sailor costume is not unique to the doll. Robert Eugene Otto, his previous owner, may have owned it first. Courtesy Key West Art & Historical Society
Robert's arrival at the museum was not a sign of his demise. His aura has been photographed and he's been featured on television. He also appears on ghost tours, has inspired horror movies, and has even appeared on TV. His Wikipedia entry is available. He also has social media accounts. Robert replicas, books coasters, coasters, and t-shirts can be purchased by fans. The most daring can even offer to lock Robert in their home after dark. *
They can and do write to him. Convertito says he receives one to three letters per day. These letters are not typical fan letters, but they're often apologies. Many visitors blame Robert for their misfortunes after visiting them. Some ask for his advice or to punish those who wronged them. Convertito claims they have received over a thousand letters which they keep and catalogue.
Robert also receives emails, homages, and other correspondence. It was discovered that Robert has a sweet tooth. People leave him candy and send him sweets. He received eight peppermints bags, a card and no return address in a box. Robert is not allowed to eat any treats that are sent by the museum staff. Visitors leave sweets, money, and sometimes joints for Robert. Convertito says it is completely inappropriate. We are still a museum.
Roberts caretaker is Convertito. Once a year, she takes Robert out of his case and weighs him to determine if the humid Florida climate has affected his straw-filled body. Convertito is also Robert's proxy. She receives and reads all of his letters and runs his social media accounts.
Roberts has called the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West his home since 1994. Courtesy Key West Art & Historical Society
Roberts's slender face was photoshopped onto the now-famous Kim Kardashian picture, where she is seen balancing a champagne bottle on her stomach. This was done to draw attention to a campaign that could win the museum a grant, if enough votes were received. The museum won thanks to the celebrity influence of Roberts and Kardashians, as well as the dolls' social media reach. He has nearly 9,000 Facebook likes.
Convertito occasionally corresponds with Roberts. Convertito tries to send something every child who writes her (Gene had a childlike temperament and we feel like Robert would be kind to them). She has also responded to more serious emails, such as one from a schoolgirl who was being bullied.
Convertito believes Robert is haunted.
I don't know. She says that I don't know. He has never been a bad person to me. Ive never felt uncomfortable. It's been a basic relationship. I have a job and I do it. He doesn't care if there is a reason for it, he allows me to do my job.
* This story was originally published on October 26, 2016. This story was updated with the most recent news about Robert the Doll in October 2021.