Flickr — Susan Smith

Before there was Chucky, there was Robert.

Key West, Florida is a laid-back party town with a no-rules attitude. But there is one decree pretty much everyone abides by: Don’t fuck with Robert The Doll. A 3-foot-4 stuffed creature with a vacant-eyed stare, Robert is a fixture of local lore who has earned a following of people who fear his wrath.

His story goes back to 1904, when the doll was gifted to a little boy named Robert Eugene Otto. Some say he was a present from the family’s Bahamian maid, who cursed the doll when the boy’s parent’s began to treat her badly. Others say the doll was given to the boy by his grandfather as a souvenir from Germany. Whatever the case, Robert Eugene became obsessed with the doll to such a degree that he gave it his own name, Robert, while he began to go by his middle name, Gene.

milezerokeywest.com

Whenever Gene got into trouble or something went wrong in the house, he would tell his parents “Robert did it.” While blaming a doll might seem like relatively normal childhood behavior, Gene’s parents began to worry when they heard him having conversations with Robert late at night. Gene would speak in his usual voice, but the voice that replied was completely different. In addition to attributing household chaos to Robert, Gene began speaking of the doll in the first person, as if he were real. Gene even gave Robert his own toy — a stuffed dog with big crazy eyes, nearly as frightening as Robert’s.

For many years, legend held that Robert was some kind of voodoo doll, stuffed with animal bones and adorned with human hair. In recent years, however, researchers have identified Robert as something even creepier — a turn-of-the-century mannequin used in a clown and jester window display.

Eventually, Gene grew up, got married, and became a well-known artist. But his relationship with Robert continued into adulthood. Because Gene’s wife was (understandably) spooked by the doll, Gene confined Robert to his studio, the turret room of the family’s Victorian home. Children passing by the mansion often reported seeing Robert peek through the curtains and scowl down at them or move to different windows throughout the day.

phenomenalplace.com

When Gene and his wife died in the 1970s, a woman named Myrtle Reuter purchased their home and with it, Robert The Doll. In addition to sourceless footsteps and giggling, Reuter and her visitors reported seeing Robert’s facial expression change whenever his owner Gene was mentioned. They also swore he had the ability to move between different rooms of the house without help. After twenty years of chaos and creepiness, Reuter donated Robert to Key West’s Fort East Martello Museum, where he sits today in a glass box.

While no one has seen Robert leave his case, he continues to cause trouble in other ways. Legend has it that if you take Robert’s picture without his permission, he will cause terrible misfortunes in your life. Robert has been blamed for such events as car accidents, job loss, divorce and broken bones. His glass case is surrounded by letters from people apologizing to Robert and asking for mercy.

Still not sure if Robert The Doll is the real deal? Take a trip down to Key West and stare into his beady black-hole eyes yourself. Trust us — you won’t have any doubts.

coolkeywest.com