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Visions Paranormal Society Blog – Haunted Objects – The Story of Robert

By: Deborah Frediani – Founder/Case Manager of Visions Paranormal Society

Over the decades, stories of haunted or cursed objects have traveled throughout the paranormal community. I must admit was quite skeptical at first, but became more open minded when I researched the subject in depth and found that many world renown paranormal colleagues actually do have some sense of belief in these objects and their abilities. Some of these colleagues actually have museums set-up for these objects to protect the public, which I will go into later in another blog. Of the majority of these “misfit objects,” dolls seem to be the most common topic of interest. Theories surrounding these stories vary from actual spirit attachments to curses. Of all of theses, one particular story stands out well above the others. It involves a rather odd relationship between a young boy named Gene and a handmade life-like doll named Robert. Now, don’t let the looks of this innocent looking child’s toy deceive you. Robert is said to be the most haunted doll in the world. According to the local history, in 1897 the Otto family moved into a mansion in Key West, Florida. The family owned a very large plantation and many servants worked for them. According to locals, it is said that some of these servants were mistreated, one of these being a young servant girl who took care of “Gene” the family’s young son. Gene’s full name was Eugene Robert Otto, but his family just called him “Gene.” Local legend states that the servant girl was fired after Mrs. Otto caught her practicing voodoo in the family home. Prior to her leaving, she handmade a life-like doll using some of Gene’s hair and clothing. Quickly, the doll and the boy became inseparable. Gene named his new friend Robert, after himself. It is still unclear whether the doll was a gift of love to the boy or it had evil intentions, but one thing was clear, odd things began to happen in the home. Soon, Gene’s personality changed from a loving, carefree child to something much darker. He began to exhibit violent outbursts and experienced nightmares that left him screaming. One night, the family was once again awakened by the sound of Gene’s screams from his room and the sound of furniture being thrown around. As the parents rushed into Gene’s room, they were taken back by the amount of heavy furniture that was over turned in the boy’s room. Gene was sitting up in his bed hysterical and crying “Robert did it!” Later that night, Gene confided to his parents that he had been awakened by the sound of giggling and running in his room. When he looked up, he saw Robert standing at the foot of his bed smiling at him. The doll was then hastily taken up to the attic where it remained behind a locked door for many years. The doll had been forgotten until the neighbors began confiding to the Otto family that they had seen Robert moving from window to window throughout the house when the family was gone. Each time, the attic door was checked and found to be locked. According to Gene, who lived in the home until his death n 1972, he and other family members continued to hear footsteps, running and see glimpses of Robert throughout the home despite the attic door remaining locked. Before long the home was bought by another family who found Robert sitting alone in a chair in the dusty attic. Their ten year old daughter quickly became attached to Robert, but also began to exhibit the same personality changes Gene endured. In an interview as an adult, the girl shared how Robert made her childhood horrendous until the day her Father donated Robert to the local Martello Museum. After Robert was gone, the whole atmosphere of the house became lighter and the occurrences stopped. Today, Robert sits quietly behind a closely guarded, locked glass case in his white sailor suit clutching his stuffed bear watching with his unassuming stare. Museum visitors and employees state that Robert continues his shenanigans by sometimes moving his head, blinking, or giggling. One notable occurrence happened when The Travel Channel wanted to film Robert for an upcoming episode of “Mysteries at the Museum.” According to the show’s Associate Producer Lara Benario, they were plagued by equipment failures each time they attempted to film Robert. The cameraman and everyone else was baffled because there was no explanation for the problems. It was only after asking Robert for permission and apologies given did the equipment begin to function again. Coincidence? That is for you to decide, but even to this day visitors and museum staff still report unusual activity around Robert’s glass case. As for my personal opinion, in looking at the innocent looking sandy haired doll, I get an unexplained sense of unease. Perhaps it is a preconceived notion given the history, but I will always respect the legend while remaining an open minded skeptic. Thank you for your time and have a wonderful week. ~Deborah Frediani – Founder/Case Manager of Visions Paranormal Society

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