If you’re thinking that Child’s Play couldn’t possibly be based on a true story, considering it’s about a killer children’s toy and all, you’d only be partially right about that. While there never has been a documented case about a toy coming to life and going on a murderous rampage, the tale of Chucky was in fact inspired by a real life doll named Robert, whose creepiness is quite frankly not even matched by the Annabelle doll from The Conjuring.
Decked out like an American naval officer, and clutching a stuffed lion, Robert – who is oftentimes referred to as Robert the Haunted Doll – is a one of a kind doll that was once owned by a Florida painter named Robert Eugene Otto – thus the name, Robert. According to the stories, Eugene (as he was often called) was given the doll as a child by an abused female servant that tended to his parents’ house, who just so happened to be well versed in the art of voodoo. Legends suggest that the girl possessed the three-foot-tall doll as a way to get back at the Otto family, and it was young Eugene who would experience the brunt of the doll’s wrath.
Much like Chucky, Robert is said to have the ability to speak, and Eugene’s parents would often hear him having conversations with the doll, up in his bedroom. They would hear their son talking to the doll and then also hear responses back, in a completely different voice than Eugene’s. Whenever strange things would happen in the house, or misfortunes would befall the family, Eugene would always place the blame on Robert, convinced that the doll was the bearer of bad tidings.
According to various reports from neighbors and family friends, Robert would blink, laugh and even walk around the house when the Otto family wasn’t home, suggesting that the evil spirit the servant infused into him essentially brought the once inanimate object to life. Eugene’s parents were quite often awoken in the night by the sound of their son screaming bloody murder, and Robert was always found at his bedside, taking the blame for knocked over furniture and other devilish deeds.
When his mother and father died, Eugene inherited the house, and discovered Robert in the attic – tossed up there many years prior. Eugene reportedly developed a deep connection with the doll as soon as he once again laid eyes on it, and his wife was so creeped out by it that she insisted it stay locked away in the attic. This didn’t sit well with Eugene, who demanded he be let out into the house, and given a room of his own.
Though the doll stayed locked away in the attic, per the wishes of Eugene’s wife, it nevertheless found a way to continue its reign of terror. Visitors to the house would hear footsteps in the attic and strange laughter coming from up there, and Eugene found the doll several times sitting in a rocking chair in the house, even after he made sure that it was locked up in the attic.
Eugene passed away in 1974, and a new family moved into the house. Proving that Eugene wasn’t making up the stories about the evil doll, the new family’s 10-year-old daughter experienced similar terrorism at the hands of Robert, claiming that he had made several attempts to try and attack her. Still to this day, the now adult woman stands by these childhood claims.
Over 100 years after being gifted to Eugene Otto, Robert the Haunted Doll now calls the Key West Martello Museum home, where he’s visited by tourists who are captivated by his frightening story. Even within the confines of the museum, behind a glass case, Robert still manages to terrify and bewilder, and several employees have reported that he has changed position overnight, and in one case even had dust on his feet in the morning, suggesting that he was walking around when no one was in the building. When visitors try to take pictures of Robert, their cameras often malfunction, and only resume working after they leave the premises.
This post was written by Nadia Vella