Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

October 31, 2012

Halloween in the South

A few ghost stories for Halloween

(Continued)

VALDOSTA — KEY WEST, FLA.

A staple of the late 1980s and early ’90s was a series of horror films starring the serial killer possessed doll named Chucky. As ridiculous as the movies are, they are actually based on a shred of truth.

Last year, I went on a story assignment to an allegedly haunted house in Valdosta with a group called V.A.P.I.R. (Valdosta Area Paranormal Investigations and Research). One of the members informed me of a doll named Robert located in Key West, Fla.

Dressed in a white sailor suit and clutching a stuffed lion, Robert now resides in the Fort East Martello Museum. However, it was quite a journey before he resided there and so goes the story of Robert ...

In 1896, a servant of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Otto who was known for performing voodoo gave their young son Robert Eugene, nicknamed “Gene,” a doll that stood three feet tall and was stuffed with straw. Gene called the doll Robert.

Gene became very attached to the doll and Mr. and Mrs. Otto would often hear Gene talking to Robert ... and even answering back in a different voice.

Gene began to have nightmares and would scream in the middle of the night. When the parents responded to their son’s cries, they often found furniture overturned and Robert the doll at the foot of Gene’s bed. Gene would tell the parents, “Robert did it!” The Ottos put Robert in the attic where he remained for many years.

When Gene’s father died years later and the home was deeded to him, Gene decided to move back into his childhood home with his wife.

Shortly after moving back, Gene discovered Robert in the attic and again became very attached to him. Bizarre things began happening again and Gene’s wife banished the doll to the attic.

Gene became very upset and demanded that Robert have a room of his own where he could sit. He placed Robert in the turret room by a window. At this point, Gene’s wife began to question his sanity.

Key West citizens began spreading rumors about the doll and many children were scared to walk by the home.

Tired of all of the rumors that stirred in town and  Robert’s “antics,” the doll was banished to the attic.

Gene died in 1972 and his wife promptly sold the home, leaving Robert behind in the attic.

Once a new family moved into the home, the Robert stories began to die down. That is, until the 10-year-old daughter of the new owners found the doll after playing in the attic.

As did Gene, the little girl began having nightmares and screaming in the middle of the night. The little girl claimed that Robert would crawl into her bed and attack her as she slept.

Robert now lives at the Matello Museum where he is well guarded. Employees inform guests that in order to photograph Robert you must first ask his permission. However, many opt out of the picture and just assume not take their chances of facing the wrath of the curse of Robert.

So, when Don Mancini went out to write a horror movie, what better inspiration than a possessed doll.

The film “Child’s Play” features a killer doll named Chucky who is given the soul of a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray. Similar to Robert the doll, the character of Chucky can move and talk and its “fictional” existence has scared millions around the world.

Many have been scared by Chucky but few know the origins of his existence. Now you know one of the industry’s most infamous horror movies was spawned from a myth in no other than the South.

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