The world’s most famous and intriguing haunted doll will be taken out of his secured, glass display case at Fort East Martello Museum for another ride up the Keys to the Florida Keys History & Discovery Center at MM 82 in Islamorada (on the property of the Islander Resort, a Guy Harvey Outpost) for a “Haunted Halloween” presentation on Thursday, October 26th by author, ghosthunter, and paranormal researcher David L. Sloan. Doors open at 5:00pm with Sloan’s presentation starting at 6:00pm.
“Who better than David Sloan to tell the story of what is largely considered the most haunted artifact in the Florida Keys?” says The Center’s curator Brad Bertelli.
Sloan is the foremost authority on the doll, and author of the book “Robert the Doll,” published in 2014. He will bring light to Robert’s mesmerizing and eerie history that began just after the turn of the 20th century when Robert was created as a one-of–a-kind Harlequin doll by the Steiff Company in Germany- a company credited with the invention of the teddy bear- as a gift for young Gene Otto, son of prominent Key West doctor Joseph Otto.
“The experiences Sloan went through while working on the book nearly made him stop working on the project,” says Bertelli. “Hearing David recount the trials and tribulations he encountered during the project would have caused less spirited writers to throw in the towel.”
As part of Key West Art & Historical Society’s diverse permanent collection, Robert represents a facet of “Key West’s weird and wonderful history,” says Society curator Cori Convertito, Ph.D. Legend has it he possesses a negative energy. Many historical accounts support this lore; even young Gene placed blame on the doll for everything negative that happened, claiming “Robert did it.” The bond between he and the doll extended beyond childhood. As a grown man, Gene – an accomplished architect and artist who had exhibitions at Fort East Martello- built a special room for Robert in the turret of the Eaton Street home he shared with his wife Anne, a talented concert pianist. The doll remained in the home (which has since gone through phases of being both a private residence and guesthouse) for nearly seven decades, with several reports of eerie, unexplainable events that have caused even skeptics to speculate that “Robert did it.”
Robert has been encased in glass with high-tech alarms since 1994 at Fort East Martello Museum where visitors must seek his permission to take his photograph, lest they be bombarded with bad luck. Fan mail continues to arrive daily from as far away as Australia, the U.K. and Japan, underscoring Robert’s global appeal to people and cultures of all ages. He has taken trips to a TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) convention in St. Petersburg, to Las Vegas to be on the Travel Channel’s television program “Zak Bagans: Mystery Mansion,” and last year to the Discovery Center for a Halloween appearance.
“Since the Florida Keys History & Discovery Center’s establishment in 2013, The Society has actively collaborated with the Upper Keys organization in order to foster a more cohesive and comprehensive understanding of the history and culture of the Florida Keys,” says Convertito. “The Society views them as a wonderful partner and recognizes that we are better able to serve the Florida Keys community by working together.”
Cost for the program is $25 for non-members and includes light appetizers. A cash bar will be available and Sloan will be on hand for book-signing after the program.
“What better way to prep for Halloween than a night filled with some truly creepy tales about the world-famous Robert the Doll?” says Bertelli.
Robert will return home to Key West just in time for Halloween. Fans of the 41-inch tall excelsior-stuffed doll can see him in his case, and also find a treasure trove of merchandise in his likeness by visiting Fort East Martello’s museum store or going online at KWAHS.ORG/SHOP. For more information, contact Cori Convertito at 305.295.6616 x 112. Your Museums. Your Community. It takes an Island.