East Martello Museum is located at 3501 South Roosevelt Boulevard at the old East Martello Fort and contains all kinds of artifacts and historical records of Florida Keys history. Not only is this Civil War citadel a part of Key West's history itself, but it has also come to be the depository for a lot of the region's historical artifacts. Originally built to help defend Fort Zachary Taylor in 1862, the fort is now registered as a National Historic site. It was designed after the nearly impregnable coastal Martello watchtowers in Italy, the Fort East Martello was never completed. Its outer bulwark and inner citadel with eight-foot thick granite walls built during the Civil War era were a monument to military engineering and could have withstood any amount of bombardment at that time. But the development of explosive shells made these defenses obsolete. The view from atop the central tower affords visitors a spectacular panorama of the Atlantic coast of Key West. Martello Tower is a treat for those interested in the Civil War and construction methods from that time, and it is the best-preserved example of the Martello style of military architecture in the country.
In the garden an 80-year-old playhouse provides children with insight into how kids lived and played in old Key West, but the heart of the site is the East Martello Museum and Art Gallery housed inside the fort. It has artifacts that convey the history of Key West through today with exhibits ranging from treasure chests to the relics of a Cuban refugee raft. The second floor galleries contain work from local artists and other temporary exhibits. The artwork of Mario Sanchez who was born in Key West in 1908 is highlighted in the gallery. His paintings and carvings capture both the history and spirit of the area. Also you will find the scrap metal "junk" sculpture by Stanley Papio. Both artists are internationally renowned folk artists and are from the Florida Keys. The Key West Art and Historical Society now operates the Martello tower, and today the East Martello Tower is home to a vast collection of Key West and Florida Key's artifacts and historical records as well a military memorabilia, but the eeriest display of all is Robert the Doll, dubbed as “the original Chucky.”
Robert the Doll was three feet tall and stuffed with straw. Aesthetically, Robert resembles an early 20th century American Naval officer. Contrary to popular belief, however, the doll's hair is not made of human hair, but rather, it consists of a synthetic material resembling wool yarn.
The doll was given to artist Robert “Gene” Otto, a painter born in 1904 in The Artist House, when he was a small child by a Bahamian girl who was the daughter of a poorly treated servant. Speculation is that the doll either contains a crystal, or was made much like a voodoo doll creating an evil entity.
Gene had been an ill-tempered person all of his life, and Robert the Doll is said to be a reflection of his personality. Robert the Doll and Gene lived in Artist House until Gene died in 1974. His long forgotten doll was left in the attic of the old house after his death. Then the neighbors began reporting hearing an "evil giggle" coming from the attic. Some even claimed to hear the doll moving about and peering from the attic window.
Eventually, the notorious doll was removed and placed on display in the East Martello Museum. Supposedly the attic of the Artist's House still remains haunted because soon after the doll's departure the ghost of Gene Otto's wife, Anne, took up residence and continues to stand guard against the return of Robert's evil spirit!
Robert the Doll is said to be possessed and often prevents his photo from being taken. Many experience camera malfunctions or the photos of Robert are blacked out while other photos remain intact. He often creates electronic fluctuations and is said to move his toy lion from one knee to the other and even taps on his display case.
The doll is annually rotated to the Old Post Office and Customhouse in October, with museum staff claiming that strange activity in the museum increases during such times. The doll made an appearance at Taps CON, a paranormal convention held in Clearwater, Florida in May 2008. This was the first time that it had left Key West, Florida in the 105 years of its existence. Individuals who desire to visit Robert in the Fort East Martello Museum and wish to take a picture of him, according to legend, the person must ask the doll politely, and if he does not agree (by tipping his head to one side) and the individual takes a picture anyway, then the doll will curse the person and their family.
The movie "Child's Play" and the manga-style comic book, "Evangeline the Doll", by Jopyon were both inspired by Robert the Doll.
Key West Paranormal Society
Tours The East Martello Tower
Home of The "Robert The Doll"
and the "Undying Love" Displays
on a stormy Key West afternoon