Friday, July 19, 2013

Chuckie Lives!

Well...sort of...
I'm sure most of you are familiar with the movies about Chucky the Haunted Doll.  They were inspired by a true story from right here in Key West. Why don't you lean back for a minute and let ole Mark tell you about it.

Robert Eugene "Gene" Otto was the son of a wealthy family on the island in the early days of the 20th century.  They lived in a gorgeous house near Duval Street. (Now knwn as "The Artist's House," it's part of the various Ghost of Key West Tours.)

The family wasn't always kind to it's servants, including a lady of Bahamian descent who was rumored to have background in voodoo.  Robert didn't have a lot of friends so the maid crafted a 3-foot doll to keep him company.  Gene named him Robert, after himself, and they were immediately inseparable.  Gene carried Robert everywhere. They could be seen throughout town dressed in matching sailors suits.

After an episode where Robert's mother, reportedly, locked her in her room for three days, the maid quit - cursing the family as she huffed off.  Go figure! The early 1900s were a time when superstition was common and the neighbors and family took due notice of this unfortunate circumstance.  Soon after, people began claiming to see the doll moving around through the windows or watching the kids play in the street.

Eventually, the youngster realized that it was quite convenient to blame Robert whenever he got into trouble.  His parents and the neighbors would casually accept that explanation but insist that he make Robert behave better. The idea of Robert as a living being got so far advanced that Robert even had a chair at the dinner table. Even after he got into his late teens and early 20's Gene carried Robert with him around town and continued to use him as a scapegoat.  (I guess the town just rolled with it.)
Eventually, his family thought it wise to send him to Europe for awhile to develop his artistic skills.  When he returned with a fiancee, Anne, they were thrilled.  Clearly Gene was growing up. The couple was soon married and the family gave them the house as a wedding gift. In short order, Anne and Gene announced they would be parents.  Certainly fatherhood would push Eugene to become a fully mature man.

Soon, he was disappearing into the upper floors of the house with wood and tools and he could be distinctly heard building furniture.  Anne waited anxiously for Eugene to ask her upstairs to unveil his surprise nursery.  When she finally couldn't stand the suspense, she snuck upstairs for a peak.  Shockingly, Gene wasn't in the baby's room - but she could still hear hammering.  She followed the noise into the attic and found her husband feverishly building a room for the doll, instead - complete with miniature furniture.

When Robert Eugene Otto, died in 1974, the doll was left in the house until it was purchased by a new family with a 10-year old girl.  She began to wake up screaming in the night claiming the doll was attacking her.  The donated the doll to the Key West Art and Historical Society and Robert now resides at East Martello Museum, near the airport.  It's said that, if you take his picture without asking permission first, bad things will happen.  Robert is forgiving, though.  You can always write a letter ans ask him to lift the hex.  They say it works.

Here is a picture of Robert today.  His life is a lot more casual now but he's about 100 years old so that was to be expected. These days he just sits in his chair and poses for tourists.

You gotta be impressed with the workmanship. That maid stitched him by hand.

It's said, that if you take Robert's picture without asking his permission, bad things will happen.  Melissa made me ask.  :)

Take a few minutes and go see him for yourself.  He likes visitors.

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