By Anna Kittrell
All of the books in the Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll series have two things in common— a cursed doll named Rosa (sometimes called by a nickname), and romance. In each story, only true love can break the dreaded scrimshaw curse.
This got me to thinking… (A dangerous habit, to be sure. Last time I pondered the Scrimshaw curse, I confused Rosa the doll by writing Skinbound, a story about identical twins. Rosa couldn’t figure out which one to curse.) I wonder what would happen if Rosa fell in love? Would the curse be forever broken? Would the poor soul she set her (painted) eyes on be eternally doomed? Would he love her back? I mean, what kind of bonehead could possibly fall for that old relic?
Well, I just might have found the perfect match for our naughty little dolly…
Meet Robert the Doll. He’s a strawhead, not a bonehead. Flexible, not rigid. Stuffed, not carved. But despite their differences, Rosa and this super-cute sailor would make an extraordinary couple. For they have one very important thing in common. They are both totally cursed.
A servant assigned to the Otto’s four-year-old son, Gene, had a reputation for dabbling in voodoo. To repay the Otto family for cruelty she’d suffered, the servant constructed a life-sized doll for the boy—and ruthlessly tucked an evil human soul inside.
The straw-stuffed doll became little Gene’s constant companion. He even gave his new best friend a name. Robert.
On many occasions, family members, servants, and visitors reportedly heard Gene upstairs talking to his doll. To the horror of listeners, the little boy answered himself, as Robert, in a much different voice.
Soon strange things began happening inside the Otto household. Neighbors saw Robert move around from window to window when the family was out. People caught glimpses of the doll running, and even claimed to hear him giggle.
Gene began to have bad dreams, and often screamed in the night. His parents would enter his room to find furniture overturned, and Robert the doll at the foot of the bed. “Robert did it…” was all the terrified little boy could utter. (Later, this would become a favorite catchphrase of Key West residents, earning Robert the title of Robert the blame doll.) Finally, Gene’s parents had enough and ushered the doll up to the attic, where it remained for many years.
After the death of his parents, Gene inherited the family home. On a trip to the attic, he was ecstatic to rediscover his old doll, and to learn the bond he and Robert shared was still strong as ever. Gene’s wife was less than delighted. Deeming the doll unsettling, she returned him to the attic.
Offended by his wife’s decision to isolate Robert, Gene decided the doll would not only come down from the attic, he would have an entire room of his very own. The turret room would become Robert’s new home, where he could sit… and gaze from the window.
Many people reported the doll watching from the turret room as they walked by—making faces at them as they passed. Children were afraid to walk past the home alone on their way to school.
Finally, Gene decided to put a stop to the doll’s antics. Angry and displeased with his home, Robert was brooding beside the window when Gene snatched him from the rocking chair and trudged up the attic steps.
After Robert’s exile, guests in the home reported hearing footsteps in the attic, and strange giggling. Visitations dwindled, and then stopped altogether.
Gene Otto died in 1972. The house was sold. Robert was found by a ten-year-old girl—the daughter of the new owners. Terrified, the girl claimed the doll tortured and tormented her. Thirty years later, she steadfastly maintained her story, stating the doll was alive and wanted to kill her. (That reminds me of another infamous doll. Rumor has it Robert just may have been the inspiration for the possessed, plastic, redhead named Chucky.)
Much about Robert’s life remains unclear, (like the fact the doll has an aura! Check out his website) but one thing is certain. When things go inexplicably awry, you can bet Robert the doll has something to do with it. And even if he doesn’t—you can blame him, anyway. People in Key West do it all the time…
Now, don’t you agree, Rosa and Robert (not the kind of R&R most of us crave) would make the perfect couple? Imagine the fun they would have together, hand-in-hand. Wreaking havoc on all of our unsuspecting souls.
Happily. Ever. After.
Please comment! I’d love to hear any ghost stories, legends, or personal experiences you may have involving cursed toys or other objects.