Monday, February 27, 2012

REAL HAUNTED DOLLS, PART 1

There is probably no one reading this who has not had a disturbing experience at one time or another involving that most simple and supposedly benign object, a child’s doll.

Ask around at any party where the conversation turns to the supernatural and someone will inevitably pipe up with a creepy story about an encounter with a doll that seemed to have a life and will all its own.

Across America there are some dolls about which there is no doubt, at least in everyone’s mind: they are most definitely haunted. As interest in haunted dolls and playthings keeps rising, it might be well to review these real LIVING DOLLS.

Robert The Doll

Probably the most famous haunted plaything ever, Robert is a doll that now resides in The East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida.

Many of you are already heard of Robert, the lifelong companion of painter Robert Eugene (called Gene) Otto, who received the three-foot-tall straw companion from his Bahamian nanny when he was just a small boy. The doll would be with him for the remainder of his life.

There are a number of stories about the nanny, obviously the pivotal figure in this doll drama. Many say that, although she dearly loved young Gene, she was mistreated and abused by his parents on a regular basis. Some versions of the tale have the nanny practicing the dark Voodoo arts and giving the doll to Robert out of revenge for her ill treatment, but there is nothing to support this being the case. Evidently, Gene received the doll, said to be a replica of him, as a gift of love. He promptly named it Robert.

To say that Robert stayed by Gene’s side is an understatement, for Gene was never without the little plaything. He even dressed it in his own clothes and spent hours on end playing in his nursery with only the doll as company. It is said that he was often heard talking to the doll and answering himself in an entirely different voice. Gene slept, ate and traveled with Robert by his side.

Within months after the arrival of the doll in the Otto household, strange things began to occur. Objects would go missing and turn up broken, Gene took to the unhealthy habit of sneaking out of his window and wandering the grounds at night, and his parents began to suspect him of all kinds of mischief. If he was caught in the act, Gene would always hold out Robert and say, “Robert did it!”

Soon the doll apparently became bolder. It no longer seemed to require Gene’s company to move about the house. In the still hours of the night, the servants would often wake to the sound of hollow, pattering footsteps. Too frightened to inspect the cause, they would usually cower in their beds until dawn.

As time went by, the Ottos grew older and each, in turn, died, leaving the adult Gene – and Robert – to live in the house. They spent several years there alone until Gene ultimately met and married a local socialite and took her home to live.

From the moment she arrived, the creepy doll disturbed the new Mrs. Otto and eventually she prevailed upon her husband to put it away. Robert was relegated to rooms in the attic, where he was to remain – mostly – for the rest of Gene Otto’s life.

“Mostly,” because, according to the stories, Robert often left the attic on his own. There are several accounts by the servants and Mrs. Otto herself of Robert being seen darting up and down the attic stairs. Mrs. Otto was often troubled by the sound of the doll’s dancing feet tapping the attic floor above her, and one time was alarmed to hear the doll’s voice singing in the old nursery. Upon entering, she found the doll sitting in one of Gene’s old rocking chairs. When she confronted her husband about taking the doll from the attic when it disturbed her so, she was met with the obtuse statement, “Robert did it!” yet again.

It was widely believed that the death of Gene Otto in 1972 would put an end to the ghostly activity of the haunted doll. It was quickly learned, however, that true evil never dies, and while the house stood empty reports of the awful doll still continued. Many people would hear the sound of singing coming from the house at night and on more than one occasion the gruesome doll is said to have frightened school children by peering out the window in the attic turret and making faces at them.

Eventually, a new family purchased the old house and Robert the Doll was discovered in his attic home and was promptly presented to the family’s youngest daughter, then aged 10, as a housewarming gift.

From the moment she received the doll the child was plagued by horrible nightmares. More than once, she claims, she awoke to find the doll sitting on her face, attempting, she believed, to suffocate her. It seemed that Robert intensely disliked being left behind by Gene and had no love for his new “owner.” It was also painfully obvious that he did not like little girls because he is blamed for having torn up and mutilated most of the young girl’s other dolls. When the family pet became mysteriously entwined in the cord of the nursery Venetian blinds, Robert was once again consigned to the attic.

When the family finally moved and the home was converted into the Artist’s House historic location as it stands today, Robert was donated to The East Martello Museum not far away. It quickly became evident, however, that Robert was still up to his old tricks.

Mandy the Haunted Doll

Mandy the Haunted Doll lives at the Quesnel Museum, which is located on the Old Cariboo Gold Rush Trail in British Columbia. There she is just one of over thirty thousand artifacts on display for the public, but there is little doubt that she is the most unique.

Mandy was donated to the museum in 1991. At that time her clothing was dirty, her body was ripped and her head was full of cracks. At that time she was estimated to be over ninety years old. The saying around the museum is, “She may seem like an ordinary antique doll, but she is much more than that.”

The woman who donated Mandy, also called Mereanda, told the museum curator that she would wake up in the middle of the night hearing a baby crying from the basement. When she investigated, she would find a window near the doll open where it had previously been closed and the curtains blowing in the breeze. The donor later told the curator that after the doll was given to the museum, she was no longer disturbed by the sounds of a baby crying in the night.

Some say Mandy has unusual powers. Many speculate that the doll has acquired these powers over the years, but since little is known of the doll’s history nothing can be said for certain. What is certain is the unusual effect she seems to have on everyone around her.

As soon as Mandy arrived at the museum, staff and volunteers began to have weird and unexplainable experiences. Lunches would disappear from the refrigerator and later be found tucked away in a drawer; footsteps were heard when no one was around; pens, books, photos and many other small items would go missing – some were never found and some turned up later. The staff passed these events off as absent-mindedness, but this did not account for everything.

Since her permanent placement alone in a display case, there have been many stories about encounters with the haunted doll. One visitor was videotaping Mandy only to have the camera light go on and off every 5 seconds. When the visitor’s camera was turned on another exhibit, it functioned just fine. (It is interesting to note that the same thing often happens when visitors try to photograph Robert the Doll in his Key West museum home.)

Some visitors are very disturbed by the doll’s eyes, which they say appear to follow them around the room. Others claim to have seen the doll actually blink, and still others say they have seen the doll in one position and minutes later she will appear to have moved.

Although they’re used to it by now, museum staff and volunteers still prefer not to be the last one working or locking up the museum at the end of the day.

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