Written by: Troy Gross
It’s official: Cult of Chucky will be released this year. The doll that became responsible for an incalculable amount of nightmares among children (and many adults, for that matter) is back with sinister intentions. Chucky has a unique place among slashers; he is not a massive, intimidating figure such as Jason Voorhees or Leatherface, nor is he capable of physically stalking his victims like Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. Rather, Chucky is known for his twisted wit, ability to deceive everyone around him, and overall creepiness. The idea of a doll (and a hideous one at that) coming to life and murdering unsuspecting people was terrifying when Child’s Play was first released, and it remains terrifying to this very day. But where did this idea come from? Many famous slashers have back stories that are based on true events, such as Ed Gein inspiring the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. Most people are generally unaware that the Child’s Play franchise has its’ place in the nonfictional world as well. While the thought of a doll coming to life and victimizing a family may sound like nothing but a made up campfire story, the historic events that inspired Child’s Play may in fact be more haunting than Chucky himself.
A century ago, a young boy living in Key West named Eugene Otto was given a doll made by one of his family’s abused servants. Unfortunately for Eugene, it has been said that the woman who was mistreated by his parents was an expert at voodoo, and before leaving, she gave Eugene what came to be known as “Robert the doll.” Standing at three feet tall and dressed like a naval officer, Robert the doll became one of the most haunting real life stories ever accounted for.
At first, it seemed like Robert was just like any other doll a child would play with (aside from being much uglier). However, shortly after Robert came into the lives of the Otto family, bizarre events began happening. On multiple occasions, Eugene’s parents could hear him talking to Robert, and actually hear Robert answer back in a distinctly different voice. There were also many times where Eugene’s parents would awake to his screams, only to walk into his room to see Robert in strange positions with furniture and other items knocked over, and Eugene blaming Robert. Perhaps the most frightening part of this entire story centers on various neighbors of the Otto family reporting they saw Robert walking around the house and staring at them through windows when the family wasn’t home.
As if this wasn’t creepy enough, Robert didn’t stop terrorizing people once Eugene grew up. When he got older and his parents eventually passed away, he stayed in the house with his wife. Despite his wishes, Eugene was forced to keep Robert locked in the attic because his wife was frightened by him (and rightly so). However, on multiple occasions, Eugene would find Robert in a rocking chair downstairs despite the attic being completely sealed. People who visited the home also reported that they heard laughing and footsteps upstairs while Eugene and his wife were standing right in front of them, and they were known for a fact to be the only ones living there. Unfortunately, Eugene was not the only person Robert would terrorize. After Eugene Otto passed away, a new, unnamed family moved into the house. Shortly after living there, this family’s ten year old daughter began experiencing the same things Eugene did when he was a child. The ten year old girl is now an adult woman and still swears by these adolescent assertions.
Over one hundred years after he was created, Robert the doll is now located in the Key West Martello Museum. Encased in a glass box, many tourists claim that he has shifted positions and even blinked at them while they were getting ready to snap a photo.
Now, rewind back to 1988 when Don Mancini’s Child’s Play was officially released. Try to remember those nightmares that Chucky gave us, and what did our parents always say? “It’s just make believe, it’s not real.” Most of the time that is completely true. However, when we dig into stories like the one of Eugene Otto and his doll Robert, perhaps not all of our fear surrounding Chucky was unmerited.