Thursday, May 21, 2015

Haunted Doll: Robert

The story that surrounds this doll is scary. Multiple witnesses have stated Robert can move about on his own, change expressions and eerily giggle.

So is any of this true? Witness reports about this doll’s behavior appears to be authentic--even though in some cases it is exaggerated.

This large doll that eventually would be named after its owner is a one-of-a-kind handcrafted piece made at the turn of the 20th century. It is stuffed with a wood wool known as excelsior. Robert wears a sailor suit and at one time had a painted face similar to a jester.

Robert (Gene) Eugene Otto
A disgruntled servant--who supposedly practiced voodoo--gave Robert Eugene Otto this doll in 1906. As a boy, Gene considered Robert his best friend.

It wasn’t long after the doll was in the Otto mansion in Key West, Florida before strange things began to occur. 

Neighbors reported seeing this doll move from one window to another in the turret room. Other neighbors claimed they heard the doll giggle maniacally.

Guests that visited the home told the family they saw the doll blink and even change expression.

Strange stories about the doll became commonplace.

Otto Mansion in Key West
One night the family awoke to Gene’s screams. They rushed to his room to find it in disarray. Most of the rooms’ furniture was strewn about. Gene pointed to the doll and shouted, “He did it!”

After this, whenever Gene was caught misbehaving he would accuse Robert. Since, many have speculated that the doll absorbed all of Gene’s emotional turmoil as he grew up.

An exaggerated account states that Gene’s other toys were often found mutilated.

Despite these odd occurrences Gene kept the doll until his death in 1974. Myrtle Reuter purchased the home after Gene’s death. The doll was kept in the attic.

Several tenants that lived in the home during this time reported hearing footsteps on the floor above them. One plumber that was called in stated he heard giggling and turned to find the doll had moved across the room.

A Solares Hill newspaper reporter, Malcolm Ross visited the home.

“. . . At first when we walked through the attic door, the look on his face was like a little boy being punished. It was if he was asking himself, who are these people in my room and what are they going to do to me?”

As the small group talked about the doll’s back story Malcolm noticed that Robert’s expression changed--it was as if he was following our conversation.

One of the group mentioned that Gene Otto must have been an old fool at which point the doll’s expression changed to distain.

“There was some kind of intelligence there. The doll was listening to us.”

After owning the doll and the Otto mansion for 6 years Myrtle Reuter moved. She donated the doll to the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West Florida. She told the staff the doll moved around her house on its own and was haunted.

Another exaggerated account states a ten-year old girl owned Robert after Gene’s death. She supposedly stated 30 years later she was convinced the doll was alive and was going to kill her.

Robert remains active. After his arrival at the museum staff noticed a different more intense energy in the building.

Once Robert was placed on display visitors knowing the doll’s history flocked to this museum to see him.

In display case with
letters in background
begging for forgiveness.

Others unaware were shocked to see if they treated him with disrespect that their camera’s and electronic devises malfunctioned while near the doll’s display case.

Now, the museums’ staff was surprised by a barrage of letters from former visitors that apologized for their disrespectful behavior and asked for forgiveness. These letters continue to arrive on a regular basis.

Ghost hunters and psychics wonder what causes the strange activity.

Is Robert the result of a voodoo curse? Is he the product of all the evil energy once placed upon him?

Another expression
In contrast, could he be just a misunderstood playful spirit.

Some wonder if the spirit of Gene, his life-long companion, might be with him still.

Despite all this speculation the activity that surrounds this doll remains a mystery.

Superstitions Shared in Children’s Poetry

Superstitions were placed in poems so they could easily be remembered. The format used most often for this was children’s rhymes.

A classic example of this is the children’s nursery rhyme, One For Sorrow. Rhymes were used because they could also be sung.

In this rhyme the number of magpies one sees was used to determine how much good or bad luck a person will experience. The use of the magpie is significant because in many cultures this bird was considered an ill omen.

In America where magpies are less common, jackdaws, crows and Corvidae were associated with this poem.

One of the earliest versions of this rhyme was recorded around 1780 in Lincolnshire:

One for sorrow,
Two for mirth,
Three for a wedding,
And four for death.

Another early version that expanded this theme was from London in 1846:

Counting Crows (title in America)

One for sorrow,
Two for luck; (or mirth)
Three for a wedding,
Four for death; (or birth)
Five for silver,
Six for gold;
Seven for a secret,
Not to be told;
Eight for heaven,
Nine for hell
And ten for the d(evil)’s own sell!

A more modern and common version is:

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told.

Another old superstition is if your ears itch someone is talking about you.

“If your right ear itches, someone is speaking well of you and if your left ear itches, someone is speaking ill of you.”

More modern version:

“If your ears are ringing, someone’s talking about you.”

This superstition was first mentioned in Pliny’s “Natural History” encyclopedia over 2000 years ago.

In Janet S. Wongs book, Knock on Wood she shares poems about classic superstitions for children that address black cats, garlic, horseshoes, ladders, clover, salt and mirrors etc.

Here is her poem about ears itching.


Your right ear itches? Let it be.
Someone talks about you now,
how kind you are, smart, how good.
Let it be, let songs be sung.

Your left ear itches? Pinch it quick.
Someone talks about you now,
how mean you are, dumb, how bad.
Pinch it, let him bite his tongue.

Wong’s book can be bought on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Carmel Mission: The Mysterious Tripping Stone

It is said that the unseen spirit of Father Junipero Serra haunts one of California’s old Spanish Missions.

Father Junipero Serra
Father Serra arrived in the California colony in 1768 and quickly became one of its prominent citizens. The King of Spain decided the only way for his country to retain its claim to California was to establish missions and presidios--military posts.

Father Serra was appointed padre-presidente or father president and was assigned to oversee all 21 missions.

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Rio Carmelo was established in 1770 and the Father made this location his headquarters from 1770-1784.

Carmel Mission

When Father Serra died he was buried beneath the sanctuary floor in front of the altar at Mission San Carlos.

In 1833, when the Mexican Congress decreed that all the California missions were to be secularized the mission at Carmel was closed in 1834. Its Indian laborers no longer bound by law left.

The mission was then abandoned for half a century. By 1851 all that was left of the mission’s church was its 5-foot-thick walls-- its shingled roof had collapsed leaving rubble in its sanctuary.

It was at this time the mystery of the “tripping stone” began. In the 1860s a visitor--most likely looking for something to steal--suddenly tripped as he approached the churches’ altar. He slammed down to his knees facing the altar--a position he would never had voluntarily taken.

After this incident, it was whispered that this was not an accident. Over time a pattern became apparent.

Even though the stone floor of the sanctuary is even and smooth casual visitors to the church began to trip and fall to their knees facing the altar. They fall directly atop Father Serra’s resting place.

People began to believe the Father’s spirit was causing this. The reason for this belief was based upon the fact that casual visitors to the church did not show proper reverence to the environment so they were always the ones that tripped.

Mission San Carlos today.

Even after the Carmel Mission was restored in 1880 this phenomenon continued to occur.

Pews and altar.
Today tourists who walk into the church and do not show respect, trip and fall hard. They find themselves on their knees in front of the altar. Because of this people are warned to stay clear of Father Serra’s grave.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Seattle’s Pike’s Place Market, Part ll

Most tourists do not know that Pike’s Place Market is haunted.

Over the years many witnesses have seen an old lady--most often on the lower level. She appears so real that many witnesses do not figure out they have seen a ghost until afterward.

It is said this ghost was the eldest daughter of Chief Sealth--which through misspellings and mispronunciations became “Seattle.”  Her Duwamish name was Kikisoblu but the early Anglo settlers in the area named her Princess Angeline.

In 1855, the Treaty of Point Elliot required the Duwamish leave their land for a reservation. Princess Angeline ignored the order and stayed in Seattle.

She lived in a waterfront shack where the market sits today. She survived by taking in laundry and selling hand woven baskets along the street.

Princess Angeline's shack.
Photo: Edward Curtis

She was a well-known figure in the city. She walked bent over with a cane. She always wore a handkerchief on her head and a shawl around her shoulders.

Princess Angeline
Photo: Edward Curtis
One reason it is known what she looked like is a young photographer at the time--Edward Curtis took many pictures of her.

When Princess Angeline died at the age of 84 in 1896 the citizens of Seattle gave her a big funeral. She was buried in a casket that was made to look like a canoe.

Her ghost has haunted the Market for decades. She appears so life like most witnesses at first are just taken aback by the sight of this odd old woman.

In Leslie Rule’s book entitled, Ghosts Among Us she tells a story about one of her friends when she was a teen growing up in Seattle. Her friends and her often rode the bus downtown and hung out in the market in the 1970s--this was when it was still a hippie hang out.

One day one of her friends went to the Market alone, while there she saw a sight that upset her. She saw an old woman she described as being a Native American.

This woman stared at her with piercing eyes that sent a chill down her spine. She was extremely old, toothless and wore a shawl. A smell of decay clung to her.

She muttered something, which the teen could not understand. She told Rule later that she wondered if this old lady was an evil witch that cast a spell on her. Rule’s friend was so frightened she has never gone back to the market.

Several years later when Rule heard other stories about Princess Angeline she wondered if this was the odd lady her friend saw.

In recent years, one shop owner on the lower level who sales beads saw an older woman dressed strangly in her store looking at beads in the back. When she approached this woman to ask if she needed assistance she disappeared.

She made inquiries and heard the story about Princess Angeline’s ghost. She has continued to see her ghost in her shop--she is now more comfortable with this sight. The owner states the ghost always checks out her beads in the back--then she fades away.

One day the shop owner saw her walk right through the back wall.

Most witnesses state the Princess moves slowly. Some state she even glows--in shades of lavender, blue and pink.

Other witnesses have seen a young Native American boy walking with her. The shop owner of the bead store has seen this ghost as well.

Lower levels where ghost has been seen.
It is said her ghost is felt near a central wooden column in the lower level. This area is always cold and several people who have taken pictures in this area have discovered anomalies in their photos.

In Part l of Seattle’s Pike’s Place Market the history of this historic market is shared.