East Martello Museum, Key West, FL

Haunted Museum in Key West: East Martello Museum

In a past life, the East Martello Museum was a military fort, but today it is home to a rather odd museum with bizarre and even some haunted exhibits and residents. The exhibits cover a good range of Key West history through historic artifacts, local art, and eerie stories and legends. The fort itself was built in 1862 and was used during the Civil War to assist in protecting the island against the Confederate Army. After the war ended, the fort was abandoned until the 1950’s when volunteers cleaned up the fort to open it as a museum.

East Martello Museum, Key West, FL

You can take a self guided tour of the museum by day, or join a ghost tour to get your spooky fix by night. The ghost tours in Key West spend a significant amount of time at the museum as there is said to be such a large presence of ghosts at East Martello, and it is also home to the famous Robert the Doll. If you choose to enjoy the museum on your own during the day, you will be presented with a small brochure with information on the museum.

There is only one area throughout the entire building that is air-conditioned, so on hot days you may want to start and end your visit in the basement area viewing art that was created by local artists.

East Martello Museum, Key West, FL

East Martello Museum, Key West, FL

The remainder of the museum is in the fort, the tower and in the yard outside. In these areas you will see war-era relics, displays documenting the island’s history, folk art, and scrap metal sculptures.

East Martello Museum, Key West, FL

East Martello Museum, Key West, FL

East Martello Museum, Key West, FL

East Martello Museum, Key West, FL

One of the strangest exhibits in the East Martello Fort is the true story about local Key West Resident, Dr. Van Cosel, who fell in love with a beautiful young woman, Elena, who came in as a patient. She ended up dying 3 months later, but Dr. Van Cosel had already become obsessed with Elena. After quitting his job, he spent a large amount of his time at the mausoleum he built at the cemetery for Elena. Eventually, one night, he took her body home with him in hopes to bring her back to life. He lived with her in his house for 7-8 years before his secret came out. Even stranger yet, because of the high level of public interest in the case, her body was put on display in a funeral home before finally being put to rest for good in a secret grave.

East Martello Museum, Key West, FL

The main attraction of the museum is the legendary Robert the Doll who is rumored to have been a victim of voodoo spells. Robert is a handmade doll dressed in a sailor suit, and was built for Robert Eugene Otto, or Gene as people called him. When Gene was a child, he thought of Robert as his best friend, but he would always blame Robert for anything that he did wrong himself. Gene would always say, “I didn’t do it. Robert did it.” When Gene grew older, he became an artist and helped design the Fort East Martello Museum. He also wanted to turn his home into a museum, the house that is now The Artist House on Fleming, but that dream never came to fruition and it is now a bed and breakfast. We recently stayed at this bed and breakfast, but at the time had no idea of its connection to the haunted doll. Anyways, legend has it, you need to ask Robert for permission before you take his photo. If you fail to ask for permission, your camera will mysteriously fail and break, or as some would say, “Robert did it.” Behind the doll in the museum is a wall filled with letters people have written to apologize to Robert because they didn’t ask for permission to photograph him and their camera broke shortly after. And yes, I may have asked Robert for permission to take his photo–I couldn’t take the risk of loosing all my photos! Robert has been the focus of TV shows, articles and tours for years and is the main reason many people visit the museum.

East Martello Museum, Key West, FL

East Martello Museum, Key West, FL

If you do decide to visit the East Martello Museum, don’t expect a wildly exciting time as it is small and odd, but if you go with the intent of hearing bizarre stories and want to learn about the islands history, you will have an enjoyable time. I’m glad I finally got to meet Robert!

Have you ever visited a haunted musuem?

 

14 Comments
  • Angela
    Twitter:
    Posted at 13:22h, 17 October Reply

    I have given ghost tours for a local charity in high school on different “hauntings” in the town I grew up in. Even though I vaguely remember the stories, it is always fun to learn history through ghost stories.
    Angela recently posted…Giant’s Causeway and Cliffs of MoherMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 17:29h, 20 October Reply

      Oh how fun! It would be fun to give ghost tours–sounds like a fun way to be a part of a charity. I always enjoy the history part too–so many interesting stories!

  • Jeff
    Twitter:
    Posted at 22:35h, 21 October Reply

    I visited Key West many times when I lived in Florida but never went there. Looks like an interesting place.
    Jeff recently posted…The Preferred Seat ScamMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 23:40h, 21 October Reply

      It was definitely interesting even though it was pretty strange, lol! I was glad to finally make it there.

  • Charli
    Twitter:
    Posted at 23:15h, 21 October Reply

    Looks like a really curious place! I’m never sure whether or not I believe in ghost stories but I do love to hear about them. Great post Jenna!
    Charli recently posted…Gear Guide | Zero Drop Barefoot HikingMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 23:41h, 21 October Reply

      Thanks, Charli! I’m totally with you on that–I have a hard time believing them, but I do love to hear the stories.

  • Phoebe (Short Road to Happy)
    Twitter:
    Posted at 05:50h, 22 October Reply

    What a cool place! Love the pictures!!

  • Kimmy
    Twitter:
    Posted at 13:46h, 24 October Reply

    I was thinking of checking out this museum until I read about that doll. Never mind. There is no way I need to go some place with a possessed doll. I wouldn’t want to take a chance of whatever is in that doll attaching to me or anyone else I was with. Terrifying!
    Kimmy recently posted…A Day in the Columbia Gorge, Oregon- Part 1My Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:48h, 25 October Reply

      Haha, I don’t blame you! It was a slightly terrifying place 🙂 Thankfully, we didn’t take anything back with us…or so I hope!

  • Meagan
    Twitter:
    Posted at 22:16h, 27 October Reply

    That looks so cool! I love all things haunted, but I have a strange fear of ghosts. I’m not sure how that works. And I’m with Kimmy. Possessed dolls give me the creeps.
    Meagan recently posted…9 Things To Do In Namhae, South KoreaMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:33h, 30 October Reply

      Lol, it probably makes the haunted stuff more exciting at least, right?! And yeah, I’m not so much for possessed dolls either–hope he didn’t latch on to us, haha–“he” did comment on my Instagram pic though, which was a slightly freaky notification to get!

  • Bret
    Twitter:
    Posted at 23:11h, 27 October Reply

    Man, I love me some ghost tours! I’ve done a few, but my favorite was in Edinburgh, Scotland. Really enjoying your Key West series. I’ve only made it as far south as Duck Key, but am hoping to go back and visit with my kiddo in the next year or two. I want to dive John Pennekamp State Park!
    Bret recently posted…“You’re Not Good Enough” & Other LiesMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:35h, 30 October Reply

      Thanks, Bret–appreciate it! Hope you can make it down there soon 🙂 Edinburgh would be a fun spot to do a ghost tour–sounds like they would have lots of interesting history!

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