Friday, March 22, 2013

The Mythical History of Fort East Martello in Key West Florida

If you are in search of a historical get-a-way with a little bit of mystery you might want to visit Fort East Martello in Key West Florida. The old fort is located right next to the airport so you cannot miss it on either your way in or your way out.  It is both educational and thought provoking. Families can enjoy teaching their children about the history of the Civil War as well as the freakish nature of the Chucky Doll. If this hasn’t scared them into your arms then you might want to read some of the spooky letters of customers who did not believe! 

During the civil war Fort East Martello was designed as additional protection for the Key West Island. Construction began in 1862 but was halted and eventually abandoned by the U.S. Army at the end of the Civil War. Not a single battle was won or fought in the West Keys region throughout the entire era of this conflict. It remained a place of teenage fun and partying until the Historical Society adopted the fort in the 1950s. Through both local and national donations they were able to clean up, restore and open to the public a little piece of history and wonderment. 

Within the museum visitors will see a variety of wooden art pieces by Mario Sanchez and metal works by Stanley Papio. Displays also include the history of the Island, WWI, WWII, The Spanish-American War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Cannons still face the water as if to protect the fort from the onslaught of present day skidoos, surfers, and wind sailors. The site also hosts a gift shop with the local writings from Ernest Hemmingway, Key West history, Ghost Stories and other historical tid bits. 

Walking into the gallery one gets the sense that history is not so far in the past. From the dust covered floors, the eerie walkways, and the horse drawn hearse you become aware that this is a place of mystery. Among the relics of the Union Army is the knowledge that two swaths of yellow fever and a devastating hurricane slowed the construction of the fort. Carpenters changed effort from building the military instillation to building coffins for solders who suffocated under muggy hot weather.  The fort was never completed and became a lost cause.  

The abandonment of the fort is part of the haunted legend of the area. Some say that new exploding cannonballs made the fort useless as a military instillation. Others indicated that the fevers, death and setbacks were part of the haunted history of a project that ended in disaster. Whatever the reason the fort was abandoned it is seen today as a remarkable piece of military history and local historical legend. 

One of the mystical stories of Fort Martello remains encapsulated with Robert the Doll. As the legend states, a young Haitian girl made the straw doll for Robert Otto. As a boy, Robert had a natural inclination for mischief making and boyish trouble. When he was caught he would say, “Robert did it!” and point to the doll.  The saying was adopted throughout the Key West area as a way of skirting responsibility.  If there is no one to blame- it must have been Robert!

Further legend indicates that Robert the Doll was made with Haitian voodoo magic and can cause all types of havoc in people’s lives. This doll was further characterized into the modern movie starring Chucky from Child’s Play that has frightened an entire generation. The doll took on the personality of his ill-tempered owner Robert Otto and spreads this evil spirit into other’s lives. 

Before being relocated to the museum Robert Otto placed the doll in the attic and forgot about it until his death.  At such time neighbors began to recall an “evil giggle”, followed by a rustling noise, coming from the attic. A few have even witnessed the doll peering down from the window in the darkest hours of the night. Today letters flood the museum, posted on its wall, asking Robert for forgiveness as their lives and relationships have been ruined after failing to ask permission to take his picture. 

The battery and center tower are a great place to look out over the bay. There is no wonder why the military chose this spot as an ideal location to build an instillation to protect the local islands. Inside each of the rooms are large fireplaces still blackened from the fires of the original military inhabitants. Parts of the fort have crumbled away but have only succeeded in improving its overall charm. It is worth the $7 admissions and the hour you spend exploring the past. 
Robert the Doll-The inspiration for Chucky in Child's Play

I can’t remember if you were supposed to ask for permission to TAKE the picture or LOOK at the picture? Oops…I guess I should have mentioned that earlier. 

3501 S. Roosevelt Blvd.
Key West, Florida 33040
1 (305) 296-3913

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