5 Local Urban Legends You Need to Know
Robert the Doll, Key West
Fifty miles south of here, a hand-made doll more than a century old has been making a name for himself. Young Gene Otto loved his doll Robert so much, it seems, the doll came to life, following the plot of The Velveteen Rabbit.
Little Gene took Robert with him everywhere and loved him dearly, even dressing him in his outgrown sailor. Even early on, the doll was said to giggle, move, and generally creep out everyone who came into contact with it.
A lot has changed for Robert, these days. He moved. He has aged, and he lost his beloved owner. Gene Otto passed away in 1974, leaving his beloved doll in his childhood home with the furniture he fashioned for him. The new owner did her best to accommodate Robert. But the one thing that remained the same with the doll, his creepy vibe, led the new owner of the house to donate him to the East Martello Museum where he remains today, where you can visit him in person, if you dare. If not, just write him a letter. Apparently lots of people give Robert written love, as he receives more mail than we likely do.
Carysfort Reef Light House, Key Largo
Our northernmost Keys neighbor, Key Largo, is home to a ghost story of its own. The tale begins in the mid 1800’s when the lighthouse keeper, Captain Johnson, is said to have passed away inside the lighthouse. Captain Johnson apparently did not want to leave the comfy confides of the lighthouse, though, and for well over a century, people claimed to have heard screeching and moaning sounds when they were in and around the structure.
Naysayers claim that the noises are simply the metal in the lighthouse as it heats and cools but what fun is a plausible explanation? We’ll stick with good ‘ole Captain Johnson haunting his old home.
Big Mo, Bahia Honda
The Florida Keys are famous for the fishing but one particular fish may be the most famous of all. “Big Mo” is the name given to a hammerhead shark alleged to cruise under the Bahia Honda Bridge. Mo’s size has been said to top 18 feet in length and some of the saltiest fishermen around claim his eyes are the size of baseballs.
Of course, fishermen are known for exaggerating the size of their catch, but Mo’s existence is backed up by countless fishermen unlucky enough to experience her (Mo is actually believed to be female) when she was hangry. Mo had the rude habit of taking a 200 pound tarpon struggling on the line of a fisherman and snacking on all but the head, fish heads being less-than-appetizing, of course.
While it is believed the O.G. Big Mo is long gone, her offspring are said to have taken residence in the channel under the Bahia Bridge, and they inherited both Mo’s size and hunger. So next time you’re headed home from Key West or Big Pine and you’re passing over the Bahia Honda Bridge, give a honk to old Mo, and, perhaps, a warning to the happy yet unknowing beach-goers frolicking on the sands of Loggerhead Beach at Bahia Honda State Park, just yards from a danger they may (hopefully) never know.
Phantom Train, Tavernier
In 1935, the most intense hurricane ever to strike the United States hit the upper Florida Keys with an intensity we have thankfully never seen since. Hundreds of men working on the Florida East Coast Railway were trapped on the tiny island chain.
A relief train was sent down the tracks to save the workers, but due to a series of unfortunate events, the train was delayed extensively. By the time the train was boarded and headed north and away from the catastrophic storm, it was too late. The train was flooded and eventually swept off the tracks, and the waters carried away many of the stranded workers, never to be seen again.
Legend has it, both the train and the men who perished aboard it can be heard screaming out at sea late at night, their spirits crying out for help that never arrived.
Messy, Marathon High School
Our final Keys-related urban legend takes place right here at Marathon High School. Rumor has it there is a beast, possibly amphibious, definitely mysterious, roaming the Eastern side of our campus. The legend took root when a group of students was releasing a fruit bat caught in the high school. A middle school student brought a bat to Mrs. McDonald who placed it in a box and was told to release it into the mangroves. Several video production students thought it would be fun to film the event.
When the box was opened, the bat stayed put, and while the students were busy trying to shake it out, there was a ruckus in the drainage ditch constructed when the new field complex was built. The commotion started with splashing followed by what could only be described as plopping noises and then loud rustling in the mangroves.
The students didn’t stick around to find out what all of the commotion was, but Sawyer Bisson claimed to get a glimpse of the creature which allegedly made the noise. Sawyer sat down with our resident graphic artist, Sarah Gomez, to make a composite image of what he claimed to see.
Since that day, several other instances of unusual noises and atypical events have been reported from that general area. So many unusual “sightings” have occurred, in fact, that the alleged creature has been named. A combination of Nessie, the mythical creature said to frequent Loch Ness in Scotland with an M for Marathon was chosen. Thus, the legend of Messy was born.