I am a skeptic when it comes to “ghost stories” but I am also open-minded. I’m not going to ignore something smashing me in the face, but I’m also not going to believe anything because it’s a compelling tale.
Florida has some good ghost tales, and this time of year I have a talk about some of them I give to various groups. Yesterday I gave that talk at OLLI, and I was joking around about some of the stories, including this one about Robert the Doll.
I use Keynote on an iPad Pro for all my talks, connecting to the projector either with HDMI or Apple TV, and this works out well. I silence the iPad for the talk, but it’s never been an issue because whenever I get a call/text/alert during a talk, I can see the alert on the iPad itself but it doesn’t appear on the projected screen. Yesterday was no different — I’d been in this room before with the exact same setup and equipment.
As I researched this legend, I found more than one story about how those who try and photograph Robert without permission either don’t get a good photo or the camera/camera phone fails — electronic failure is one of his hallmarks. And I was about to say this during the talk, my iPad rang. As in, the class heard it because the ring went through the HDMI and out to the speakers. I found it disarming, to say the least, but I laughed it off and then checked to make sure the volume on the iPad was off (it was all the way down, yes).
And then it rang again — again, disrupting the presentation and now freaking me out a bit. I put the iPad in “airplane mode” and laugh it off, telling the group that I’d done so and that if it range again, I was leaving. We all had a good laugh.
It’s important to note I poke at Robert’s owner a bit in the story, too — something legend says you shouldn’t do in the presence of the doll, because people report that his expression changes and seems “displeased” when people make fun of the man who owned him. But Robert’s in Key West and I’m in St. Pete giving this talk, so really, I’m in the clear, right?
Last night I was telling Sandi and Nicole this story, because in truth it’s a little creepy but also sort of funny. And my hair kind of stood on end while I told the story I told you, but I chalked that up to having an incredibly long day — fatigue makes anyone susceptible to things, right? While I told them, my phone was right next to me, and I went to bed, plugged it into the charger, and thought nothing of it.
This morning my iPhone is dead. As in, paperweight dead. I’ve done everything I can think of to get it to turn on, but nope, nada, zilch.
I’m not saying it’s Robert, but at this point I’m not willing to say it isn’t, either.
This article appeared in the October 27, 2016 issue of Creative Loafing Tampa.
My Cedar Key ghost story happened 20 years ago. While contentedly exploring the island, I happened upon a cemetery and, with a macabre excitement, busied myself going from tombstone to tombstone when this old green Ford Thunderbird convertible drove through the cemetery and then disappeared. I couldn’t find a drive or path where it would have turned off, but it was gone nonetheless.
Alcohol was not involved.
Today I know that I had too much city in me to find the turnoff — I was young and I expected drives to have clear markings, I suppose. Pretty sure I saw a good ol’ boy and not a ghost, but if I said I had seen a ghost, there’d be no shortage of people to assure me I had. See, every culture, regardless of how much contact it has with other cultures, has three things: mermaids, Bigfoots and ghosts. Cedar Key is no exception. Do I believe they’re true? As with mermaids and Bigfoots, let’s leave it at this: I want to believe.
My skepticism doesn’t make the re-telling of the ghost stories any more fun and Cedar Key — a tiny outpost a couple hours north of Tampa Bay in Levy County — has awesome legends: Murder, pirates and ghost dogs. Let’s break down the three most popular.