Lore (2017) s01e06 Episode Script

Unboxed

1 Just south of Mexico City, in the middle of the Xochimilco canals, is an island an island with a disturbing history.
Isla de Las Muñecas Island of the Dolls so named because, in the mid-1950s, a man named Julian Santana moved here.
He told some people he was abandoning his wife and child.
One day, after years of seclusion, Julian is said to have made a horrifying discovery the lifeless body of a drowned girl.
Nearby, he found something else a doll.
A precious possession she must have clutched in her final moments.
According to those who knew Don Julian, he believed the spirit of the girl began to haunt him a curse for leaving his family.
So he retrieved the doll and cared for it as if it were his child.
He hoped that this might appease the girl's ghost.
He began searching the banks of the river looking for more dolls.
Sometimes he would even sneak to the mainland to find them.
He hung these offerings to her everywhere.
For Don Julian, it seemed that they pleased her spirit.
As the dolls swayed in the wind, he believed she was playing with them.
He believed they were alive and protected him.
As a father myself, I know that children can grow tired of their toys.
Maybe that's what Don Julian came to believe That the spirit of the girl lost interest in her old dolls and wanted more and more new ones, dolls that, as he aged, he had trouble providing.
For the old man, the banks of the river became treacherous.
But still he had to feed the spirit's hunger until one day he may have sought out one doll too many.
Don Julian was found drowned in the same dark water where he'd discovered the girl all those years before.
To this day, there are more than 1,500 dolls hanging in the tropical sun.
I'm Aaron Mahnke, and this is Lore.
A doll can be a lot of things a guardian or the companion we'll always remember.
Let's play house.
She does talk! Like a real little girl! A toy we can't live without.
A trusted friend a confidant.
Yet it's not uncommon for people to feel uneasy around dolls.
Those glass eyes almost seem like they're staring right back at us which, is something we can blame our brains for.
They're hardwired to recognize faces.
But it doesn't always work out.
There's a concept in psychology known as the uncanny valley, where our minds instinctively reject human look-alikes that are almost but not quite perfectly accurate.
It has a way of setting off alarms within our basic instincts.
Despite that, we're still all too willing to project humanity upon objects, and in doing so, we give them control.
I love you.
But that's a dangerous game to play because sometimes, it seems, they refuse to give it back.
Thomas and Minnie Otto were natives of Key West, Florida, and in 1898, they completed building a new home, nestled there on Eaton Street.
They were a well-off and well-traveled couple who had a deep love for the arts.
And they had a young son named Robert Eugene Otto.
But everyone called him Gene.
Gene was quiet.
Some might say he was an odd child.
He kept to himself, and it was hard for Gene to make friends.
- the fingers.
- So delicate.
Gene! Never touch the art, Gene.
Do you understand me? Never touch it.
You have your own toys.
Go play with them.
A gift was mailed to Gene by Thomas' aunt Bridget, who was traveling overseas.
While in Germany, Aunt Bridget found the perfect present for her great-nephew.
It had been a window display and was larger than most dolls.
"Met this little sailor in a store window in Germany.
" "He said he'd be a good friend to Gene.
" The doll had an immediate hold on Gene.
He even named it AFTER HIMSELF: Robert.
Robert the doll.
Gene, take the doll away from the table.
Robert isn't hurting anyone.
How long do you intend to permit this childish behavior? As long as Robert likes the food we serve.
You know the neighbors all laugh about the Otto boy and his doll.
And did you write to Aunt Bridget again about what the neighbors might think? Wanting her advice over mine? No, I'm too ashamed to reply to her letters asking about him.
She's the one responsible for bringing it into this house.
Robert is Gene's friend.
If you spoke to your son, you'd know that doll might well be his only friend.
And you're fixing to take that away? Thomas, I thought you went to the office.
Thomas? Are you up here with Gene? Are you up here with Gene? I thought I heard your father.
Gene.
Gene, I told you to go to bed! Why would you do this to your toys? - I didn't.
- I am so sick of you being ugly to us, and the behavior and the lies.
Well, you won't get any new toys until you prove you can be responsible.
You did this, and you will suffer the consequences.
I didn't do it.
Robert did it.
Tell me, Eugene, how did the doll do this? Hmm? I can't keep help around this home for all the things you swear that Robert did.
Locking doors, making noises in dark rooms, scaring the housekeepers.
Now, I will not allow my son to make excuses.
Robert is a doll.
It isn't real.
Yes, he is.
Robert is real.
And he doesn't like it when you scold me.
Hi, Bergy! I'll give you two minutes to get dressed.
Remember, we're doing a show tonight.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1950, one of the biggest acts in vaudeville made its television debut.
Where's Charlie? We want to see Charlie McCarthy! Yeah, where is he? Broadcast across the country, Edgar Bergen introduced viewers to his alter ego Charlie McCarthy.
Why, you old rascal, you.
You just know all the gossip, don't you? No, no, no, no.
You keep on interrupting me, young man, and I may not finish this story.
Well, that's the best news we've had so far.
There was no doubt that Charlie had the upper hand.
That's what made them so popular.
But if you think about it, ventriloquism can also be a little bit unsettling.
Audiences in 19th century Europe and America were entertained but also unnerved by how a ventriloquist could give life to an inanimate object.
So it wasn't surprising that, for centuries, they were suspected of meddling with dark forces.
Some were even persecuted as witches.
Others were thought to be channeling the voices of the dead.
And the bond between man and doll was certainly uncanny.
Yeah, well, I hope you won't embarrass me like you did in Las Vegas.
What about Las Vegas? I thought I gave a very moving performance.
Yes, it was moving, all right.
Especially your lips.
Oh, no.
Edgar and Charlie went on to become the most popular ventriloquist act in America.
Sort of makes you want to give up show business, doesn't it? It wasn't until many years later that Edgar's daughter provided disturbing details from her childhood stories of how Edgar seemed to treat Charlie as her real sibling.
How Charlie was given a bedroom in the family home, a room that was larger than her own.
And how, when Edgar died in 1978, he left her nothing and $10,000 for the care of Charlie.
For what it's worth, that bizarre relationship did nothing to keep Edgar's daughter from pursuing her own career in entertainment.
His daughter is none other than film and television actress Candice Bergen.
Isn't she beautiful? Well, thank you, Charlie.
Just my luck she has to be my sister.
I must say, It's a nice surprise to have a visit from you, Aunt Bridget.
Um, if we'd known you were coming, I could have had a bedroom prepared.
And Thomas is always pleased to see his favorite aunt, as am I.
You've always had a talent for artificial politeness, dear.
I never had the stamina for it myself.
You know full well why it is I am here.
When I sent that doll, I hoped it would become a companion to Gene until he can find a real friend.
But it is clear that his relationship with that doll is keeping him from this, from maturing properly.
Corinthians tells us, "When I was a child, "I spake as a child, I understood as a child, "I thought as a child.
But when I became a man, I put away childish things.
" Gene is 8 years old.
He still is just a child.
That doll has had an unhealthy effect on Thomas' son, and you have simply allowed it to occur.
These new beliefs of the suffragette and their aversion to disciplining a child are of no help to Gene, not to mention no help to yourself as a wife to your husband.
It is a wife's duty to take care of her husband's affairs and raise his children to prepare for their proper stations in life.
Don't you agree, Thomas? All I wrote is that I believe it's time to put an end to this.
Since you both seem to have planned this conversation in full advance, what is it you would have me do? Tear the doll apart, thread from thread, so Gene will never have use of it again.
I I won't destroy something that my child loves with all his heart.
Very well, then.
We'll lock it away.
- Stop! - Honey, he'll be fine.
No! No, stop! I'm scared of the dark! No! Stop! Daddy, please stop! No, stop! What are you doing? No! Stop! Stop! Daddy, please stop! Stop! Stop! Stop, please! Good morning, Aunt Bridget.
Aunt Bridget? Uhh! When does a doll gain its power over us? What detail makes it come alive? Frances Glessner Lee was obsessed with breathing life into the dolls she created that is, until she killed them.
A fatal fall.
Body discovered by her husband.
Unfortunate accident or something else? An unhappy housewife, a gas oven.
But why bake a cake if you're planning to take your own life? Two bodies, blood-soaked sheets.
Murder-suicide or double murder? Lee was a wealthy heiress who turned her passion for dolls into an unlikely mission Teaching the art and science of forensic investigation.
In the 1940s, she created 18 meticulously detailed miniature crime scenes, each based on an actual case.
She called them the nutshell studies of unexplained death.
Lee used her money to establish the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard University, where she also taught.
Because it was difficult to get students to a fresh crime scene, Lee used her dolls to teach budding homicide investigators the importance of assessing even the most seemingly insignificant details clothing body position cause of death.
She crafted every clue with rigorous precision.
She even took great care to paint the faces in flesh tones that indicated how much time had elapsed since death.
Decades after she created them, Lee's dolls are still being used for training.
They're still asking us to solve the mysteries of death.
The reported cause of death for Thomas Otto's aunt is that she suffered a stroke.
But not everyone believed that explanation.
I'm going to ask you something, and I need you to be honest.
I won't be angry.
I just need to know the truth.
How did Robert get out of his box? He made me promise not to tell.
He is strong when you're not looking.
Since locking Robert in the attic resulted in violence, Minnie Otto did the only thing she could do to protect her son.
She sent him away.
He would spend the next years of his life in the Hargrove Institute, a boarding school for troubled children.
I love you.
You know that? I love you so very much.
Come on.
For Minnie, there was no question that losing Gene was all Robert's fault.
The way she saw it, a doll had taken her son from her.
But what if you never had to worry about losing your child? A reborn is a hyper-realistic doll that's coveted and cared for by adults, usually women.
A typical reborn is just a few days old, no more than a couple of months.
They look and feel just like real babies.
Many women have more than one.
Reborns aren't massed produced.
Each one is custom made by a doll maker who's just as passionate about the baby as the woman who will one day become its mother.
Many reborn artists order readily available body parts that they enhance to create the realism their customers are looking for.
The metamorphosis involves a painstaking process.
Every vein, freckle, rash, and scratch is a cue that inspires feelings of maternal connection.
The bond these women have with their reborns is real to them.
And some women want that bond to begin at birth.
Oh, my gosh.
Oh, that's so cool.
I want to get closer.
He's so cool! There's clearly something more at stake here than doll collecting.
These babies give the women who care for them something they're missing in their lives.
And that's fine, as long as you don't let your emotions get out of hand.
As a young man, Gene trained as an artist a painter, in fact and he traveled all over Europe.
His father Thomas died in 1917, leaving Minnie alone with Robert who was waiting, they say, for Gene's return.
Mother? Mother.
Mother.
It is so good to have you back in this home, Gene.
Mrs.
Minnie Otto, this is Anne.
Another Mrs.
Otto.
We, uh, were married in Europe.
Hello, Mrs.
Otto.
I've looked so forward to meeting you.
"Minnie" is fine.
Well, I am going to unpack the car.
We have so much to discuss.
Don't ever move into this house.
You did not know any better than to come here, but don't ever move here, not while he is here.
Have I offended you? No, no.
I I have offended Robert.
Did Did Gene tell you about Robert? The doll he had as a boy? The The little sailor? He hates me Robert.
But he will hate you even more because you have taken Gene from him.
You think I'm insane.
I thought I was once, the first time I saw him move.
And now he follows me across the floors, the walls, room to room, glaring, always glaring.
Maybe we should find Gene.
Listen, Robert hates me, but he couldn't get rid of me.
I was the reason Gene might return, but he doesn't need me anymore.
When I die, never move into this house.
Never let my son see that doll.
If you do, it will take him.
Swear it.
Listen to me.
Now that Gene is back, Robert doesn't need either of us.
The years spent alone in that house on Eaton Street were not easy on Minnie Otto.
Many believe it was Robert's constant presence that drove Gene's mother to madness and ultimately to her grave.
In spite of Minnie's warnings, Anne agreed to move in with Gene and Robert.
This is my General, General Washington.
Who are you gonna set up? Aah! Gene? Gene, help me! Ohh! If you love a doll deeply, the question is, can it love you back? Anatoly Moskvin would say that it can.
Moskvin, a man fluent in 13 languages, was a historian of Russian cemeteries.
He spent his days and nights exploring graveyards.
His interests were both professional and strangely personal.
At home, Anatoly collected dolls.
Small porcelain ones.
And, in 2011, as police would soon discover, 26 life-sized dolls.
He dressed them, read to them, had tea with them, and placed music boxes inside their hollow chests.
His dolls, you see, were something more.
For ten years, Anatoly stole corpses.
He dug them up from the mud and clay and took them home.
They became his companions, his friends.
When he was eventually apprehended, Moskvin was asked by a judge to explain what he'd done and why.
Anatoly is said to have replied, "You abandoned your girls in the cold, and I brought them home and warmed them up.
" He was certain, you see, that someday his dolls would come back to life and be his friends.
I managed to convince Robert to forgive you for last night's indiscretion.
Now sit.
Robert spent the next several decades in the Otto home.
Over the years, neighbors would claim to see Robert looking out the window.
He gained a reputation, one that outlived Gene.
Hey, guys.
Really excited to be here today.
I'm standing in front of the Robert the Doll house.
And up the top there, that, you can see the little attic.
That's where they kept Robert.
The attic is where the next owners of the Otto house encountered Robert.
They too, it seems, were haunted by his presence.
They chose to send Robert away, donating him to a museum in Key West.
I'm looking for Robert the Doll.
The haunted urban legend of Robert the Doll lies in this museum.
People come here on a kind of pilgrimage.
They love to write letters and take pictures of Robert.
And if you go, you may want to do the same.
But before you do, there's something you should know.
I'm standing in the East Martello Museum, and right out of frame is Robert the Doll, but you can't photograph him without asking permission, so I'm gonna try and give it a shot here.
Just get me asking permission.
Can we please take your photo, Robert the Doll? They say if you don't get his permission, Robert will get angry and do bad things to you.
Robert remains in the museum to this day, not nailed into a crate but behind glass.
He continues to haunt us.
It's his story that gives him that power.
It's believing in him that keeps him alive.