Home » Is Child’s Play Based on a True Story? The Answer Might Surprise You.

Is Child’s Play Based on a True Story? The Answer Might Surprise You.

Child’s play true story

Is Child’s Play based on a true story? No. But that hasn’t stopped people from making a connection between the film and a notorious doll. A rumor that still seems to be making the rounds is that the killer doll Chucky from Child’s Play was inspired by an infamous haunted toy called Robert the Doll. A quick Google search pulls up at least a dozen articles claiming this as fact, or it is mentioned casually in other articles about the doll itself. The only problem is that said claims are entirely false. Child’s Play is not based on a true story.  It’s hard to tell when exactly this rumor started. But it is possible to see where people made the connection; both stories contain an element of voodoo, but it’s time to set the record straight on Chucky’s true origins.

Did You Know? Wicked Horror TV Has Classic and Independent Horror Films Available to Stream for Free!

Child’s Play True Story

Child’s Play Was Not Based on a True Story, but Robert the Doll is Often Mistakenly Credited as an Inspiration. 

Robert the Doll was the property of Robert Eugene Otto, known as Gene, an artist from Key West, Florida. He was given the doll in 1904, and maintained an oddly close relationship with it into his adulthood. Robert was 3 feet tall, made of straw, had human hair, and wore a sailor outfit. Gene named Robert after himself and took the doll everywhere he went. Their relationship turned sinister when Gene started blaming various acts on the doll. When things would get thrown around a room or other toys of Gene’s would be mutilated, the boy would claim, “I didn’t do it! Robert did!” His parents would hear Gene talking to Robert, and giggling. A part of Robert’s folklore is that he was given to Gene by a Bahamian or Haitian servant who put a voodoo curse on the doll as revenge for her mistreatment by Gene’s parents.

In 1994, Robert was donated to the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, where he currently resides in a glass case and seems to continue his reign of terror. Visitors and staff claim to have seen the doll move or change facial expression. It is said that anyone who takes a picture of the doll without first asking for Robert’s permission is then cursed by him, and the museum receives many letters from visitors apologizing to Robert for “disrespecting” him.

Admittedly, that’s a cool story. And some of the elements do sound a little bit like what we see in the first Child’s Play film. One of the movie’s best scenes starts with Karen Barclay overhearing her son Andy speaking to someone in  his room, and finding out that he is speaking to Chucky. And, obviously, Charles Lee Ray was able to transfer his soul into the doll through the use of voodoo. But that’s really where the similarities end, and the belief that Child’s Play is based on Robert the Doll is pure assumption. So let’s get down to the real inspiration for Chucky.

Here are the Actual Themes and Concepts that Inspired Child’s Play

Don Mancini wrote the original script for what would eventually become Child’s Play, and currently holds the reigns on the original franchise, having written all the films and directed the last three. He was a junior at UCLA in the mid-80s when Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage in the consumer market. Growing up, Mancini’s father worked in marketing and advertising, and so he had the inside scoop on how the campaigns worked. As Mancini stated in a 2013 interview: “I just knew a lot about the world of advertising, and how cynical it is, especially with regard to children.” He also cites the use of a real advertising term that refers to children as “consumer trainees” (which was used in Child’s Play 3).

Adding to all this, Mancini had been a life-long horror fan and knew of the dolls-coming-to-life trope that had been used in the Twilight Zone episode “Talking Tina.” He realized, however, that this idea had never before been fleshed out into a full-length film. Thus, the seed for Child’s Play was planted. As you can see, Robert the Doll plays no part in this origin story. Neither Mancini nor Tom Holland, who reworked the original script and directed the film, has ever made any kind of mention of the haunted doll.

This is something that even Robert experts seem to know. David Sloan is the author of the book Robert the Doll, and is a paranormal enthusiast who started the first ghost tour in Key West, Florida. He is often the go-to guy for information on one of the most haunted cities in America. In an interview with Florida Weekly on June 22, 2017, Sloan was asked, “Anything specific come to mind that you’d like to set the record straight on?” Sloan’s answer?: “Robert was not the inspiration for Chucky. Child’s Play creator Don Mancini has stated that the My Buddy Doll and Cabbage Patch Kids inspired his movies. Robert has parallels, but had nothing to do with it. Too many people will sacrifice the truth for a good story. Nobody wants to let this lie die.”

In short:

There you have it. While it’s a neat idea to think that Robert and Chucky are kindred spirits of sorts, Child’s Play is absolutely not based on a true story. Robert will probably remain one of the famous supernatural legends, and Chucky as the most famous killer doll in film. But hopefully now their rumored connection is severed, and they can each enjoy their own separate levels of infamy.

Updated June 21, 2024

Liked it? Take a second to support Michele Eggen on Patreon!
Share This Post
Written by Michele Eggen
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Michele Eggen has been writing about all things horror at her blog, The Girl Who Loves Horror, since 2010. She loves anything having to do with ghosts or the supernatural realm. Her favorite films are Poltergeist and Child's Play.
Have your say!