The Ghosts and Hauntings of Key West, Florida

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Captain Tony's Saloon

Due its unique history, Key West, Florida has a number of haunting and ghosts. There are living dolls that haunt to ghost roaming bars like Captain Tony’s.

These are a few of the haunted houses in Key West:

The Artist House – 534 Eaton St.

Robert, a life-size doll, “lived” in the upstairs cupola of the Artist House. Robert is the likeness of artist Gene Otto as a five year old. Created in 1904, the doll has acquired a nasty personality. Some people have heard Robert giggle and even seen him move. Robert appeared in places where people did not place him. Visitors have heard the bitter-patter of feet running across the floor and checked out the room to find only Robert in the room. Others say they have seen Robert waving from the second story at people passing by. Robert can now be seen at the East Martello Museum in Key West.

After Otto past away in 1974, his wife died three years later. Visitors feel her kindly spirit in the Turret room where Robert “lived.” Others visitors, report strange happenings in the turret and attic rooms such as unusual sounds, pacing across the floor or the feeling of someone watching them as they sleep.

The Audubon House – 205 Whitehead Street

Built in 1830 for Captain John Hurling Geiger, he raised his family the Audodon House. Most of the activity has been focused around the nursery. Voices are heard. Some believe it is the children playing. Many of Geiger’s children died from yellow fever, but one died from an almond tree in the backyard. A wax doll in the museum nursery belonged to one of the daughters who died from yellow fever. Now some say the girl’s spirit inhabits the doll which moves about and sets off burglar alarms.

The ghost of John James Audubon, dressed in a ruffled shirt and long jacket, sits in broad daylight on the porch. Some believe Audubon has returned to reveal his true self. Some historians speculate that Audubon was the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette of France. Supposedly, the nine-year-old Audubon escaped from a prison shortly after his mother was beheaded. Jean Audubon legally adopted the boy and brought him to America. Audubon visited the Keys and Dry Tortugas in 1832. He left the area after sighting and drawing eighteen new birds for his “Birds of America” spread.

Captain Tony’s Saloon – 428 Greene Street

Before a bar, the building housed the first morgue on the island. The hanging tree, where murderers and pirates faced death, stood next to the morgue. The hanging tree, from which seventeen people hanged, now grows through the center of Captain Tony’s. Workers found sixteen skeletons while laying a new foundation. A tombstone in the pool room marks where the coroner buried his own daughter.

One of the seventeen was a woman executed for killing her husband and son. People dragged her to the tree to hang her. Now known as “the Lady in Gray,” she appears in nightgown she wore as she dangled from the tree. For safety reasons, Tony enclosed bottles of holy water within the walls of the poolroom, in hopes of warding off evil spirits.

The Curry Mansion – 806 Fleming Street

While living in the house, Petunia would go to the cupola of the mansion to watch for her husband’s ship come in. When she would see his ship, she would start playing the trombone until the ship came into port, which would take a day or two. One time, a retired sailor, who lived nearby, could not take her continuing playing, hours after hour. Believe it or not, he ended up shooting her out the cupola with a cannon and killing her.

One visitor, who stayed at the Curry Mansion for a week, said that during the second night of her stay, she felt hands on her shoulders, violently shaking her until she woke. Awake, she saw Petunia standing beside the bed before disappearing into the lampshade. She tried to return to sleep when she felt Petunia shake her shoulder again.

The woman said that she decided to ignore the apparition, but Petunia persisted and, for the next two hours, shook the bed ferociously. Her husband slept through the entire episode, but said he felt weird. Later, the couple learned that Petunia only haunted visitors on Sundays, the day she had been murdered. However, on the last day of their visit, a peasants dress appeared on the dresser in the room. She asked her husband if he knew who had put it there and he said he didn’t know. They believe that Petunia left the dress for them.

Sources:

  1. Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory: Ghostly Abodes, Sacred Sites, UFO Landings and Other Supernatural Locations. New York: Penguin, 2002.
  2. Juliano, Dave. Shadowlands: Ghosts and Hauntings. 2010. Web.
  3. Myers, Arthur. Ghosts of the Rich and Famous New York: Contemporary Books, 1988.
  4. Ogden, Tom. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Ghosts and Hauntings. New York: Penguin Group, 2004.