I am sure lots of people find Key West strange during the day, but after the sun goes down it’s a whole different story. Key West is actually referred to by many as Key Weird. If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that ghost stories are right up my alley, so Christian and I weren’t leaving Key West without going on a ghost tour. The two of us took the Ghosts and Gravestones Tour when we were in Savannah last year and loved it, so when I saw that there was one in Key West, too, it was a no brainer that we needed to take the tour.
On the Ghosts and Gravestones Tour, or as they call it – the trolley of the doomed, we heard several stories that were more than just weird. Our Ghost Host, Benjamin, was awesome. He told us lots of stories about Key West’s dark side. He told tales of deathly love, tragic endings, scores to settle, wrongs to right and ghastly folks. Some of the stories were so strange it was almost hard to believe they are true.
One of the cool things about the Ghosts and Gravestones tour is that they have EXCLUSIVE nighttime entry into one of the island’s haunted Civil War forts – the East Martello Fort. The East Martello Fort was once quarantine barracks for suffering soldiers left to die from yellow fever and now home to Robert – a super creepy doll that can play tricks on you if you don’t play nicely.
Robert was a gift Gene Otto from his nannie/caretaker who cast a Santeria spell on the doll before she was fired by Gene’s mother. Apparently strange things would happen when Robert was around – Odd voices, items missing and Gene would always say that “Robert did it”. Gene has since grown up and passed away, but Robert has been re-homed to the fort. The tour group was told about many of the experiences and encounters that people have had with Robert and we were warned that Robert doesn’t like it when people don’t introduce themselves to him and ask his permission to take his picture. Apparently bad luck, really bad luck, strikes people who don’t. There is a screen on the wall behind Robert that displays hundreds – actually it’s probably thousands – of apology letters from people who didn’t ask Robert permission to take his picture. No joke – things from lost luggage to divorce have all happened to people after taking the photo without permission and all of the letters beg Robert to forgive them and lift his “curse”.
You bet I introduced myself, asked permission to take the picture and thanked him when I was done.
We were also told a story about Dr. Von Kossel. He fell in love with a women named Elena who passed away from TB shortly after they met. For him, it was love at first sight and he paid for all of her funeral expenses. Karl Von Kossel visited Elena’s corpse every night until one night she apparently spoke to him and he ended up taking her (corpse) home with him. He then lived with her (corpse) as husband and wife for seven years. He’s mask the smell with perfumes and he used silk to replace her skin. Elena’s sister finally discovered what happened and Elena’s remains were split into three parts and hidden in secret locations so that Karl couldn’t try to reassemble her. Crazy, huh?
On the Ghosts & Gravestones tour, we also passed by some of the most tragic and most sacred sites of the island such as the Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes, which protects the city from hurricanes, the African Slave Cemetery – site of the final resting place for 15 slaves who perished from their treacherous voyage – and even Captain Tony’s Saloon – it’ not just an ordinary bar.
If you are in Key West and want to take the tour (and I highly recommend it), the tour leaves from 501 Front St.( which is Conch Train depot) on the corner of Front & Duval Streets. The 90 minute tour runs nightly and since the tour is so popular, reservations are required because space is limited.
Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets for this tour, but all opinions expressed here are strictly my own and were not influenced in any way.