Key West is a ghost mine. Haunted history and the ghosts of our past surround us, but it takes patience, determination, time, effort and a healthy dose of good fortune to dig them up. A little spirit intervention helps too.
Before the Internet caught on, ghost stories in the Florida Keys were relegated to the back rooms of bars and occasional features each October in the local weekly paper. When I arrived in Key West in 1996, I spent several weeks panning for leads without a single nugget, and eventually resorted to over-tipping bartenders in hopes of a paranormal lead. My first visit to the library turned up nothing, and after three weeks of sleeping on the floor of my friend’s Conch cottage, I was ready to pack up my ghost mining gear and head for richer grounds. The ghosts of Key West had something else in mind.
I don’t know if a poor sense of direction or fate is responsible for the wrong turn that led back to the library, but it changed my life. The ghost of a man in his mid-30’s appeared in the passenger seat of my ’84 Ford Thunderbird wearing a light tweed suit jacket and said, “Go back to the library.” I was a little freaked out and pulled to the side of the road. I was in front of the library. This visit, I struck gold.
The Florida History room has become my home away from home. On my first visit, the little gem had evaded me, but this time I met historian, Tom Hambright. He plucked a file overflowing with newspaper clippings detailing our haunted past from a walk-in vault. I plotted a dozen haunted locations on my tourist map, started knocking on the doors of Key West’s most haunted houses, and a month later started one of the first ghost tours in the United States, right here in the Southernmost City.
The tour led to books. I wrote Ghosts of Key West, and as the ghost mine continued to share her bounty, followed up with Haunted Key West. As our fascinating ghost stories were revealed we attracted the attention of The History Channel, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, BBC and just about every major cable network you can imagine. The Key West Ghost Rush was on!
My ghost books and ghost tours inspired a new wave of ghost miners and led to ghost tours in cities across the United States including Boston, San Diego, St. Augustine, San Antonio, Marietta, Savannah and Park City. I helped friends create tours in Newport, Fort Lauderdale, Louisville, San Juan and Granada. Today there are at least 5 ghost tours in Key West that reference my original research, and it is nice to know I was able to inspire my friends who run Key West Ghosts and Mysteries, Ghosts and Gravestones, The Bone Island Ghost Tour, Tales and Tombstones, The Conch Ghost Tour and my old company, The Original Ghost Tour.
As the world of paranormal studies evolves, so have I. Though never a technology junkie, I love testing out the latest ghost hunting tools and stick with the ones the provide the best results. My search of historical records has expanded beyond the walls of our Key West archives to the ever-growing number of historical sites on the Internet, where more nuggets from our storied past are presenting themselves each day. I recently combined my passions with these advances to create something brand new that takes ghost tours in Key West to the new level I believe they deserve: Historic, ebtertaining, interactive, and most importantly, authentic. My newest tour is called Sloan’s Ghost Hunt, and though I would love for you to join us in person when you come to Key West, you can join the hunt from your computer 24/7.
In the coming months I’ll share my latest gems here in The Ghost Mine. First hand accounts, personal encounters, newly discovered history, and insight on Key West’s hauntings from an expert perspective you wont find anywhere else. There is no telling what we might uncover.
We have donated to Relay For Life, Sister Season Fund, Monroe County Sheriff’s Animal Farm, The Key West Firehouse Museum, AIDS Help, Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, The Studios of Key West and many more.