The posts this week talked about Key West’s creepy past, but I can’t write about the spooky side of Key West without talking about Papa Hemingway’s ghost that is seen at his old home. While we were visiting Key West, our walking tour included a tour of Hemingway’s house. Due to the pouring rain when we arrived at the house, I didn’t take any pictures of the outside of the house.
Hemingway’s house is located at 907 Whitehead Street. It was built in 1851 by Asa Tift. Hemingway purchased the boarded-up home from the City of Key West for $8,000 and restored it with his second wife, Pauline. They made many improvements, including adding a catwalk that went from their master bedroom to the loft in the carriage house that was Hemingway’s office. Hemingway lived in the house until his divorce to Pauline in 1940. He continued to stay occasionally at the home when visiting Key West, Pauline, and their two sons Patrick and Gregory during the 1940s and 1950s. When Pauline passed away in 1951, Hemingway rented the home so he could continue to stay at the house when he visited Key West. Hemingway had remarked to friends that his home in Key West is where he would spend his afterlife. After his death in Idaho in 1961, the house was sold and turned into a museum.
Walking through Hemingway’s house was impressive. It was interesting to walk through rooms he not only walked through but loved. It was easy to imagine him and his family living in the house. The memorabilia and photos throughout the house gave a look into his life. I was so used to Hemingway’s pictures when he was older than I was surprised to see a painting that looked similar to my dad.
Although out the house were cats. They were laying on the furniture, walking through the house, and rolling around on the veranda. They are descendants of the six toe cat that Hemingway took in for a local sea captain. There are currently over 50 cats at the house, but those are just the living ones they can count. Guests and employees have said that they have seen cats walking around or sleeping at the house that just disappear. One cat, in particular, seems to be guarding the pet cemetery by the house.
Ghost cats aren’t the only spirits at the Hemingway house. Both Papa Hemingway and Pauline have been seen and heard around the property. In fact, the spirit of Hemingway was seen before his neighbors even knew he had passed away. A couple that lived near his house were out walking one morning in 1961. As they passed Hemingway’s home, they saw him on the upstairs veranda tending to some plants. This was a common sight for Hemingway’s neighbors. The couple called out a greeting, and Papa turned a waved at them. The couple continued on with their walk. It was later that day they found out that Hemingway had killed himself in Idaho. Visitors and locals to Key West claim to still see him standing on the veranda or looking out a window. He has also been seen in his loft in the carriage house, working at his typewriter. Employees had said that they can hear his typewriter clacking away, especially in the morning hours. Hemingway was known to go to his office in the loft to write from 6am to noon, 7 days a week. (Sometimes I wonder if I should try to adapt that work schedule to I have more time to write.)
Also seen around the property is Pauline, Hemingway’s second wife. She has been seen most often either at the top of the main staircase or down by the front gate. The spot at the top of the stairs was one of her favorite places in the house while alive. From there, she could watch her husband write in his office and keep an eye on their sons as they played in the yard. When she is seen by the front gate, Pauline is seen smoking while either walking around or leaning on the entryway side. People have claimed to see the butts of her favorite cigarette on the ground after seeing her there.
The curious thing about Papa Hemingway and Pauline’s spirits is that they will interact with passersby. Usually, it is a quick wave before ducking back onto the property or into the house. This makes it seem more like an intelligent haunting than a residual haunting. Of course, it could very well be both, but I will get into that on another post. Either way, it seems that Hemingway is keeping his word about spending the afterlife at his Key West home.