Key West Florida
The entity of Ernest Hemingway has found
peace and serenity doing what he loved.
Another broken-hearted spirit stays here to be near
her beloved Ernest, finding a way to help him still.
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum has been a National Historic Landmark since 1968, which would’ve pleased both Ernest and and his wife Pauline. This grand, handsome home was built in 1850, by leading citizen Asa Tift, for his family and himself.
Asa was a talented marine architect and very successful salvage wrecker, who was one of Florida’s wealthiest men when he built this this lovely, Spanish Colonial style two story villa, using coral rock quarried on its property. Asa added his own architectural touches, such as the New Orleans wrought-iron porch railings, balcony supports and Italian marble fireplaces.
Unfortunately, Yellow Fever came to town and claimed Asa’s wife and two children. After going to New Orleans during the Civil War to build battle ships, he returned to his home and built the fountain in front, to make it look like one of the battleships that he never got to finish in New Orleans.
Asa’s labor of love was Ernest and Pauline Hemingway’s home, the place where they raised their two boys, and where Ernest was creatively inspired to write in between his many trips overseas, news correspondent gigs, and other adventures. Both a journalist and writer, Hemingway published seven novels; six collections of short stories, and two works of non-fiction. For his novel The Old Man and the Sea, he won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.
Ernest was a complicated man, with issues that he struggled with, but he ALWAYS loved this refuge from the world, in a town that accepted him. He found peace from fame and some of his inner demons. From 1928-1938, he considered the sleepy little town of Key West his sanctuary and found this Spanish Colonial style home to be a place where he could enjoy privacy, his family, the view of the ocean, gardening, and expressing himself using his gift of writing.
He wrote some of his best work, such as “To Have and Have Not” in his studio loft, located on the second floor in the carriage house just behind the main house. As Ernest wrote with pencils, his sister Sunny and his wife Pauline, would type his manuscripts for him.
Pauline also loved their Spanish Colonial style home. She was the one who first saw this vintage fixer-upper, badly in need of some TLC! Described by a friend as being “a wreck of a house,” Pauline saw its possibilities, and Ernest loved older homes and agreed. Pauline’s rich uncle generously helped them buy this Key West oasis-to-be.
Pauline was Ernest’s second wife, who truly loved him, despite the reality that he was a hard person to live with due to his emotional baggage and priorities. Ernest Hemingway had a need, an obsession to experience life on the edge, whether it was having adventures while hunting for big game, or fishing for big fish with his friends, or being a war correspondent.
Ernest also liked to drink hard and sometimes strayed from his marriages when they became strained. He acted as he did to build up a self-image as a “virile, macho male specimen,” though, he tried in the early years of each of his marriages to be a family man and husband, as much as he was able to muster.
Pauline was a trooper, in that she tried to accept Ernest as he was, and kept herself busy in several ways. She lived to renovate, and organized repairs, renovation projects, and remodeling, creating a lovely home! The second floor loft of the carriage house behind the main home became Ernest’s area to write. Her remodeling projects included attaching the kitchen to the main house, and adding a small breakfast nook. The kitchen counters were raised several inches, so Ernest could clean his fish without straining his back. A catwalk was put in to connect the second-floor master bedroom to Ernest’s floor loft in the carriage house.
Ernest and Pauline made the home their own, and lived happily there for ten years, with their boys, Patrick and Gregory. The couple bought antiques, and other decor in Paris and Europe, and shipped it back to Key West. Notable antiques include Pauline’s Parisian chandelier collection, her 18th century Spanish walnut dining table, porcelain sculptures, and paintings.
Visitors can enjoy looking at not only the family furniture and treasures, but also read print of articles, and memorabilia exhibits on the first and second floor. Many of Ernest’s trophies from his fishing and big game hunting adventures can still be seen mounted on the walls.
The saltwater pool, next to the building in the back, was built in the late 1930s, the first pool ever built in Key West! Pauline installed it as a surprise for Ernest, and it cost $20,000. Pauline hoped to please him, and win him back, as she sensed he was drifting away from her, a tendency he had in his relationships. But he was furious and accused her of trying to spend all his money!
Things changed in Key West during the Great Depression, which hit Key West hard. The town was reinvented by developers as a tourist holiday spot, which was terribly disappointing to Hemingway. The city government of Key West folded up, and control of the town was taken over by the Florida state government. People he had known lost everything and moved away. New folks moved in who were inspired to make Key West an attractive tourist destination, bringing their noise, and annoying habits in the process.
Hemingway’s house of course was put on the maps of famous places, causing unwanted intrusions from mainland tourists. In 1935, Ernest was fed up with looky-loo tourists walking into his yard, and even coming into the house, invading his privacy. He had his friend Toby build a wall of stone to give the Hemingway clan and his celebrity guests some peace away from the clamorous new throngs of humanity who came to Key West.
An added disappointment to Ernest was that some locals didn’t like the way Key West was portrayed in his novel, “To Have and Have Not,” which protested the city’s takeover by mainlanders. Hemingway felt he was losing his closeness with the community, which had changed drastically.
Not good in relationships, his marriage to Pauline began to fall apart after ten years. It didn’t help that he had a girlfriend, Martha, on the side. Pauline had given up her own writing career so she could devote herself to his career. She was awarded a divorce on the grounds of desertion, as Ernest left Pauline and went to Cuba. She must have been heart-broken that Ernest dumped her.
All of her efforts were not enough to keep him. He was damaged goods with commitment issues when she married him. He’d left his first wife to be with her.
After his 1939 divorce, Ernest lived in Cuba with his new wife, Martha Gellhorn, while Pauline and the boys lived in the Key West home. But the new marriage didn’t last long, only 5-6 years. Ernest divorced Martha and married again, to Mary Welsh. Their relationship lasted for the rest of his life.
Ernest did use his Key West home as a stop-over residence on the way to other places while he lived in Cuba, and still saw his kids and Pauline. When Pauline died in 1951, after one of her sons was arrested, he rented the main house. When the Cuban revolution erupted in 1959, he moved to Idaho with Mary, where he stayed until his death.
When Ernest killed himself in 1961, his Key West home was sold by his estate to local residents, Bernice Dixon and her husband. In 1964, they opened the house as a private museum, but continued to live in the loft area (in the building behind the main home). Today, the property remains in the hands of their family, who still run the house as a museum, proudly displaying all the Hemingway furniture, and memorabilia, adding Hemingway’s loft on the tour.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Couples who while alive have troubled relationships sometimes work on them in their afterlives so that they can co-occupy the same space.
Edith Wharton Estate: The Mount, MA (While alive, Edith and her husband Teddy had to divorce due to Teddy’s mental illness. As spirits, they have moved back inside their forever home, and have been working on their damaged relationship, doing their favorite thing together, reading).
Saint Francis Inn, FL (A forbidden relationship between son of a soldier and a young black slave girl has been able to flourish in the afterlife. The spirit of the slave is still part of the housekeeping staff, and the young soldier has fun flirting with the female staff and guests, but the spectral couple still make love in the attic.)
Hemingway House, FL (The spirits of Ernest and Pauline are together again in their old favorite place. They seem to have let their past marital troubles go and are a co-habitating spectral couple again, willing to share the same space to find personal peace).
People who take their own lives sometimes stay in this world, choosing to look for the peace they weren’t experiencing while alive.
Old Allen House, AR (The spirit of LaDell stays in her Family’s home, finding peace in the company of her spectral family members).
Whaley House, CA (The spirit of Whaley daughter Violet is still very upset, but is comforted by her spectral parents in the family forever home).
Hemingway House, FL (After struggling with physical issues that caused his spiraling depression, Ernest Hemingway shot himself in the head in Idaho in 1961. He is spending his afterlife in his favorite Key West place. Some of Ernest’s happiest times took place in this house. While still living at Key West, he is known to have told others that he would probably spend his afterlife here).
Spirits who decide to spend their afterlife in their favorite place in this world, often continue what they loved to do the best while alive.
Hemingway House, FL (The spirit of Hemingway is writing again in his favorite spot, and probably enjoys walking around the property. The spirit of Pauline Hemingway also loved this house, a place of happy memories with the man she loved during the first years of their marriage. This is where she raised her boys. The house was a labor of love, that she renovated and remodeled. She too likes to see all of her improvements, and enjoys helping Ernest by typing his stories, something she loved to do).
People who experience a shattering loss sometimes don’t get over the grief they suffered and seek comfort in their favorite spot: their home. When they pass on, they may stay in this world, not able to let go of the pain of loss, wanting to stay where they have found solace.
Bee Bennett Mansion, CA (The spirit of Molly Bennett while alive never got over the tremendous loss of her children, and remains the spectral hostess).
LaFitte’s Guest House, LA (The spirit of a woman still grieves for her children who died from Yellow Fever).
Hemingway House, FL (In life, Pauline was devastated when Ernest left her for his new lover. She must have some peace now, being so close to him once again, seeing him work from her special window and doing what she can for him).
The entities of Ernest and Pauline Hemingway still reside here. They may have established their old relationship, such as it was, letting the past be the past. They may focus on the time when their relationship was great.
The Spirit of Ernest
Ernest Hemingway’s spirit has chosen to stay earth-bound, and make this lovely Key West house his afterlife home.
Ernest likes to stay in his writing workroom where he wrote some of his best work.
South East Florida Ghost Research (SEFGR) has recorded interesting evidence in Ernest’s writing workroom in the loft.
He enjoys walking around the outside yards, and traveling from the house to his work loft.
His apparition has been seen moving around the house as well, perhaps enjoying all of the artifacts from his life on display.
Neighbors have seen his figure, around midnight, looking out a second floor window.
His entity is affable. People have seen his spirit waving at them from the second floor veranda.
He is friendly with staff and visitors, though in life he didn’t care for the public.
The Spirit of Pauline
Her spirit loves the garden area, and enjoys the flowers and appreciates the care given by the living to keep them in fine shape!
She loves her memories of the happy times they had as a family, living together in this special home.
She is a gracious hostess, a cultural norm she learned from her upbringing. She may enjoy having visitors who come to see the exhibits of her beloved’s work and his artifacts, as she is still his biggest fan.
She still loves to smoke. She has been seen smoking at the garden gate, where she arranges her cigarettes.
Still In Love
Pauline’s love and dedication to Ernest despite how he treated her has not waned in the afterlife.
Her spirit still likes to watch out the window on the stair landing, and see her spectral husband Ernest writing in his loft. She enjoys the memories she has of her boys playing outside from this spot.
Pauline is still helping Ernest — The VP sound of a typewriter can still be heard by the living. Perhaps she is still trying to help Ernest, keeping her connection to him.
Pauline’s Personal Appearances
Pauline’s entity has been seen by tour guides and guests throughout the house, as she goes about her business as the spectral lady of the house.
She has been seen smoking at the garden gate, where she arranges her cigarettes.
Her gray apparition has been seen the most at the top of the central staircase by staff and visitors, being the courteous, welcoming hostess. This social pleasure was something she didn’t get to do much while alive, because Ernest abhorred outside visitors.
Staff members. visitors and neighbors have all had experiences with Ernest and Paula, making them believe that these two still reside here.
The paranormal group SEFGR have caught some hard evidence pointing to the existence of spirits in the house museum and Ernest’s writing workroom in the loft.
Most Probably so.
Eyewitness accounts are believable, and SEFGR’s evidence points to the fact that at least Ernest is still in residence. What is odd is that he isn’t angry about so many people coming to see his home. Perhaps he has found a peace and has let go of some of his issues, now that he is on the other side.
Pauline has also been seen by a lot of people, though I can’t find any hard evidence proving that she is there, outside of eyewitness accounts. But knowing her history, she is probably there as well.
907 Whitehead Street
Key West, Florida 33040
The Hemingway House can be found on Whitehead Street, near Olivia Street, which is in the old historical section of Key West.
- MOST HAUNTED PLACES IN KEY WEST: #4 ERNEST HEMINGWAY HOME
Posted by blogger in Southern Most Ghosts
- HAUNTED PLACES: The National Directory, by Dennis William Hauck, 2002
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr