The Haunted House of Captain Watlington in Key West

get to know the ghosts of Captain Watlington's House

Address: 322 Duval Street Key West, Florida 33040

Captain Francis Watlington's house is known for being the oldest house in Key West - and arguably - the most haunted. Expertly crafted and perfectly-preserved for almost two centuries, it's no surprise some of its long-gone residents are still calling it home today.

Did you know?

  • The home was originally built on Whitehead Street in 1829 and moved to its current location seven years later.
  • The house features mortise and tenon joinery, horizontal wallboards, and scuttles, which explain why the structure is still solid after almost 200 years.
  • Two caretakers have confirmed they’ve experienced paranormal phenomena at night in the house.

The Ghosts of the Oldest House

According to David L. Sloan in his book Ghosts of Key West, the spirits in this house aren't afraid of making an appearance. It's from his book that we gathered all of the home's interesting happenings.

Charles, the live-in caretaker, was usually the one to witness all the creepy, ghostly phenomena. Every night, like clockwork, the activity would begin.

In the room right above his, he would hear the creaking and thumping of a rocking chair, as if someone had just sat in it.

He would pick up his flashlight, walk up the stairs, and shine a light on the chair, but there would be no one there.

And deep down he already knew that.

Before he settled into bed, he had made his rounds, checking all the doors and windows. Everything was locked, and in order, so the chances of an intruder were highly unlikely.

While he was sure that no one had broken in, Charles was still a skeptic, entertaining the idea of ghosts for a brief second before laughing it off.

Recounting Stories

One morning, a man Charles had never seen before walked into the house museum. Charles offered him a tour, as was customary, but he declined in favor of a self-guided tour. He said he knew the place like the back of his hand.

He later revealed that his name was Tod, the previous caretaker.

When Tod was done looking around, he started to head out, but just before he did, he turned around and asked Charles, "has anything weird happened to you here?"

They got to talking, and of course, the rocking chair came up. But there was something else Charles was yet to experience, the girl.

Child’s Play

Tod claims that one night when he lived in the room now occupied by Charles, he heard a strange noise. He'd grown used to the rocking chair by then, but this was something different.

He laid in bed for some time, trying to figure out what it was. A few seconds later, it became clear, someone's playing marbles. He burst out of the room expecting to see a floor covered in tiny glass spheres, but there was nothing.

That is until he looked up and saw a little girl, surrounded by a glowing light, playing with marbles on the second floor.

Tom claims that when the child saw him, she ran into a bedroom. He ran after her, but surprise, surprise, the room was empty.

Unbelievably, just as he started to walk back to his room, the rocking chair began its scheduled creaking.

A Psychic Pays a Visit

After meeting Tod, Charles began to entertain the possibility that the house could be haunted. But it wasn't until he met Tracy, that he became absolutely sure someone was roaming the house in the afterlife.

Tracy had ventured inside the house with her daughter, Elizabeth, to see an exhibit.

Upon entering the home, she began walking from one room to another, as if guided by an invisible force. She then approached Charles and asked if he was aware of a presence in the home.

Who Haunts the Old House?

As Charles prepared to jokingly mention that the house was haunted, Tracy walked over to a portrait of the Watlington family (who owned the house for many generations) and pointed to Francis Watlington's wife, Emeline.

She explained that Emeline's spirit decided to stay in the house after her death. She wasn't alone, though, she had her daughter.

Tracy explained that Emeline's daughter had fallen gravely ill and there was nothing anyone could do to save her. So her mother sat with her in the chair and rocked her until she passed away.

Tracy told Charles he was lucky to have such a caring spirit around him.

That night, as he laid in bed, he shouted up to the room above him "Goodnight, Emeline." And after a brief moment of silence, the chair came alive once again.

History of Captain Watlington’s House

The Oldest House in Key West was built by skilled ship carpenter Captain Richard Cussans. Cussans, who was born in the Bahamas, arrived on the Florida coast in 1828. He went straight to work, and by the following year, the house was completed.

After its construction, the house was rented to the Watlington family, who eventually took over ownership. When Captain Francis Watlington acquired the home, additional rooms and a center hall were added to accommodate his large family (he had nine daughters).

The Watlingtons occupied the home until the early-1970s, after which it was restored and deeded to the Historic Florida Keys Foundation. Today, the house is open to the public as a relic of Key West's old but unforgotten history.

Know Before You Go

The Oldest House Museum and Garden are open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every day, except Sunday and Wednesday. Entrance to the museum is through the Old Island General Store.

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