Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Ghost Story - The La Concha Hotel, Key West

It's officially fall now, I can honestly say, since the temps have finally dipped below 80 (and quickly at that, it's freaking freezing! ... it's 72... but still!) And it's October, which helps.  I love fall, I think that's been made clear here, and I can't wait for changing leaves, pumpkins, and sweatshirts.  I even got a pumpkin-spiced creation from Starbucks to mark the occasion, although I had to get a frappacino instead of a latte - it's still pretty warm...

I thought I would mark the onset of October with my own scary story.  I realize there is still a whole entire 31-day month stretching out before us until Halloween, but I'm bored at work and this is what you get!

I'll start out by saying that I know people have mixed feelings about ghosts/spirits/etc and that's fine.  Some believe, some don't.  I'm not offended at all if you don't believe, and don't believe my story. It's one of those seein'-is-believin' kinda things.

I personally have always had an irrational fear of ghosts for no reason whatsoever - as a child, I would always lay in bed with my eyes peeled open afraid but waiting to see something.  I think it's because my parents' house was built right next to an unmarked 19th century grave yard, but that's a different story!  (No, seriously, it is).

As I've gotten older, I wasn't scared really and slept through the night, although I was sure I would be petrified if I really saw one.  I always believed though, although I don't pretend to know what exactly "ghosts" are or why they are here, etc. 

So, here's the story. 

A few years ago, Tony and I were visiting Key West.  It's an awesome place if you've never been!  You may know that the La Concha Hotel (I think it was a Crown Plaza at the time) is the tallest building there, at only 7 stories.  (I'm noting these details from my poor memory, so don't quote me, fyi). There is a roof-top bar at the top of the hotel that overlooks the water and is a great place to watch the famous Key West sunset.  

Well, we didn't make it for the sunset, but it was about 10:30 pm and we wanted to go up to grab a drink and see the city lights.  Mind you, I hadn't had anything to drink yet (so that's not an excuse, naysayers!) and we didn't know anything at all about the hotel besides the fact that it was in the same hotel group as Holiday Inn (our lovely alma mater where Tony and I met!) 

So we headed up the hotel elevator to the bar, just in time to see the bartenders shutting everything up for the night.  But they let us know that the open-air balcony was always open even when the bar wasn't.  So we sat outside on the small balcony for a while enjoying the evening, and there were a few other people up there doing the same.  

We watched the bartender leave down the outside steps and most of the people also cleared out.  So we decided to head back down and be on with our night. 

The balcony leads straight inside into the bar and right past it to the elevators.  It's an open but small area.  We were totally alone in that room.

You have probably had this experience: you walk up to an elevator right as the doors are closing with people inside. If you jab the button, the doors will usually open, resulting in some annoyed people who thought they were going to be on their merry way down, only to have to let your late self in.  So... the polite thing to do is take your time walking to the button as the doors close and wait until they are permanently closed and then push your button.

As we approached the mirrored elevator, this happened, as a man was in the elevator with the doors closing.  Without discussing this or thinking anything of it, we both paused, then hit the button once the doors were firmly closed to wait for it to come back up for us. 

The doors popped open right away, with an empty elevator.

There was absolutely no time for the elevator to have gone anywhere, and there was no other door.  We both got on, apparently thinking the same thing (what just happened??) but didn't say anything.

We had both unthinkingly done the same thing - waited to push the button because we saw someone.  We both saw a man in the elevator, reflected in the mirrored sides as well, in a suit, wearing a hat.  Not a baseball cap, but one of the old fashioned bowler types. His hat stood out to me most.

He was there.  I KNOW I saw him.  Tony KNOWS he saw him.  But he had vanished. 

Once on the ground, we finally said aloud - hey, wasn't there someone in there??  We weren't scared, just in shock that the same experience had happened to both of us without us discussing it at the time.

Coincidentally, as we left the elevators into the lobby of the hotel, we saw that the hotel lobby was where the Key West ghost tour starts... because it's one of the most haunted places in the area.  We didn't know this beforehand.

Once home, I did a little research and found this:

"The stories continue, with the tale of the160 room, seven story La Concha Hotel, haunted by a man who lost his life in the hotel after falling into an empty elevator shaft. Guests of the hotel report having someone tap them on the shoulder, but when they turn to see who tapped them, they find no one there. Despite the fact that La Concha was approved as a Holiday Inn franchise, this lurking spirit has proved to be an enduring nuisance to guests."

And this:

"One ghost in particular is a tormented spirit who in life worked as a waiter during the early 1980s. It was New Year’s Eve 1983 when this young man, a native of Key West, was picking up dishes from the fifth floor en route to the kitchen on the lower level. The festivities were well under way, and it was around 1:45 A.M. when the waiter was finishing up for the night. He was hurrying to get back to the kitchen to unload his cart, picking up the streamers and confetti as he went along, hoping to go home in time to celebrate for himself. Sadly, however, this was not to be. As he was pulling the heavy cart along, backing up to the elevator, and glancing over his shoulder to push the button to go down, he struggled to keep the dishes and trays from toppling over. Trying not to make a mess, he heard the door open behind him and backed up, cart in tow. In what must have been the most frightening moment of his abbreviated life, he stepped backward into an empty shaft, falling five stories, cart and all, to his death. You see, the elevator had not landed on the fifth floor but the sixth, one floor above him."
There were other stories I saw at the time that I can't find now, but they all revolved around a man dying in the elevator shaft - some placed it during the hotel construction decades ago, others placed it as recently as the '80s.  We saw someone wearing dated clothes (the suits and hats that were everyday wear for men in the first half of the 1900s).  Regardless, the important fact is this happened in the elevator. 

If I had been the only one to see it, I probably would have explained it away to myself.  But you can't dispute two.

We saw a ghost, spirit, or something we can't explain.  I have no doubt.  I get chills just thinking about it.


  1. That is so interesting... Remind me not to travel with the two of you in the future :)

  2. I remember hearing this story right when the two of you returned from Key West and it's still just as awesome!!!

  3. We just came back from a week's stay at La Concha. On 4/19/2011, my wife, two daughters and I were awoken by the sound of a cart being pushed about 8x back and forth. We were on the 4th floor. It kept up for so long that my wife called the front desk to complain about the noise and that it sounded like it was coming from the 5th floor. Later, when we left the room and got on the elevator - we realized that there WAS NO 5TH FLOOR on our side of the hotel! Upon coming home and looking up information on the hotel, I found this blog and an interesting video on YouTube!
    Although we did see the nightly ghost tour gathering outside the hotel, we had no idea of the stories it held!

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