Posted on November 11, 2019
There are quite a few haunted houses in Key West and one of the most popular ones is the Audubon House and Gardens. Located at 205 Whitehead Street in Key West, this home was built by Captain John H. Geiger. He was a harbor pilot and known as a master wrecker. The term wrecker was often used to describe someone who had made money from finding the bounty found on shipwrecks. This was a common way to make money back then because of all of the ships coming in and out of Key West. Geiger moved to the city in the 1820’s and in 1829, he married Lucretia Sanders. They had a total of twelve children together and he built this home as a way to show off his riches from his master wrecker position.
Captain Geiger did a lot more than work as a wrecker though. He actually had his hand in the world of piracy as well. Many people thought that he actually had a lot of money stored away somewhere and that was how he was able to live his lavish lifestyle. In 1885, he died, but the mansion stayed in the family for many years. His last family member was Captain Willie Smith and he died in 1956. This was when the mansion was passed onto the Mitchell Wolfson Family Foundation. The house was supposed to be demolished in 1958, but the foundation was able to save it and restore it. The work they did to it is what you see today when you visit the mansion.
The house has been renamed for the painter, John James Audubon. He loved visiting the Dry Tortugas and Key West. We are not sure that he ever stayed in the house, but he did have a love for Key West that is clear in his work. He wrote about the codia tree that was part of the Geiger house so many people say that he could have at least visited the home while he was there. No matter if he had been there or not, there are many others that visitors claim to see walking around. These ghosts could be the residents of the past…
Ghosts of the Audubon House and Gardens
One of the first ghosts that people claimed to see here is the ghost of Captain John Geiger. Visitors say that they have seen a man looking out onto the property. He is usually standing out on the second story balcony and he is watching the waters. Some say that he could be waiting for the ships to come in, while others say that he could be watching for his love. One guest said that they saw him walking around the gardens at night. They felt his presence very close to them and they felt it was on edge. Perhaps his ghost is just trying to make sure that the guests here don’t steal his riches that he may have left behind.
Another tale of ghosts at the mansion features the main art gallery. In the gallery, many visitors come to look at Audubon’s art and to buy gifts for friends and family. The manager of the gallery has many stories about ghosts here. In one story, he felt that someone was watching him very closely. He said that he would hear footsteps over and over again as if someone was walking to the gallery. He waited patiently for someone to arrive, but they never did. He decided that he would go check this out for himself. When he went to look around, not only were the footsteps gone, but there was no one heading toward the gallery, just an empty hallway. For the gallery manager, this is not the only story of ghosts in the mansion…
The gallery manager has spoken about a painting of a girl named Hannah. She died when she was ten years old. The painting is known as an “oilogram”, which is a painting that is commissioned by the family of the deceased. It was hung in the hallway on the way to the gallery. Many of the visitors that would come here though the painting should hang elsewhere because of the story it had and the forlorn appearance of it. It was moved into the Children’s Room in a corner where it couldn’t be seen unless visitors walked right up to it. The gallery manager was opening up one morning and could hear the sounds of children playing in the Children’s Room. He was surprised because he was the only one in the building, or at least he thought he was. When he walked up to the Children’s Room, there was no one in there. Could it have been the spirit of Hannah hanging out at the mansion?
There have been even more tales about the Children’s Room too. There is an electronic sensor inside of the Children’s Room. This sensor has been triggered so many times at night that the police don’t know what to think anymore. When they get to the mansion, they always find an empty room full of art work and no people. Could this be the spirit of Hannah playing tricks on them? The alarms have been adjusted many times and at times, the caretakers will talk about how they feel intense waves of heat entering and leaving the room. When they look around to see what is happening, all they see are the toys, puppets, and dolls in the room. All of these items have their eyes wide open! Dolls are one of the biggest parts of the Children’s Room and with dolls come stories of very creepy things happening.
The Dolls of the Audubon House and Gardens
Why is it that dolls automatically creep some people out? The dolls here have that same effect on some of the visitors and staff members. There is one doll that came to live here in the 1980’s. Many of the staff members aren’t even sure how it came to be here. It is in the Children’s Room and has been one of the strangest sites here ever since. The doll was made in the 1850’s and came from England. It is called the “Mrs. Peck” doll. It is 22 inches in height, has a wax head, arms, legs, and a cloth torso. According to those who visit, it has a strange appearance and looks sick. It has very dark circles under its eyes and yellow teeth. People often remark about how eerie it is. Before the doll came to the mansion, there had never been any problems with the alarms or lights. As soon as the doll was donated, the staff began to notice a lot of changes and occurrences. The alarms going off were only one thing. The staff would notice that when they would leave lights on at night, the light bulbs would be unscrewed and found on the floor the next day! This is one of the many incidents that have happened with the doll.
Another problem with the doll is that when people try to take photos of it, they never come out. There have been photographers that have come into take pictures and the film would just pop out of their cameras instantly when getting close to this doll. Others have taken pictures and when they came back from being developed, there was a black stripe across any pictures of the doll. Clearly, she doesn’t like her picture taken! The staff members here have even called the doll morbid and sinister!
Visitors to the Children’s Room do not like getting near the doll. They have said that her eyes will watch them as they move around the room. They have felt upset or disturbed when they are in the room and the feeling goes away when they leave the room. There may be other happy and fun toys in the room, but according to guests, this room has a strange feeling to it. The doll no longers lives at the Audubon House though…
On January 6th, 1997, the alarm in the Children’s Room was turned off around 1:30 p.m. and then got turned back on at 5 p.m. The doll could have been taken by anyone, but no one is sure how it got out of the building. The staff noticed that it was gone the next day, but never saw anyone leave with it. No one knows if it was the new alarm system or if the doll just got up and walked away…
If you enjoy looking at creepy dolls and toys or just walking through beautiful gardens, the Audubon House and Gardens holds a lot for you. The next time you’re in Key West, be sure to check it out.