• Gaby Triana

Interview with Ghost Hunter TED MESSIMER

Updated: Jul 21, 2018

Today on The Witch Haunt, we have TED MESSIMER, tour guide and ghost hunter at Key West Ghost & Mysteries Tour! As someone who enjoys ghost tours, I took my boys on Ted’s tour in Key West a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Ted combines history, ghost lore, and even some tech to make things fun and engaging for his guests looking to have a spooky time. In my book, ISLAND OF BONES, I wrote a character, Luis Delgado, based on Ted to some degree, and thanked Ted for answering research questions about Key West.

WH: Hey, Ted! Welcome to The Witch Haunt. Please give us a brief introduction of your fabulous self:

My name is Ted. I live where most people vacation. It is a place where the land is mostly water and the earth is mostly sky. I love food, movies, and music. I enjoy watching Florida wildlife in its habitat and tracking beach sand everywhere I walk. That is all that is fabulous about me. Nothing to see here folks. Move along…Move along.

WH: You’re being humble, because there’s so much more about you that’s interesting. Tell us what it’s like on an average night giving ghost tours in Key West:

The great thing about this job is that there is no such thing as average. No two nights are alike and no two tour groups are alike. It is not like we are working with trained dolphins so average would be coming to work and not knowing exactly what is going to happen. Because of that I am still very happy to be on the haunted trail five nights a week.

WH: So, unpredictable is the average night for you. Sounds like ghost hunting keeps you on your toes. What is the craziest thing that has ever happened on a ghost tour? Any full-bodied apparitions?

Capturing full-bodied apparitions is something that happens at least once a week. As for crazy, it may be hard to say. For what some may consider crazy I consider crawsome. That is crazy and awesome mixed into one.

I get this question a lot. In fact, it is probably the question I get the most. So much in fact I wrote a book about it so I would not have to answer that question anymore. Well, it was a good thought in theory anyway!

I will answer this by sharing something personal that is not in the book as it happened long after the book was published. I will go to an occurrence that happened off the tour. It involves getting a visit from my late fiancé. One night I could feel her presence and even smell her unique perfume. Both of these were par for the course after she passed. Visits from her had become quite normal. There was one time though that it might be considered to be “crazy.” After feeling her presence and smelling her perfume enter the room I felt her weight depress next to me on the bed. As in it felt like someone had really laid down next to me. It was pretty crawsome.

WH: Wow, Ted. That’s really amazing and a comforting message to people who are coping with the death of a loved one. To know that they are still around, near us, with us can make the difference between depression and peace. So sorry to hear about your fiancée, though, and happy to know she still wants to “hang” with you. So, tellus some of the highlights a guest might experience when taking one of your tours:

A guest going out with Key West Ghost and Mysteries is going to hear fascinating tales. We have such an amazing history on our island. One of many nicknames this little rock in the sea has is Key Weird. Our bizarre history definitely lives up to that name! They will hear many stories they could not have imagined on their own. Other tales are very popular and people may have heard versions of them told on TV, but hearing in told in person and correctly really brings the tale to life.

…Oh and they may get a hands-on encounter with a ghost if they choose to be a volunteer to play with the ghost hunting gear we bring on the tour.

WH: We heard so many stories from you that we still talk about at home today. My boys still mention Robert the Doll and Dr. Carl Tanzler and the corpse of Elena Hoyos who he kept around for seven years. So, Ted, you’re also an author. Tell us about your books and your writing process:

Right now there are two books that are published and available. One is called SCARED. If someone ever wanted a behind-the-scenes look at ghost investigations, then this is the book for them. It also answers the question, “What is the scariest thing I have ever seen?” Or “What scares me?’

Another book of mine is KEY WEST PARANORMAL PHOTOGENIC. Think of it as a coffee table photo book. A conversation piece or ice-breaker for one’s living room soirées. It contains ghost photos captured on the Key West Ghost and Mysteries tour along with an explanation of the different types of forms spirits may take on film. It also gives a brief history of ghost photography.

I am no longer doing documentary or history. I am now into fiction. Writing fiction is something that has been a lifelong hobby of mine. There are currently two fictional books I have written. One is called The Last Roseand the other is called Four by the Moonlight. Neither one is published yet. They both sit on my laptop waiting for that day I decide to release them. I do have one other book. It is a book of poetry I had written for my fiancé as a birthday present. That will never be published as she has passed and I never got the chance to give it to her. There is only one physical copy in existence and no I do not possess it.

My writing process is probably seen as very unconventional. It starts with an idea. That idea may come from a dream, a conversation I overhear, or just an artifact I come across at random. Antique stores provide plethora of ideas. With that idea of a story I first write the ending. This way I know what my goal of the story is from the get-go. After I write the ending I write the opening. After that I develop the characters. As the characters become developed I just pace around and let them speak to me and fill in the middle. This is why I am thankful for the invention of ear buds. As I am walking around talking to myself (hopefully) people just assume I am on the phone.

There really is no rhyme, reason, or order to filling in the middle. Every chapter may call for different moods. I usually write in the mood I am in. Therefore, I jump around the book a lot. My editor hates me.

Sometimes I can use method writing. It is just like method acting. I really allow myself to get personally in touch with characters in the book and kind of become them. It makes the story come very easy if my mindset is the same as his or hers.

Lastly, I try not to stray too far out of what I know. Jimmy Buffett said, “Don’t describe the ocean if you’ve never seen it.” That is pretty good advice. Thankfully I am well traveled, so there will always be a lot to write about!

WH: That’s a great process, starting with the ending. I know many authors who use it, so you’re in good company. If you could interview any author, gone or alive, who would it be?

Homer or Charles Dickens. One told a fictional story so well that it one day became considered by many to be fact. It is even taught as fact in history classes. That is pretty amazing. The other told a story so well that it created a holiday around the world.

Both have to be respected for that. I want to know how they did it.

WH: Have you seen the movie, The Man Who Invented Christmas? It’s an indie film produced by Mitch Kaplan, owner of Books & Books (which is run by Judy Blume on your island). You would enjoy it. It’s about Charles Dickens and stars Dan Stevens. On a completely unrelated note, what’s your favorite libation and dessert (this is the food portion of the interview ☺)?

I am not really into desserts. Unless drinking Cholula straight from the bottle counts? I do love food, I am not big on dessert though. I have stopped drinking for the moment. When I do though, I enjoy a red wine or merlot from Chile.

WH: Do you have a favorite Halloween tradition?

Seeing the joy of kids spill a bag of candy onto the floor to check out their score! The feel in the air, and watching the traditional Halloween movies. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is a personal favorite. I love the smell in stores. I could go on. There are so many wonderful moments about the Halloween season. I really cannot put my love for it into words. I speculate that perhaps it is when I feel most alive.

WH: You use technical equipment when ghost hunting, but do you ever rely on your intuition, sixth sense, and psychic abilities?

If I were to use something other than technical equipment I would use my gut instinct and knowledge based off over a decade of experience. I have no sixth sense, intuition, or psychic abilities. Mainly, just as in life, I like to follow my gut and heart. The problem is those two have many conversations over the years and they never seem to agree on much. If I were to choose I would go with my gut. My heart is too naïve.

WH: What is the most awesome thing happening in your life right now that you’d like to share with us?

My current situation is this. It is almost 1AM. I am sitting on a balcony enjoying a slight island breeze. I am sipping on freshly squeezed lime juice. I can hear crickets and other critters of the night sing their calming song. A Cuban tree frog has sat down to relax next to my laptop and he is watching me type. I am about to enjoy some delicious fish tacos. Mangrove snapper covered in a mango/ habanero sauce, diced red pepper and cilantro. Life is good.

Sounds like the perfect Key West evening to me! Thanks for hanging out with us, Ted. To check out the Ghost and Mysteries Tour, visit http://keywestghostandmysteriestour.com, and to check out Ted’s books, SCARED and KEY WEST PARANORMAL PHOTOGENIC, just click on those links.

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