I first read about this story at an on-line travel site for Weird & Off-The-Wall Roadside Attractions. Upon reading I said “Wow, I’ve seen them a dozen times but never heard that story before”. I put a return trip to Capt. Tony’s on my next visit list to Key West in order to check it out for myself and ask some probing questions.
Formerly the original Sloppy Joe’s Bar, it’s now called Capt. Tony’s Saloon located at 428 Greene Street which houses the infamous “Death Chains”. It’s reported that Capt. Tony’s in the past has been the original “Sloppy Joe’s”, an ice house, doubled as a morgue, cigar factory, bordello, the Blind Pig gambling hall and more! Not all could be substantiated, in fact, my uncle who’s a lifetime Conch (Key West born and raised) laughed at the morgue portion of the story!
Capt. Tony’s is also the oldest licensed saloon in the entire state of Florida. This location is best known as the hangout of hard-drinking Ernest Hemingway and later frequented by JFK. Since 1937 it has occupied a building that was built in the 1700’s, and has a set of chains in its wall where at least one person was reportedly shackled and beaten to death. Upon researching this story I stopped by Capt. Tony’s and quizzed the bartender with a barrage of questions including the “Death Chains”… he laughed and laughed saying the he’d never heard that before. I informed him that it was all over the internet so beware that I wouldn’t be the only one coming in looking for the “Death Chains”. He welcomed the tale and looks forward to new visitors seeking the birth of yet another Key West myth. 🙂 Though the bartender laughed and my uncle had never heard of such doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, either way, it makes for a great story!
If you’re down here anyways, I invite you to stop on by and check out this FREE and unusual attraction! Oh yeah, tell the bartender that you read it on the internet and that means it has to be TRUE! 🙂