Season 3 Episode 3: Key West, Florida

On this episode of The Reference Desk, Katie is bewitched by Key West. 

As the southernmost point in the continental U.S., Key West, Florida, takes some work to get to. But you’ll find this place of weirdness, inclusivity, and strange history well worth the voyage. From its beginnings as a shipwreck paradise to its current vibrant mix of American, Spanish, and Caribbean influences, Key West is full of great stories. We’ll cover the history of this cayo Hueso from its indigenous people to Spanish colonization to modern times, through a look at some of the elements that make Key West so wonderfully unique: The Conch Republic Secession, the very creepy Carl Tanzler and his corpse bride, the story of the notorious haunted Robert the Doll, and the evolution of Fantasy Fest. Stick around until the end for books about and in Key West, our first-ever content overlap, and the best review of a lift-the-flap book you’ve ever heard. 

Staff picks: 

Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese

New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic by Cory Thoman Hutcheson

Key West reads: 

Hidden History of the Florida Keys by Laura Albritton and Jerry Wilkinson

Hemingway’s Key West by Stuart B. McIver

Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean by Les Standiford

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

The Key West Food Critic Mysteries series by Lucy Burdette 

Naked Came the Manatee by Carl Hiaasen et. al.

Purchase these books and all of our other recommended titles here! 

Key West Artists:


Key West Fantasy Fest Turns 40

Fantasy Fest Agreement & Nudity Restrictions Discussed at Length By Key West Officials

Key West to Allow Body Paint in Designated Zone for 2022 Fantasy Fest

Why Are There So Many Chickens on the Streets of Key West?

Key West Declared a Faux War on the U.S. in 1982

Conch Republic Passports

Hijacker Linked to ‘Conch’ Passport

The Time the Florida Keys Tried to Secede from the U.S. by Dropping Conch Fritter Bombs

History of the Florida Keys and Wrecking

Key West Shipwreck History

The Calusa

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