If all has gone as planned, today we should be docked in Key West. (I must confess. I actually wrote this before we left to post while we’re gone. That’s why the “if all has gone as planned” statement.)
At any rate, I thought since I was in Florida, I’d share the creepiest Florida ghost story I ever heard: Ed Watson’s last crop.
“WATCHER” FROM HAUNTING SUNSHINE
One of the books that contributed to my Haunt Jaunting interest was Haunting Sunshine: Ghostly Tales from Florida’s Shadows by Jack Powell. He collected a number of great ghost stories from all across the Sunshine State, but the one I found most chilling and utterly unforgettable is the one he started telling on p. 74.
Edgar Watson arrived in the Ten Thousand Islands area and settled near Chokoloskee Island. He had a wife and three children. He built a house near the Chatham River and supported them by trapping alligators, hunting and fishing.
Powell writes that Watson was a polite man, but not a warm one. He didn’t make an effort to get to know his neighbors. He kept to himself. That’s why they were instantly suspicious he might have been involved in murder when the first body turned up 1910.
The body was that of a woman. People soon realized she was a migrant worker –one who had set out for Watson’s farm. Locals also realized something else: this was the first worker they’d ever seen come back from Watson’s place. Why?
A little boy escaped from Watson’s clutches. He told the authorities how Watson repaid migrant workers. He had seen Watson shoot workers and then dispose of their bodies by either burying them or gutting their bodies so they’d sink in the water. He also helped ol’ Ed bury body parts and feed others to the gators.
He had found an efficient way to keep from paying his migrant workersafter the harvest was done. Haunting Sunshine, p. 78
Fearing he’d meet the same fate eventually, the little boy hightailed it out of there first chance he got.
Ed Watson was shot to death the next time he made a trip to Smallwood’s General Store. (Authorities gave him a chance to come with them, but he didn’t like their guns pointed at him and grabbed his own to defend himself. That’s when they opened fire and killed him.)
Watson’s family left soon after.
THE GHOST STORIES
Another family then took up residence in the Watson homestead. They had trouble with blood appearing on the walls that no degree of scrubbing could remove. That was annoying but the poisonous snakes posed a real threat. No matter how vigilant they were about keeping the ground cleared, the snakes inexplicably multiplied. They quickly decided to abandon the house.
Then came the story of the old woman. She lived in the house all alone.
Except, she knew she was not alone.
It was very common when she looked outside to see lights at night. She knew of swamp lights, but these were different. They floated. They lingered. They moved behind trees and other objects only to reappear on the other side. They were not ordinary swamp lights. Dark forms also accompanied them.
Sick of it, one day she cut down the trees. This chilling excerpt from Haunting Sunshine explains what happened next:
She saw them rising from the bare ground –here a headless body, there a pair of legs stumbled over an arm that dragged itself painfully over the dirt.
Before her eyes, Ed Watson’s last crop was coming up.
….She turned and saw that the doors and windows were secured against the moving and mutilated figures, but they were coming through the walls.
You can get to the site via boat. There’s not a lot to see –except snakes. Screams are often commonly heard. But all that remains of the Watson homestead are the supports of the house and the metal bowl used for making sugar cane syrup.
But, as Powell notes in his book, “there may be other things, things that are taking a long rest after collecting on an old debt.”