Friday, March 2, 2018

Photo Essay: Hog Island is the Haunted Forest of your dreams




One campfire story goes that a Swamp Witch lives out at Hog Island, that she loves fear, and while she may not hurt you, if you camp out there, she’ll spend the night trying to terrify you, cackling in the darkness, moving your stuff around, scratching on the outside of your tent with long filthy fingernails, and using dark magic to play tricks on your mind.

 

 

Here’s the thing, I grew up in the area and I never heard anything about a Witch until someone sent me that often-shared Backpackerverse article about haunted hikes in Florida (you know the one, it makes the rounds on Facebook. They’re probably confusing this Hog Island with a Hog Island in Massachusetts, which was the site of 18th-century witch hunts and has its own set of legends) I have, however, always heard that Hog Island was haunted- just not by a Swamp Witch, and I do love a good campfire story.

 


Hog Island is on the North side of the Croom Tract and is easily accessible from the highway, about an hour North of Tampa. Croom was once a small town that grew up around a railroad junction in the late 1800’s. The settlement was short-lived, as its population suffered heavily from the influenza epidemic of the 1910’s (hence the stories of haunting). Croom sat as an empty ghost town for decades and was gradually reclaimed by the forest. Today there are only scant remnants of the town, a few artifacts here and there, the remains of an old railroad bridge, an abandoned cemetery, and a lot of stories of strange happenings deep in the woods at night, and Hog Island is supposedly the most active area. Campers have reported seeing unexplained lights in the forest, and hearing disembodied voices in the area.

 

 

The hike itself is short and not difficult, but it’s filled with stunning, uncanny beauty. And no matter what you believe, the place certainly looks haunted. It’s the sort of place I would want live, if I were a Swamp Witch, or some sort of Ghoul, or perhaps a wise old Muppet.

 

 

It’s a place that doesn’t exactly seem real, even when you’re in it. Buzzards perch in the branches of moss-covered oaks, cypress knees form mazes of surreal shapes, and the slow-moving waters of the Withlacoochee river make a perfect mirror of darkness and hollow fallen tree trunks suggest secret passages to even deeper weirdness. 


 




















It's a great place for photos, but pictures really don't do it justice. Go there, hike, stay the night, tell some campfire stories and get nicely terrified in a beautiful place. 

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