Lure & Legends

UFO sightings have been attributed to eerie and unearthly lights generated by the so-called "Swamp Gas". Add to this the fact that a swamp is the modern equivalent of the prehistoric dinosaur's habitat. Then you try to guess, what's the dominant creature lounging at the top of the swamp food chain, other than a man? Why it's the American Alligator of course. Gators are direct throwback descendants from reptiles of the Mesozoic Era "The Age of Dinosaurs". Regardless of Okefenokee's actual age, which is considered very young geologically. This mosaic of wetlands is a fascinating time portal to be able to see and experience some things that would have existed hundreds of millions of years ago.

The allure and lore of Okefenokee, has inspired movie makers, novelists, artists, and storytellers alike. A favorite monster, The Creature of the Black Lagoon was reportedly inspired by visits to the Okefenokee. In the past, a swamp was always portrayed as gloomy, dismal, foreboding and a mysterious place to fear and avoid. Nowadays some of us have evolved beyond stereotypical misconceptions and possess the enlightened comprehension of what a big southern swamp is and how it functions. Strange and mysterious attributes may come to be appreciated as sublimely unique, unusual, highly enchanting, and intimidating naturally occurring features.

Historically human beings journeyed to deserts, mountains, and seas seeking inspiration and enlightenment. Mankind just may have overlooked this primordial nexus, the nursery, and catalyst of lifeforms on our planet.

Numerous extraordinary events have occurred and continually seem to pop up in and around the Okefenokee. We hope you will find these case studies interesting, thought-provoking, and worth the visit.

A Classic UFO Sighting

An unusual UFO was sighted on the east side of the swamp in May 1998, the description varies. The sighting was observed over several mile areas in a north to south direction. The editor of a local newspaper gave a brief description of the UFO in an editorial. The UFO was described as a large shiny black object, which hovered for some time then, broke apart into quite a few smaller objects, which flew, away in different directions. A certified UFO investigating team investigated the sightings. The results of this investigation are unavailable to us at this time. Update 2009: Still no plausible explanation has ever been given for this sighting.

Bright Lights, Big Swamp, A UFO or Swamp Gas

This information about a very nearby sighting was sent to Okefenokee X-Files from a respected source. I have lived in the area all my life except for a few years in the military. About 15 or so years ago, I was dating a girl who lived about a mile from the swamp entrance. I stayed over at her house till near midnight one night, watching for falling stars during a meteor shower. As it was a moonlit night and the road out to the main highway was white sand, I was idling along with no lights on trying to catch a glimpse of any falling stars. I hadn't gone very far when something very strange happened. I saw a very bright white light about the size of a basketball and as bright as a vapor lamp flying through the pine trees ahead of me and to my right. It seemed to be moving about 60 miles an hour and was maybe 6 or 7 feet off the ground. I thought it was going to come out of the woods right on top of me and I hit my brakes. As soon as I hit my brakes it was as if it saw my brake lights and it immediately went back the way it had come. It didn't seem to turn around but simply reversed direction in an instant. I then turned my lights on bright and drove about 90 mph to my home. I later went back to see if maybe I had somehow seen a car's headlights or a streetlamp or something. I determined that the woods were too thick and the highway and nearest streetlamp were much too far away. I still don't know what it was that I saw, but it was very startling, to say the least.

Alien Abduction

In early 1996, a former Everglades National Park Ranger on a vacation from upstate New York visited Okefenokee's Westside for canoeing and bird watching. He put his canoe in at Stephen Foster Park and paddled over to Billy's Island. He did not return to the Park, his canoe was found that evening on Billy's Island. Federal, state and local officials immediately started a search, which escalated over the next few days and weeks, to an extremely extensive search for the man.

Exhaustive searches of Billy's Island were conducted, hand to hand searches combing the entire Island, turned up nothing. Bloodhounds were brought in, the hounds could not pick up a scent beyond a small loop, they turned up nothing. Heat-seeking infrared helicopters were brought in, sensitive enough to identify small animals this man weighed over 300lbs, they turned up nothing. Cadaver sniffing dogs were brought in, they turned up nothing.

All hope was almost given up until one day some 40+ days after the disappearance, a bedraggled man was seen by a boater leaning against a tree near the waters edge on Billy's Island. A day after this sighting, a dazed man identified himself to some passing canoeists as the missing man.

He was brought to a local hospital in a confused and disoriented state. He was not very informative as to what happened to him. The man insisted that he had been on the Island wandering aimlessly the whole time, living off the land. Billy's Island is a small well-used island, federal, state, and local officials involved in the searches do not buy his story.

The man has never publicly stated he was abducted. Speculation around the swamp is that he was taken without his knowledge from the island and then returned sometime after the search had been scaled down, with his memory seemingly erased. A classic UFO abduction.

A Headless Ghost

An Okefenokee area ghost tradition, this one dating to the 1930s, owes its existence to the railroad. A man fishing along the tracks at Henson Creek, near Manor, fell asleep one night with the rails as his pillow. A train appeared, sounding its whistle frantically, but there was no response. Steel wheels kept on rolling, and the fisherperson was high laundered.

Now for a twist. The legend is that the body can be seen walking the rails at night swinging a phantom lantern in search of its head. Kevin Dial claims that his grandfather went in search of the "shade" one night. Sure enough, it approached, solid white and six feet tall, walking directly toward Gramps, who fired a futile shot before fleeing.

Ghost Spirit Sightings

A log cabin on Okefenokee's East Side by an area called Camp Cornelia on Trail Ridge is where this haunting took place in the early 1990s. A former Refuge volunteer, who resided in the cabin, reported strange visitations of Spirits. The Spirits were Native American Indians in full regalia. These spirits were not aware of the walls and boundaries of the cabin but seemed attached to the land the cabin was on. They seemingly went about their daily tribal existence without concern.

A Curse and the Hangman's Oak

Trader's Hill was a flourishing port for water trade in the frontier southeastern region. This small outpost community, compared to the surrounding settlements of the time, was an active metropolis. Begun as a trading post in 1755, the village, about five miles south of Folkston, Ga. survived until the early 1900's on the river that once separated the royal colony of Georgia from the Spanish holdings and the Seminole nations to the south.

At the end of Main Street stood a huge, old oak, "The Hangman's Oak" of Trader's Hill. It was said the old oak could tell story upon story of mysterious events around the riverbank village. In the autumn of 1840, this massive tree played a major role in a mysterious drama, as reported by Troy Jones in the Charlton County Herald.

An elderly Indian, named Suanee, accused of stealing some goods from the general store and of killing the owner, had been captured and placed in the town jail. If he escaped he could swim thirty yards to safety; therefore he was well guarded. Escape into Florida from Trader's Hill was frequently "made good" since the Saint Mary's River is only a short distance and very narrow at this point.

Suanee had prepared for this day. His grandfather, for whom the river Suwannee was named, it is said, had told him to starve himself until he could easily slip through the cell bars if he should ever become a prisoner of the white man. This he did. But his feebleness would not allow the old warrior freedom.

A speedy trial and he was carried to the huge oak for execution. When the noose was placed around his neck. The Indian prayed; he then lifted his head and spoke, "May the curse of my father's spirit and mine be placed among the people as long as there is a Trader's Hill." Not paying any heed to the defiant old warrior, the people, after hanging him, went on about their way. But all was not settled.

One night as the villagers were attending a county dance, a bright light cast its beam in the eyes of the merrymakers; astonished, they looked toward this phenomenon. The gleam came from the oak. Accompanying the glow, a low moan whined throughout the countryside. Immediately, so writes Jones, people began to leave their homes and Trader's Hill.

Some who visit the lonely ridge today assert that on certain nights the light can still be seen and the distant sound of moaning is still heard.

The above story was taken from the book "This Magic Wilderness" authored by Robert Latimer Hurst.

Image may be subject to copyright
Image may be subject to copyright

Georgia Giants in the Earth

Local legend around the Okefenokee Swamp Area of Georgia and Florida holds that Spanish explorers who ventured into the vast area swore the forests turned into giant warriors who launched showers of arrows at them. Today phantom deer, bears, and panthers that can only be killed by special bullets roam the islands at night, and on stormy nights ghost slave ships slip up the Saint Mary's River amid sounds of clanking chains that can be heard by observers. Skeleton crews sail the boats up this winding waterway to unload their forbidden cargo on isolated sandbars.

During the 1920s a railroad was built to transport lumber out of the swamp. While crossing Floyd's Island, the largest in the swamp, it became necessary to cut through an extensive half-moon-shaped Indian mound. Within it, workers found the skeletons of several giant-sized men accompanied by pottery and beads.

Tom Chesser, who owned Chesser Island in Charlton County, had a sizable mound in his backyard. In 1969 he told the Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine that a professor from a northern university hired him to excavate the mound in the 1920s. They discovered thirteen skeletons in all.

"Some of the skeletons were crossed," Chesser said, "one on top of the other. Some were face down. All of them were perfect when they were first discovered. Teeth even still had some glaze on them, but when air struck, it crumbled them. They were giants. Those Jawbones would go over my whole face."

Chesser Island is now a part of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The Chesser Homestead is a part of the Refuge System's Heritage Preservation program. The Indian Mound referred to along with an informational kiosk containing more information on these Gigantic pre-Georgians is located on the grounds of the Chesser Homestead. Chesser Island can be visited only from the East Entrance to Okefenokee, located directly across from Okefenokee Pastimes, host of this website.

Spectres of the Swamp Sighting

This one was reported in January 1998 on Trail Ridge, the ancient geological feature which makes up the eastern boundary of the swamp. A traveler on vacation and hiking near the boardwalk area was surprised by the sound of drums in the distant piney woods. Native American spectres carrying objects and walking swiftly in a single file line were sighted off in the distance heading south on the ridge. The vacationer did not linger long to watch the procession. He reported no sense of hostility but felt uneasy as if he was seeing something he should not be observing.

Big Foot and a Nose for Boogers

Creature sighted occasionally in a place just to the south of Okefenokee near Palatka, Florida. This Abominable Snowman of rural Putnam County Florida is called "The Bardin Booger", named for the small community nearby the sightings. The Booger has been spotted along isolated creeks that meander through the woods to the St. Johns River. Reports on the "Booger" have him up to 8 feet tall, very hairy, walking upright, footprints to 18″ long and 8″ wide, a pug nose and smelling really bad. Stories of "Yeti" type creatures in the Southeast such as the Skunk Ape, the Booger, and the Pig Man have many common threads. It seems that only in isolated, remote, and sparsely populated areas are humans able to be aware of these missing links.

The Pig Man A.K.A. Sasquatch Sightings

It has been many years since a sighting, but old swampers would call him the South Georgia Pig Man. Over the years reported sightings have persisted in and around the South Georgia swamp areas, especially deep in the remote recesses of the Okefenokee Swamp.

Reports describe the creature as a large ape-like being, that walks upright, has abundant hair, and a nose similar to a pig. Observers have commented on a skunk-like odor that has accompanied the sightings. There have been no reports of hostility or aggression, in fact, the creature was referred to as timid and shy with sad expressive eyes.

These Okefenokee area sightings have many details in common with creature sightings documented in the Everglades. A very similar missing link referred to as the Florida Skunk Ape. Could it be possible these beings are related genetically?

Before development transformed Florida, these man-like creatures might have migrated. One of their routes could have been by way of the Kissimmee River Valley up along the Lake Wales Ridge to the extensive game-rich swamps associated with the St. John's River Basin.

The migration would have passed right by what is today the city of Jacksonville onward to the Okefenokee and beyond.

A Swamp Thing

The Okefenokee Swamp was truly a land of mystery in June 1829, when the Milledgeville Statesman published a bizarre story about it. The tale was related by a John Ostean, "residing on the borders of this swamp in Ware County," and others who lived on the opposite side in Florida. Locals had long heard from Creek Indians of an enchanted island inhabited by "mortals of super-human dimensions and incomparable beauty." The story goes that two men and a boy had taken advantage of a long dry spell and pushed deep into the swamp for two weeks to seek this island. However, "their progress suddenly arrested at the appearance of the print of a foot-step so unearthly in its dimensions, so ominous of power, and terrible in form," that they paused. The print was eighteen inches long and nine inches across, the stride of this giant over six feet. The party hastily returned and spread the tale of the "Man Mountain."

Hearing the story, nine Florida hunters ventured into the swamp. After several days' journey, they found a similar print and others. The men followed the tracks for several days and had camped on a ridge when two of their members "simultaneously discharged at an advancing and ferocious wild beast" whose screams made the swamp "reverberate with a deafening roar." The creature came "full in their view advancing upon them with a terrible look... Our little band instinctively gathered close in a body and presented their rifles. The huge being, nothing daunted, bounded upon his victims, and in the same instant received the contents of seven rifles. But he did not die alone; nor until he had glutted his wrath with the death of five of them, which he effected by wringing off the head from the body." The four surviving men examined the prostrate giant as it died, "wallowing and roaring. His length was thirteen feet, and his breadth and volume of just proportions." Fearing the struggle might have alerted similar beings; the men gathered their comrades' guns and fled for home.

A Boy and his Big Foot

This report was forwarded to the Georgia Swamp Ape Research Center, GSARC, and detailed an encounter in the Okefenokee Swamp. While a fourteen-year-old boy and his family were camping on the West side at Stephen Foster State Park in 1972, the boy was walking along a waterway when he heard footsteps behind him, drawing closer. He assumed it was his siblings. "I figured they were going to scare me, and I decided to let them sneak up and I would jump out and scare them." Moments later "a thing that looked like a cross between a chimpanzee and a little man" approached along the path. "It saw me and let out a sound like from hell," then crouched down and nimbly sprung on the boy. "It knocked me down and tried to get its teeth in (to) my neck. I screamed. I thought I was dead." Fortunately, the youngster's parents heard the scream and shouted back. "It raised up real slow and sniffed the air for a few seconds," he continued. "Then it just got up and walked into the canal and swam across to the other side," disappearing into the woods.

Two for the Swamp

These two swamp stories have sites but no dates. Two farmers were deer hunting near the Waycross side of the swamp and observed a seven-and-a-half-foot-tall creature covered with grayish-brown hair crossing the Southern Railroad tracks. The creature stopped and stared at them for a while, and they stared back. The huge humanoid finally lumbered off disappearing into the swamp. Some years ago a family visiting their grandmother's house at the Okefenokee Swamp was passing the time fishing. Suddenly, the mother "began screaming and pointing at this thing that was carrying away our stringer," said a man who was twelve at the time and related the story recently to the GEORGIA SWAMP APE RESEARCH CENTER. The creature was thirty yards distant, loping along a creek. The father shouted angrily at the animal and pursued until he got close "and it turned around and screamed at us." The father turned and ran, quickly gathering the family into the car and leaving. That night Granny informed the family "she heard stuff around all the time but stayed in the house at night."

The Big Foot Bureau of Investigation

The Georgia Swamp Ape Research Center, like a number of other organizations around the globe, was set up to study and investigate the existence of big hairy and smelly hominids, a semi-recognized science called cryptozoology. The GSARC concentrates mainly on the study and documentation of Georgia's Bigfoot creatures. Bigfoot had been generally considered a resident of the deep woods of the Northwest. Consider the Southeast, with many areas that are largely wilderness, sporting huge tracts of woods, extensive systems of rivers and creeks, vast swamps, and areas that like the Okefenokee, are for all practical purposes inaccessible to humans. The GSARC believed that Southern Bigfoots are seven to nine feet in height, with attendant long strides. They average eight hundred pounds, are covered in hair, and give off horrid odors. The organization proposes the creatures have always lived in the region and point to the Indian legends of huge hairy spirits who lived in the swamps and woodlands as well as the monster stories told by the early settlers to this region. Sightings of Bigfoot in Georgia are often associated with arrangements of trees and limbs into territorial markers. Researchers have found trees stripped of bark to a height of twelve feet and some trees were broken and twisted in such a way it was obviously a creature much stronger than any human. Cattle and deer are occasionally found brutally killed by something, possessing an appetite for certain internal organs.