This post is part of the Haunted Ocala National Forest, the now-defunct book project that was a part of Tripping on Legends. These stories were originally to be part of a book that was to act as a follow-up to our Haunted Florida Love Stories book, but that ship has sailed. Whether it is the nature of the forest or the nature of Tripping on Legends itself, the project did not work out. We are, however, left with these unfinished chapters which range from local legends to a rambling thread trying to make sense of people’s first-hand experiences. Either way, we present these chapters hoping to resurrect the project someday and continue the search for haunted legends.

Enjoy, and feel to contribute to the avalanche of the unexplained that is Ocala…

Please contact me with any corrections, additions, or clarifications. This project begs for it…

There are no pictures of what the springs behind Fort King looked like in those days of the Second Seminole War.  There are rumors and tales of its gentle water and the wildness of the flowers that grew beside it, like a bloom somehow growing in the middle of a battlefield.  Now the area is not much more than a large hole in the ground filled with murky water and covered with algae.  It’s not the kind of place you would bring your lover in the hopes of being swept away by its beauty and falling into their arms. In the 1800s, however, it was the perfect location for a midnight meeting between two lovers trying to keep their romance hidden, slipping away to allow the almost supernatural fog that rolled in to cover their growing passion.

In the early days of the Second Seminole War (although no actual time is every given), soldiers went down to the spring by day to get fresh water.  On one trip, a young private saw a beautiful Seminole woman (she is almost always called a maiden when the story is retold) and fell deeply in love with her.  Despite the growing tensions between their people, he approached, and they quickly started up a romance.  It was the wrong time for a soldier to fall in love with a Seminole.  Just through the woods at the fort men with guns spent their days swearing and preparing to settle the question of Indian relocation or destruction.  The balance and truce the two sides had formed for years had deteriorated.  Blood was being spilled.  It was no time for love, especially to someone on the other side. 

So, they would meet in secret late at night.  He made plans to move her away when his service time was over and live happily ever after far away.  Then he was called away on a scouting trip one night deep into the Ocala woods, and his band of six or seven men was ambushed by the Seminoles.  All were believed killed.

When the maiden got word of what had happened, she went down to the spring to grieve her lost love.  It all became too much.  But the soldier had survived and made his way back to Fort King.  He immediately went to the spring and found her body floating in the water face down.  He took out his sidearm and shot himself in the head, believing they would be together on the other side. 

To this day, people say an unusual fog makes its way to the spring some nights, especially in December and January when the deaths were said to have happened.  Two people can be seen walking around the water and sometimes walking on the water itself.  The figures, usually described as being transparent and glowing white or blue, try to connect to each other but never seem to be able to touch.  They disappear right before they do, or one does and the other continues to walk.  Strange balls of white and blue light are seen walking down the path leading to the spring as well.  These are more frequent in those months but are seen all year long.  People also report a phantom gunshot heard from the direction of the water at night, but when they go to investigate, nobody is around or seen leaving through the woods.

Everyone always wants to know why a ghost haunts a certain place.  Why does a spirit come back to one house and not another, or why does one person see a disappearing hitchhiker on a road other people travel every night without a single sighting?  Ghosts should not be random.  They are already confusing enough.  Give me a reason for the haunting so it can make sense to me, and I am more likely to believe your crazy claim that something is going on.  The setting must be part of the ghost story if you want me to believe, and it better be connected to what people are experiencing there.  At Fort King in Ocala, Florida, the location and background stand up straight and tall to convince you its ghosts are real.

Go there today and you won’t see the actual Fort King but a recreation built to honor the importance of the stronghold’s place in Florida history.   Its colorful past began in 1827 when it was established as a garrison to protect the Seminole Indian lands from new people coming into the area.  It was a buffer, peacefully enforcing the policies set by the Seminole Indian Agency across the street.  Funding and shifting attitudes caused it to essentially close, but it was reopened a short time later as President Andrew Jackson ordered the Seminoles to start moving from the state into Oklahoma.  Wiley Thompson was brought in to replace the kinder, gentler “Indian agent” and the fort was seen as the powder keg between the two sides.

The Seminoles refused to move, claiming those who had signed agreements like the famous Treaty of Payne’s Landing did not speak for the tribe.  Tensions mounted, and in late December 1835 troops left Fort Brooks near Tampa to reinforce those at Fort King.  They would never arrive.  In what is now Bushnell, Florida, soldiers led by Major Francis Dade were ambushed and all but two were killed in what has been named the Dade Massacre.  What many people don’t realize is that on the same day Osceola, perhaps the most famous and vocal Seminole to oppose the move, attacked Wiley at Fort King, shooting him fourteen times, scalping him, and taking out four other men in the process.  As the second Seminole War played itself out, the tribe burned the buildings down to the ground only to see it be rebuilt a year later.  It was finally abandoned in 1843, with people taking what was left of the fort to build houses, businesses, and the Ocala courthouse.

With so much history and backstory, it would seem like a prime location for ghosts and ghost stories.  But there might also be a curse.  The fort was conceived as someplace to reinforce movement of the Seminoles out of the state, and while some in the nation agreed with what was happening, others were vocal about being moved.  Fort King became a symbol and focal point for that anger. 

While there is ghostly activity at the base and the surrounding grounds, there is also something darker the people whisper about.  “Some of the neighbors say some weird things happen here,” says Candice, a ranger at the fort.  She explains that while people see odd lights and mysterious figures in different parts of the neighborhood, there are other unexplained things that point to something other than ghosts.  “There’s a pretty high suicide rate within a couple block radius here.”  Other people in the area point to the continued closing and reopening and demolition and rebuilding in Ocala as further evidence of the curse. 

Most of what people experience is not nearly as sinister. 

“They took all of the bodies out and reburied them in the pyramid in St. Augustine,” claims Candice.  “They say they got all the bodies, but there were houses built here already by the time they said they were able to reinter them.”   The pyramid she is referring to is the St. Augustine Post Cemetery which was designated a national cemetery in 1885.  The site, known as the smallest national cemetery in the country, was paid for by the soldiers themselves when the government refused to fund it and holds the remains of soldiers who had died and were buried at other locations and then dug up and shipped to the new site.  The cemetery is one of the most famous haunted locations in a city known for its haunted locations.  Most of the dead were laid to rest near where they had fallen during battles, such as those who perished in the Dade Massacre.  Both the violent and sudden deaths and the removal of the bodies are traditional sparks of ghostly activity.  The spiritual reason for this may have something to do with the soul returning or not finding peace because it cannot find its body.  The intellectual or psychological reason might have more to do with the survivor’s guilt.  The living expect these places to be haunted because they feel remorseful the bodies have been moved.  When something odd happens, they are more likely to believe it to be ghosts because there is an excellent reason for them.

Bodies being moved might go a bit deeper than the soldiers though.  While there are no written records, locals believe there were mounds where the fort used to be that were destroyed during its construction.  Native America sites, perhaps even burial sites, were disturbed.  In other words, a burial ground was plowed under to then be used as another burial ground which was then dug up to move the bodies to another location.  There seem to be layers upon layers of potential ghosts.  It is worth noting that Fort King was built across from a place designed to ease tensions and functioned as a place where Seminoles were given a voice and assistance with issues with the citizens.  It would seem odd the government would demolish something they held sacred to do it, although it is not impossible.

Regardless of the reasons, people see the shadows there.  The front of the park, the area where the cemetery used to be, is probably the most active.  Drivers going by at night often see unexplained lights on the lawn.  They hit Web sites to talk about walking their dogs at night and seeing soldiers there who disappear when they are approached.  One man driving by during the day stopped on the side of the road because he thought the two men dressed in uniforms and carrying guns were part of a reenactment.  To his surprise, the men slowly walked towards the woods and faded before his eyes.  There are reenactments at Fort King, but these are scheduled events the town takes great pride in.  They do not have them in the middle of the week at five o’clock in the afternoon. 

Ethan experienced something similar near the recreated fort itself.  “I was walking around the structure telling my son about the history of the fort.  I saw two men at the far entrance, near the gate that opens to the front of the park, carrying guns and walking slowly.  One turned to look at me.  They were far away, so I couldn’t tell what they looked like, but I did see one had a thick moustache.  They were not transparent or glowing.  There was nothing strange about them.”  He thought there must be an event starting and rushed to see what they would be demonstrating.  “I grabbed my son’s hand and we ran to catch them and see what they were doing.  They were gone by the time we got there, but there was no place they could have snuck off too.”  While he admits it is possible they could have gone down a path or hidden from the father and son, he asked one of the rangers later about whether there was a special show happening.  “The ranger said there was nothing planned.  Then he stopped and looked at me.  He gave me an odd smile and said, ‘Don’t worry.  People see that kind of thing all the time here.’”

That’s something Candice agrees with.  Most of the employees have seen something or at least have heard a story from one of the visitors who has asked them to try and explain the moment.  To her, the most haunted part of the memorial is the visitor’s center.  “There are many times I’m alone and something happens in different parts.  There have been some weird things that have happened on sight near the visitor’s center.  There’s knocking and then you’re looking outside and no one’s there.  I try to ignore it, because the more I investigate it the louder it seems to get.”  She also reports things have a habit of being moved or even disappearing from the building, even when no people are there.  Once the knocking became so loud, she found it impossible to ignore and went to investigate.  There was a violent smashing sound she thought meant a tree had fallen on the visitor’s center.  She went out to check it out, but there was no fallen tree and no natural reasons she should have heard the noise.

Logan works many of the parks in the area.  He has never seen anything himself but admits there are too many stories to totally dismiss the possibility that Fort King is haunted.  “It’s one of those things that people talk about, and we had some investigators out once.  We have a lot of reenactors come out and take a lot of pictures, and they get orbs and other things in them.”  His job is to lock up the parks, and says he inherited that part of the job almost out of need.  “Some of the guys won’t walk the trails at night.”

And then there is the haunted spring, the site of lost love, a mysterious fog, and a ghost story that won’t go away.

This is the kind of scene and story people talk about often, the kind that can’t be backed up.  Most times it is because the legend is made up, but the activity is not.  Logan has never seen any lights coming from the area or heard any gunshots, despite being the person responsible for closing Fort King at night.  “I have never seen a fog at this fort.  There is condensation sometimes, but I’ve never seen it get foggy [at the fort] or foggy down by the spring.”  December and January, months in Florida when the temperature between the nights and days changes dramatically, would make sense though.   It also happens to be the time when the reenactors visit the site, and a good spooky tale should always have that “It was a night just like tonight” element to it.  Fort King is great for that.  Whether it’s the remains of a dug up cemetery, the recreation of destroyed armament, or an overgrown watering hole, Fort King Park is the perfect spot to be the main character in a ghost story. 

Feel free to call our new phone number during our live shows to get involved, share a legend you’ve heard, or to just ask a question at (813) 418-6822.

Tripping on Legends is now part of the Midnight FM family. Check us out and see some of the other amazing shows they offer at

Haunted Florida Love Stories is finally available at:

You can follow our dark journey through the forest as we prepare for the book at

or by following the hashtag #hauntedOcala.

Keep visiting the site for the trip log of our travels and other urban legends at:

Follow our new project, This Town is Myth on Facebook at

and with the hashtag #ThisTownisMyth on all our social media platforms

You can contact us with questions, comments, and your favorite legend or tidbit of folklore at

Follow us at:

Twitter: @SpookyBalzano
Instagram: @SpookyTripping

Tripping on Legends is now part of the Midnight FM family.  Check us out and see some of the other amazing shows they offer at

The new book is ready for purchase…

You can follow the media and special little features of the book at

You can follow our dark journey through the forest as we prepare for the book at or by following the hashtag #hauntedOcala.

Follow our new project, This Town is Myth on Facebook at

Follow all social media at #ThisTownIsMyth.

You can contact us with questions, comments, and your favorite legend or tidbit of folklore at

Feel free to call our new phone number during our lives shows to get involved or whenever just to share a legend you’ve heard to ask a question at ((813) 418-6822. 

Keep visiting the site for the trip log of our travels and other urban legends at:

Follow us at:

Twitter: @SpookyBalzano

Instagram: @SpookyTripping