The Interstate 4 highway stretches over 132 miles through Florida, and is frequented daily by those on their way to work or visit friends, and certainly it’s a travel hub for those vacationing in the Sunshine State, perhaps on their way to Disney World.
While the I-4 is a very well-traveled highway, there’s one spot nicknamed the “Dead Zone” where people need to be especially careful. This quarter-mile stretch of the highway has been the location for many car accidents, electronic malfunctions, and even ghost sightings.
Why is this seemingly cursed spot on the highway so dangerous for drivers? Perhaps it’s because it was built over graves, and a disturbed grave site is the perfect recipe for strange things to happen. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence that so many people have crashed their vehicles there, although it’s a pretty frightening coincidence. The graves are under one of the eastbound lanes of the I-4, before you get to the south end of the St. Johns River Bridge, but we’ll let you decide whether it’s just a coincidence… or if there’s a more sinister aspect to the stories. Let’s take a look at the strange and eerie part of the Interstate 4 highway known as the Dead Zone…
The Dead Zone
Around the halfway point between Daytona and Orlando is a very dangerous spot for drivers. The Interstate 4 highway passes over the St. Johns River in Seminole County, and at the south end of the interstate bridge is a quarter-mile section known as the “Dead Zone.”
The Dead Zone is known for the exceptionally high amount of accidents that have happened there. Oddly enough, on the first day that the new Interstate 4 was opened, a tractor-trailer carrying frozen shrimp suddenly lost control and jackknifed directly above the disturbed graves of immigrants who had died from yellow fever.
While there isn’t an exact number, it is believed that anywhere from 1,500 to over 2,000 accidents have happened there since the opening of the highway in 1963. Unfortunately, many of those accidents resulted with death. In fact, around 440 accidents happened at that location between the 1999 and 2006. And in just a 24-month period between 1995 and 1997, there were a staggering 44 car accidents that resulted in 65 people being injured.
Many of the locals will not drive on the Dead Zone of the I-4, and instead take a much longer and more roundabout way to get to their destination.
The History Of The Location
In the years before the 1880s, the location was nothing but wilderness with a sand road that ended up at an area that was equipped with a hand-operated river ferry. Then in 1886, a railroad station was built and there was an attempt to begin a Roman Catholic colony named St. Joseph’s colony. The owner of the land, Henry Sanford, thought that he could get some German immigrants to fill the colony. But after just four immigrant families moved there, Sanford’s efforts to establish a thriving Catholic colony ended.
One year later, there was an outbreak of yellow fever that claimed the lives of one immigrant family. There was so much fear that others would contract the fever that the four bodies were taken into the woods and burned. The priest who was also living in the colony had to go to Tampa to minister to yellow fever victims there, but unfortunately three days after arriving he also passed away from the fever. With the priest dead, there wasn’t anyone who could perform the last rites to the family of four who had passed away and they were buried without any ceremony.
By 1890, the colony had developed into a rural town named Lake Monroe. When a man named D.V. Warren bought the land north of the railroad, he cleared the area so he could do some farming, but he left the cemetery untouched. The graves looked like an island in the middle of the cultivated farmland and, over time, the names on the four wooden markers were erased by nature. Warren sold his land to Albert S. Hawkins in 1905.
Hawkins had leased his land to other farmers but he always asked them not to touch or mess with the burial site. However, one farmer ignored the warning and attempted to remove the wire fence that was around the graves. His house mysteriously burned down that exact day.
Hawkins had a home that was located at the edge of the field, and one day it burned down when he tried removing the rotting wooden markers for the graves. Since his wife was convinced that the fire was because of his tampering with the gravesite, Hawkins immediately replaced the markers.
However, after the Hawkins’ new house was built, they began experiencing strange things in their new home, especially with the children’s toys. A small rocking chair would begin rocking all by itself, and several toys would move on their own. Even his neighbors told him that they had seen strange lights around the gravesite at night. Perhaps this is why many of the locals nicknamed the area the “Field of the Dead.”
Another chilling event happened in the early 1950s when a young boy was disturbing the graves, and the following night he was killed by a drunk driver. The driver was never identified or caught.
Hurricanes And The I-4
The government bought the property in 1959 for the purpose of building Interstate 4. The four graves were supposed to be relocated to another area, but never were. The surveyors of the land decided that the graves were very old and “felt it was best, as well as beneficial to construction and time issues to ignore the graves and build over them.” One of the engineers was even quoted saying, “It’s not an ancient Indian burial ground, they’re just a few old bones.” Their choice not to relocate the graves would be one of the worst decisions they could ever make.
In September 1960, dirt was poured on top of the graves in order to raise up the highway. At the same time that the fill-dirt was being poured on the graves, a powerful storm named Hurricane Donna was hammering the southern region of Florida. The hurricane was on its way to the Gulf of Mexico but suddenly and unexpectedly changed course toward the exact location where the new interstate was being built. In fact, the eye of the hurricane passed directly over the gravesite at exactly midnight on the night of September 10, 1960. The damage from the storm delayed the construction of the highway for almost a month.
Then in 2004, another major storm named Hurricane Charley took almost the exact same route Hurricane Donna had. Hurricane Charley passed directly over the graves of the four deceased immigrants, and what’s even more eerie is that there was construction happening around the graves right before the hurricane passed over. It seemed as though something – or someone – didn’t want anyone disturbing the resting place of the four deceased immigrants. Researcher and author Charlie Carlson wrote a book called Strange Florida, and has talked about the hurricanes:
“Charley followed almost the same route as Donna. They referred to Charley as the ‘I-4 Hurricane.’ Strangely enough, there was construction going on around the graves. The land where the graves are was being disturbed again. It was almost like a repeat of Donna.”
There have also been a high number of tornadoes that have ripped through the area, following the route of the Interstate 4.
An Eerie Coincidence
It’s definitely a strange coincidence that two hurricanes seemingly made sure that they hit the exact location where the graves were being disturbed by construction, as well as the many tornadoes that have traveled up Interstate 4, as if there was some sort of force or magnet attracting them to the location. But there is another coincidence that is absolutely bone-chilling and deeply disturbing.
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that there were 44 car crashes that ended up injuring a total of 65 people between 1995 and 1997. If you take a moment to do the math, when you add up 44 and 65 you get a total of 109. In 1996, it had been exactly 109 years since the four members of the immigrant family died in 1887. Now that’s an incredibly eerie coincidence.
In addition to the countless car crashes, deadly tornadoes, and strong hurricanes, Interstate 4 is also known as the most haunted highway in America, especially in the quarter-mile Dead Zone.
There have been many strange occurrences and paranormal activity associated with the highway. One common claim is that cell phones, radios, and CBs stop working when people drive through the Dead Zone. Others have claimed to have heard static or the sound of children laughing coming from their electronics. They have also heard disembodied voices, such as a person asking “Who’s there?” or the simple question of “Why?” But when drivers respond through their devices, there is nobody on the other end to answer. Some people have even claimed to have heard the sounds of snarling or growling coming from their radios. What’s even more frightening is the fact that there are no cell phone or radio antennas in that area, so the strange sounds coming from electronic devices are a real mystery.
Some people have reported seeing ghost cars, shadow people, and ghostly apparitions of hitchhikers, as well as suddenly driving into thick fog that appears out of nowhere, and even feeling cold spots. Some have also witnessed unexplained balls of light that zig-zag above the road. Others have claimed to have seen the ghostly apparition of a young woman in a flowing white dress or nightgown. An even more disturbing allegation is that some drivers have claimed that an unseen force had taken over control of their vehicles.
While state officials have blamed the exceptionally high amount of car accidents on congested traffic conditions, many people believe that the crashes are caused by restless spirits that are looking for revenge after their graves were disturbed.
There’s no doubt that there have been an unusually high number of car accidents on the I-4, and there are a lot of claims coming from people who have experienced strange and unexplained things in that area. Add in the fact that the Dead Zone is resting on top of four graves, and… well, it’s no surprise that this is the most haunted highway in America.