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    Published 9-23-2020

    This is an excerpt from my Florida Phantoms, slightly edited for AR&GH.
    Florida Phantoms and all my other books are available at my website,

    Just outside the city of Ocala lies a different "Magic Kingdom." Mother Nature rules this kingdom. It's the Ocala National Forest, 430,000 scenic acres of the most diverse terrain imaginable.  It contains highlands, swamps, 600 lakes, countless ponds, 23 streams and springs of clear crystal water, it’s bounded by the slow, dark waters of the Oklawaha River on the west and the larger, faster moving St. Johns River on the east. It is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi and it has its ghostly secrets.

    The flora and fauna of the area is diverse. You will explore oak hammocks and vast stands of Sand Pine. You will encounter large live oaks, scrub oak, longleaf pine, sand pine, loblolly pine, pigmy hickory, dogwood, magnolia, sable palm, palmetto, and countless other trees.

    The forest is home to a multitude of animals.  Eagles and ospreys are not an uncommon sight.  Many other birds migrate through the area seasonally. The reptile population is well represented, from the numerous alligators to the rare eastern indigo snake.  The Indigo Snake, which is an endangered species, is quite an actor.  If threatened, he will flatten his head, hiss, and vibrate his tail and even strike.   It's all a bluff: his bite is harmless.

    Another place that may or may not be harmless is the cottage in Oklawaha on Lake Weir, where Ma Barker and her son Fred were killed in a FBI shootout that lasted for hours. It was moved from its original location outside of Ocala to county-owned land and turned into a museum. The house is furnished as it was at the time of the shootout. Many people have seen Ma Barker still sitting on the porch as she did in life.

    Each January, there is a re-enactment. In case any of you are not familiar with the story, it happened like this.

    The Barker/Karpis gang had found things a bit too hot in the mid-west after several kidnapping operations. Doc, one of the sons, was captured. Kate Barker and her oldest son, Fred, move to the Oklawaha hideout.

    The government agents locate them and on January 16, 1935, after one of the bloodiest shootouts in federal history, Fred is killed with his machine gun in hand. Ma is also found dead with three bullets in her. Since J. Edgar Hoover did not want the FBI to have a reputation for shooting old ladies, a story is circulated that Kate Barker shot herself after seeing her favorite son gunned down.

    Also in order to deflect blame, Hoover claims that Ma Barker was in fact the head of the gang. This was not supported by any factual evidence. In fact she had no criminal record at all. The only “crime” she was ever guilty of was protecting her sons. The "Ma Barker" legend was created after federal agents shot her to death.

    Kate and Fred Barker were laid out for public display in a local funeral parlor after the shooting. Perhaps she is still lurking around the old homestead to protest the injustice she feels was committed to her.

    This is not the only haunted place in the forest. One common legend in the forest is that of a man wandering up and down the country roads. He is wearing a long hooded black coat pulled up to cover his face. Travelers frequently have called local ranger stations and police to reporting this man lying on the side of the road. Sometimes he is seen walking, and sitting on the guardrails of bridges late at night.

    There are numerous campgrounds in the forest. I was camping one July at Farles Prairie.  Farles Prairie has some interesting stories, which get passed down from the old regular campers to new ones, as they visit around the campfires in the evening.  Don and Melvina Goulab have been camping there regularly for over 35 years.  At that time, only the beach side was for public camping.  The forest side was occupied by enlisted men's club for the Navy.  They recall often awakening in the night, to find a sailor and his girl sitting around their campfire.

    As we sat around a campfire toasting marshmallows with the Goulabs, their grandson Arthur, James and Vivian Merrill and their Chinese Pug Mollie, Don recalled the night a drunk got abandoned at the campground. Apparently, the man's wife or girl friend left him there and took off with another man. The rejected lover bemoaned his fate by beating on other people's campers and crying loudly "My ole yadie's gone! My ole yadie's gone! 
    He wanted someone to help him track her down.  Instead, several of the campers bundled him in a car and took him to the sheriff in Aster. The unhappy lawman wanted them to take the lovesick drunk back to the campground since it was in a different jurisdiction.  No one would do that so the sheriff had to deal with the situation.

    This is  an unworked photo I took in Ocala National Forest near Alexander Springs.
    Or they orbs or just something else?

    No campfire get together would be complete without a wild animal story.  Melvina told about the time she was walking on the road late in the evening and saw "two bears holding hands".
    Lots of people have seen bears on the road but no one else saw them holding hands. Maybe the bears were not real but phantom bears since this area has all kinds of other ghosts anyway.  

    For this and my other books:   http://katywalls.com/

    For some more great ghost stories check out
    Deb's Weird and Wonderful Mid-Atlantic Haunted Places You Have to See to Believe

    Oak Alley Plantation

    Here's a photo she took at one of those places. Check her site to see where it is.






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