Ghosts and legends of Boca Grande: Part III

■ BY MARCY SHORTUSEroom3

This week we will be telling the tale of Cabbage Key spirits, shipwrecks and the demon boy who lives under the floor. Welcome to part three, our final installmant, of “Ghosts and Legends of Boca Grande,” a slightly darker side of the island that we call home.

Cabbage Key’s lingering ghosts

On a small island not too far from Boca Grande, a restaurant is home to a spirit or two, including a female ghost whose spirit still roams the spot where she died. Cabbage Key is only accessible by boat and, as far as business goes, there’s only a few places there. A six-room inn dominates the tropical landscape there, and it is built directly on top of Indian shell mounds.

No one can recount when the hauntings began in the rooms and in the dining area, but there are enough people who have seen the ghost to make even the most stalwart non-believer wonder what is going on. A visitor from the northeast was very sick with tuberculosis and came to Cabbage Key to wait for her family to join her on her deathbed. She knew she wanted to die in a tropical paradise, after all. She did pass away, and those who have seen The Spirit of Room 3 even have a physical description: A woman with long, dark hair wearing a long-sleeved white shirt, a blue skirt and a black belt. She doesn’t make a sound, but likes her presence to be known, often walking through the room and vanishing through closed doors and walls. One time, though, she wasn’t feeling so mellow. Inn employees swear a dish tub flew 15 feet through the air and crashed into the wall.

Down at the bottom of the sea

There are several documented shipwrecks at the bottom of the deep, dark waters surrounding Boca Grande, and their secrets are known only to the frothing, swift-moving waters of the Gulf. While their pasts may not be as checkered as the Pirate Gaspar’s sunken vessel, they each have their own story. The Kathy II is a 65-foot shrimping vessel that sits in 40 feet of water approximately five miles off the island’s coast. It is now used as a dive spot and a fishing hole. The Dock Wreck is another shrimping vessel identified by no specific name. It rests in the shallow waters of the Intracoastal Waterway just off-island. Another wreck, known only as the “Boca Grande Wreck,” is located 32 miles offshore in almost 100 feet of water. It is believed to be an old freighter, and is now home to huge 900+ pound Goliath groupers.

Old Hitler

Old Hitler is infamous in local waters as one of the biggest hammerhead sharks ever seen. No one is sure when the tales of his size and cunning began being told, but it is said he could be up to 24 feet long. There have been stories of tarpon weighing more than 200 pounds, bitten in half like they were sardines. Boat hulls cracked in half, props chewed to ribbons, fishermen’s hands almost severed by hot line being held by unsuspecting anglers. All deeds done by Old Hitler, according to legend. According to accounts of years gone by, more than one casual swimmer in the area of the Pass has seen the huge black shadow in the water. One story tells of a man relaxing in an inner tube just off the beach, who looked around just in time to see what appeared to be a submarine coming toward him in the water. Onlookers report the man paddled to shore quicker than if he had an outboard motor on the tube, jumped onto land and ran away, never looking back.

Another story from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office tells of a helicopter on a routine flight over the south end. The pilot saw the huge countenance in the water, swimming slowly toward a group of people in the water. With no other way to alert the swimmers, and after many attempts, the chopper landed on the beach and got everyone out of the water. Another man on the same helicopter ride said the shark was so big, swimming in not much more than six feet of water, he got stuck in the sand and had to wedge himself sideways to break free. So if you happen to be in or around Boca Grande Pass and you see a giant hammerhead with a notch in his dorsal fin, it just might be the notorious Old Hitler.

The demon under the floor In one of the oldest commercial buildings downtown, there lives a demon under old wooden floorboards. How he got there – or who trapped him there – is a mystery, but during a renovation project just a few years ago he was spotted. He has been described as having a bulging protuberance of a forehead, opague, sightless eyes and sharp snaggleteeth. He apparently snapped at the finger of a construction worker before scurrying away into the darkness under the building. Needless to say, it will be awhile before any more renovation on that building takes place. This is an illustration of the beast.