A stretch of Interstate 4, known as the Dead Zone, has been eating cars.
In its entirety, I-4 connects Tampa with Daytona Beach, cutting through central Florida and, importantly, is the most heavily trafficked route used by millions of tourists flocking to Disney World each year.
So, just by virtue of the volume of vehicles traversing the highway every day, it’s not especially surprising that it’s also the most dangerous road in America, racking up 1.25 fatalities per mile across its full 132-mile length.
But some people believe there’s more to it than that.
Some people say it is haunted.
Which could explain the recent sinkhole that opened up on the highway damaging two dozen vehicles—mostly flat tires, although one car had to be towed away.
A little history helps to understand the haunting rumors.
The story dates back to the 1800s when some early settlers died of yellow fever and were buried in what eventually became agricultural land in central Florida.
Farmers who dared tamper with the gravesites saw their houses burn down and even suffered mysterious deaths themselves.
The interstate was eventually built atop those ancient graves—somebody forgot to move the bodies—and on the day the highway opened a tractor-trailer full of frozen shrimp lost control right over the gravesite becoming the first of many casualties on this deadly stretch of road.
I learned about all this from a special section entitled the Weird Tour of Florida that was produced by a group of University of Florida students who founded an alternative newspaper in Gainesville.
(You can read more about that in J.C. Bruce’s FLORIDA MAN: A Story From the Files of Alexander Strange.)
Knowing the highway’s deadly and mysterious past, the sinkhole that recently claimed all those cars only added fuel to the rumors of the interstate being haunted.
Of course, it could just be coincidence. Florida has lots of sinkholes. The Devil’s Millhopper in Gainesville, for instance, is twelve stories deep and a half-mile in circumference. It, too, is said to be haunted, a satanic spot where the devil reaches up from hell to drag unsuspecting victims to his lair.
Then again, nobody seems to be blaming ghosts, goblins or Beelzebub for the sinkhole that opened up in St. Cloud, Florida on the same day cars were crashing on I-4. The 12-foot-deep sinkhole surprised a bicyclist who was hospitalized after falling into it.
STRANGE FACTS: Florida insurers receive on average 17 damage claims related to sinkholes every single day.