This is the fifth entry of my Encounter Countdown to Halloween. All Hallows Eve is tomorrow!
US-1 through the Florida Keys
I had planned to do an entry on my Encounter Countdown to Halloween everyday throughout the month of October. As this is the fifth entry and Halloween is tomorrow, you can obviously see how that went. I think this story is especially prescient for me during this wild month.
When you walk through a storm,
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm is a golden sky
And the sweet, silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Though your dreams may be tossed and blown.
Walk on with hope in your heart,
And you’ll never walk alone.
–Oscar Hammerstein II, from the musical Carousel (1945)
US-1 is the only road through the Florida Keys and much of it occupies the former roadbed of the Florida East Coast Railroad, the culmination of Henry Flagler’s dream, built in 1912. When much of it was wrecked during the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the railroad was unable to makes repairs and the right of way was sold to the state to develop a highway.
In 2017, the Florida portion of US-1 was deemed the “deadliest highway in America.” As the main highway through the Keys, the road is notorious for gridlock, accidents, and wildlife in the road. Add to these traffic fatalities the many deaths that occurred here during the building of the original railroad and the 1935 hurricane, this could very well be one of the most haunted roads in the country.
In his 2003 Haunted Key West, David L. Sloan tells the story of a woman driving from Miami to Key West on US-1. Driving a rental car, this frazzled young mother encountered a fierce rainstorm which reduced her vision to nothing. The defrost did nothing to clear the windshield and the wipers weren’t doing their job, even at their highest setting. As she drove, she became frightened of pulling off the road as she couldn’t see the side.
Suddenly, the sight of red taillights in the distance brought a bit of comfort. She began following the comforting glow and the storm’s intensity began to lessen. As the rain slowed to a light sprinkle, the driver looked down to readjust her wipers and radio and she refocused her eyes on the road ahead.
The comforting taillights were no longer glowing up ahead, in fact, the road was open and free of cars. The lonely road was devoid of any other cars. What happened to the car? The woman wondered what had helped her through the storm for some time.
Years later, she met a couple in Key West who had experienced the same thing. They had been driving on the Overseas Highway when a storm erupted and severely cut their visibility. As they drove, they encountered a comforting pair of headlights up ahead and they followed that car through the storm. Once they regained their visibility, the car vanished into thin air.
The couple pulled into a small bait shop alongside the highway. When they explained to the owner what they had just experienced, the man suggested that they had just gotten help from the ghost of US-1.
- Elfrink, Tim. “Florida’s U.S. 1 the deadliest highway in America, study shows.” Miami New Times. 18 April 2017.
- Overseas Highway. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 October 2019.
- Overseas Railroad. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 October 2019.
- Sloan, David L. Haunted Key West. Key West, FL: Phantom Press, 2003.