Spook Hill: pirates, demon crocs’, aliens and a yeti or two.

Posted on August 17, 2020

“Ages ago and INDIAN TOWN on Lake Wailes lake was plagued with raids by a HUGE GATOR. The town’s GREAT WARRIOR Chief and the gator were killed in a FINAL BATTLE that created the huge swampy depression nearby. The chief was buried on its north side. Later PIONEER HAULERS coming from the old ARM TRAIL atop the ridge above found their horses LABORING HERE…at the foot of the ridge…and called it Spook hill.

IS IT THE GATOR SEEKING REVENGE, OR THE CHIEF PROTECTING HIS LAND???”

  • Ghost approved signpost welcoming visitors to Spook Hill in Lake Wailes, Florida.
sign detailing the legend of spook hill with cartoon ghost
Source: National Registry Of Historic Places

What is Spook Hill?

 

Spook Hill is a gravity hill. It is in essence if you’re a skeptic, an optical illusion where vehicles seem to roll up – in defiance of the laws of gravity and common sense – uphill. Imagine downing a bottle of Johnny Red and then marveling at why your car is flicking gravity off… That’s spook hill in a nutshell. 

This rather bizarre phenomenon can be found in Lake Wales, Florida.

Spook Hill is located on the Lake Wales Ridge, a geologically important pasture of sand and limestone hills, which were islands, reefs, and bars from about two to three million years ago. Back then, sea levels were at an all-time high and most of the Sunshine State existed underwater. 

The attraction is near to Spook Hill Elementary School, which – keeping with the vibe of the place – selected Casper The Friendly Ghost as their school mascot. The attraction is also close to Bok Tower another regional tourist venue – full of its pedigree of nasty folklore. 

Spook Hill gained widespread media consideration when an article about it emerged on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on October 25, 1990. From that point, this little secluded roadside attraction has gained a cult following and is constantly being featured on podcast, blogs, TV, and documentaries

In 2019, it was finally given official recognition by the state and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

vintage black and white photo of road sign for spook hill
Source: visit central Florida

The Tourist Attraction and how to experience it

Lake Wales attractions seem to pull in those visitors with morbid curiosity and a need to visit places outside the norm. It is a spooky, crawly, scary, and enigmatic roadside attraction that somehow always appears on any aficionado of Dark Tourism’s bucket list. 

Spook Hill is found on 5th Street in Lake Wales, a township in Polk County. For ages, signs have encouraged drivers to stop their automobile at a white line on what looks to be the base of a hill, place their car into neutral, and marvel with awe as their vehicle appears to crawl its way back up the hill. The thing pulled or pushed by some unseen supernatural force.

Groups who have studied the phenomena will simply shrug and tell motorists that it’s just an optical illusion. The freakish pattern of changes in altitude along 5th Street plays a bad joke on the onlooker’s eyes. It just seems as if you’re at the bottom of a hill when you’re truly at the top. 

The Supernatural tale of Sarsparilla & Vanilla

Spook Hill has always been a place of worship and reverence in the area. Way back when Natives roamed the plains, they understood that forces – the type that creates mountains out of thin air – were affixed to the location. When Colonialist and later pioneers settled near the place, the too suffered teh vexes of Spook Hill and its “forces.” The would-be haunted with terrible dreams, they would feel the presence of creatures – some even spotting out of worldly beings – lurking near the place. The place, many though and still believe is cursed.

Several locals have suggested dozens of explanations, stories, and tales over the years concerning Spook Hill and what exactly is happening there. 

A famous eatery in Lake Wales called Barney’s Tavern, for instance, distributed a self-publish pamphlet in the 1950s describing the “real” narrative behind Spook Hill. 

According to this saga, it all started when a Spanish pirate named Captain Gimme Sarsparilla elected to hang up his cutlass, mothball his skirt-chasing, and withdraw to Lake Wales; to a life of ease and comfort … no more high-seas debauchery and swashbuckling.

He was accompanied by fellow pirate Teniente Vanilla, whose cognomen was a really an acronym for a much larger name — Vincento Alfredo Nieto Isidoro Lima Llano Alvarez. So Teniente Vanilla and Captain Gimme Sarsparilla decide dit was time to take up golf, scout out the perfect early-bird specials and get into one of those swanky retire communities… and, like most of Americans, they looked at Florida as it were heaven.

According to the lads at Barney’s, when Vanilla expired he was buried at the base of Spook Hill. Captain Sarsparilla, meanwhile, ended up like a cement block in the depths of the pond for which Lake Wales is named. 

Everything was honky dory for a couple of years, until, like in all great ghost stories… It wasn’t. One day in the early years of the automobile a chap chose to park his car right at the bottom of Spook Hill and go fishing. The vehicle was left-right over the tomb of the long-forgotten Teniente Vanilla. 

Vanilla, cursing up a storm – after all the car was a jalopy with a bad “something” and it squirted “other things”… Guy’s give me a break I’m not exactly known for my mechanic mad skills. Vanilla, anyhow, his rest now disrupted, called out to his old friend Captain Sarsparilla, who rose from his damp crypt in Lake Wales and kicked the unfortunate fisherman’s car up the hill and off his friend’s chest. 

So the legend goes that if you mess with Vanilla you get a Sarsparilla kick in your exhaust pipe… there’s a joke in there, somewhere.

Other theories…

vintage color photo of car with a sign of spook hill
Source: visit central Florida

Well, here are a few, aside from the Giant Demon Croc’ bit at the beginning. 

  • An underground lode of magnets.
  • Mole people.
  • The skunk ape, Florida’s Big foot… who might have telekinetic powers.
  • Yes, Aliens… There’s always aliens involved. 

Sources:

https://www.theledger.com/news/20181030/whats-history-behind-legend-of-spook-hill

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spook_Hill

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/spook-hill

For more creepy tales, check out our blog.