I-4 Dead Zone – Sanford, Florida - Atlas Obscura

I-4 Dead Zone

Sanford, Florida

This stretch of highway is said to be haunted by ghosts of settlers whose graves were paved over. 

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Every day thousands of drivers pass over this unassuming stretch of highway on their commutes, unaware of the dark history that lies beneath them. The quarter-mile stretch of Interstate-4 in Sanford, Florida is said to be one of the most haunted highways in America. 

Just north of Orlando, the highway passes over Lake Monroe. In the 1870s, the real estate tycoon Henry Sanford marketed the southern shore of the lake to new immigrants and potential citrus farmers. He sold 640 acres to a group of German immigrants, who founded St. Joseph’s Catholic Colony at the site.

Conditions were difficult and rampant disease hampered any chance of success for the colony. A particularly devastating outbreak of Yellow Fever in 1887 sealed the fate of St Joseph’s, and the surviving settlers buried their dead in the woods and left the failed colony behind. The land changed hands several times, eventually becoming part of the city of Sanford. 

Over the years, the story of St. Joseph’s became a local legend—it was said that deadly consequences were in store for anyone who tampered with the gravesite. Locals say a farmer’s house burned down after he removed the grave markers, and a child was run over by a drunk driver after he dug at the site. Enough strange activity occurred in the area that it earned the nickname “Field of the Dead.”

When Florida began buying up land for the construction of a new highway, the field was sold to the state. While the graves were initially marked for relocation, they were either forgotten or deemed unimportant and were paved over. Soon after, Hurricane Donna unexpectedly changed course towards Sanford, passing over the gravesite on September 10, 1960 and leaving a wake of devastation in her path.

It was one of many strange occurrences at the former site of St. Joseph’s Colony. Drivers taking I-4 over Lake Monroe have reported strange interference on their radios, and some claim to have seen ghostly apparitions on the road. Some long haul truckers have claimed that their CB radios blast with static while driving over the stretch of highway. This section of I-4 is extremely prone to deadly car accidents, and has gained the grim nickname of the “I-4 Dead Zone.” 

Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, if you drive on this stretch of I-4 please use caution and make sure to look twice before changing lanes—you might just see something that you did not expect to be there.

Know Before You Go

I-4 spans above the actual St. Joseph's site, which is accessible off of US-17/92. The land is owned by the state and it is not advisable to enter. The site can also be viewed by water on the St. John's River.