“Wild Man of the Loxahatchee,” nickname of Vince “Trapper” Nelson, is the identity of the ghost said to roam this state park. Trapper moved to this area in 1929, trapping and selling furs for a living, earning his nickname by his often-strange antics like swinging out over the river on a rope to startle the heck out of tour boat parties. He was known to be a loner, and when the Wild Man was found with a gunshot wound to the head in 1968, folks ruled it a suicide. But local legend has it that the Wild Man’s ghost returns and converses with witnesses, telling them he was actually murdered by his brother. The ghost also has been known to warn people against going toward nearby Native American burial grounds, as well as to ask women for dates and pat them on the rear end. Trapper’s land was purchased by the state an turned into Jonathon Dickinson State Park shortly after his death.
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- 16450 S.E Federal Highway
Hobe Sound, FL
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- 27.00385970056118, -80.10141849495994
- Martin County, Florida
- Nearest Towns:
- Jupiter Island, FL (1.9 mi.)
Tequesta, FL (3.0 mi.)
Jupiter Inlet Beach Colony, FL (4.1 mi.)
Hobe Sound, FL (4.4 mi.)
Jupiter, FL (4.8 mi.)
Limestone Creek, FL (4.9 mi.)
Juno Beach, FL (9.1 mi.)
Juno Ridge, FL (11.0 mi.)
Port Salerno, FL (11.5 mi.)
Palm Beach Gardens, FL (12.7 mi.)
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Chris DuPont and I spent two nights with Trapper Nelson in 1958. We ate wild bobcat (Trapper Nelson had trapped it and sold the skin). The meat was very sweet, and we slept in hammocks and sleeping bags in the open. Needless to say, we were scared to death the first night….being unaccustomed to the many nocturnal sounds in the Florida jungle that was Trapper Nelson’s land. I always suspected that someone had him murdered to get his land, cuz he would never have sold it!
In our early teens we began to frequent Trapper’s during holidays or school “skip” days. My husband of 54 years now, Gary, who was my boyfriend back then, and I would drive through the woods, (which is now Tequesta), taking a snake we’d caught along the way, to give Trapper in exchange for the normal 50 cents entry fee. We’d take with us a picnic lunch, swim in the river, hanging out down by the boat house or in the hammocks under the rustic pavilion. When my father, Rev. Sherman Swan, tried to present him with a Bible as a gift, during a church outing there, he ran off like a deer, refusing to accept it! Many years later the week of his death, I returned there because I was drawn there to determine for myself if it was suicide or murder. His chickens were still pecking the dirt where his body was found. There was no police tape and no one was around, no vehicles. We had come there through the back roads way most people didn’t know about. It was dusk, but I could still see inside his cabin, its door standing wide open! There in the threshold something shiny caught my eye-Trapper Nelson’s Army dog tags! I picked them up and read the inscriptions. Goose bumps broke out all over my body and just as Gary told me not to touch anything, I also felt a strong sensation, a message, to put it back! It almost reminded me of Trapper’s disdain when confronted with the Word of God many years before. Except for some leathered large alligator skins laying displaced on his wooden floor, which had previously been nailed to the walls inside the cabin, everything appeared normal. What was not normal at all, was the eerie feeling the entire time that I was being observed everywhere we walked. My impression was that the police had not been effective in their investigation…..still traces of blood matter on the ground, the dog tags went undocumented (had they been ripped off Trapper during a confrontation?)….our ability to have easy access to a crime scene…and in what other ways may they have been careless and missed important clues? I could hardly get to my truck fast enough. The sun had completely set and darkness covered the once happy place with a dark spirit of violence, anger, fear, revenge, and gruesomeness I’d never experienced before. I got what I came for: the knowing that a bullet was fired in that place, not out of suicidal emotions, but like that of a brother who had once stated he would kill Trapper when he got out of prison, and I believe he did.
Why did Trapper John’s brother want to kill him? Was there a reason behind this besides the land?
Trapper Nelson’s brother wanted him dead because back when they first moved to jupiter his brother had killed one of their trapping partners. Nelson told the truth in court which had his brother locked away for some time. He apparently vowed to kill Nelson if he ever got out…
The brother was already a convicted murderer for much less personal motivation, that had imprisoned him filled with anger, hate and revenge. So we know he was capable, he had done it before. Trapper’s death occurred very close to the brother’s release. Someone in town thought they saw the brother that week. Jupiter was so very small and strangers really stood out. I grew up there. (even Perry Como could frequent the post office, and other celebrities, and you would be greeted by them). For someone to see the brother that week is significant. When the brother became so angry to have killed another trapper, it showed he could be capable of killing again for a reason far more motivated, especially after having spent such a long time in prison planning it into the perfect murder. I have not seen photos of him wearing the dog tags. I saw him personally wearing nothing but the dog tags and khaki shorts and I think sandals. I’d like to see later pictures to see if he had the necklace on. We were regulars to his place since 1957 until we married in 1960.