In the spirit of Halloween, here's a Jupiter ghost story on the Loxahatchee River. The tale of the haunted spirit of Trapper Nelson reportedly haunts the tranquil inland waterways of the Loxahatchee River running through Jupiter and Tequesta. Years ago, in the early 1930’s until the late 1960’s, a strapping "casanova" known as Trapper Nelson made quite an impact on the area and the local area socialites! He was nicknamed the “Wildman of Loxahatchee”. The ghost is said to roam Jonathan Dickinson State Park to this day.
Trapper Nelson lived deep in the wild, uninhabited land on the Loxahatchee River (which is now Jonathon Dickinson State Park). He was born in New Jersey and his given name was Vincent Nostokovich. This man was the modern day “Croc Hunter” and was described as tall, strong, and extremely good looking! Trapper built his cabin and a zoo deep up the Loxahatchee River in the Northern Everglades. He was a hunter, but only killed what he would eat. He caught so many creatures, like panthers and alligators; he drew visitors from far and wide. Tourists and celebrities such as Gary Cooper and Gene Tunney visited the flamboyant loner at his 858-acre camp and watch him wrestle alligators.
As the story has been told, ladies would hire guides to take them up the Loxahatchee River to Trapper Nelson’s campsite for private rendezvous. Trapper enjoyed engaging the ladies as much as he liked the thrill of wrestling the alligators!
On June 24, 1968, an acquaintance found Trapper Nelson dead inside his cabin with a shotgun hole in stomach. The coroner ruled it suicide, figuring Trapper thought he was dying of cancer and ended his life rather than suffer. To this day, many locals continue to believe Trapper died at the hands of a jealous husband. Stories of ghost sightings around Trapper Nelson’s cabin and original campsite prevail…but it is all in good fun! Jonathon Dickinson State Park offers the unique historical site of Trapper’s Nelson’s site.
After his death, the State of Florida acquired his land, and it became part of Jonathan Dickinson State Park in 1970. The Trapper Nelson campsite is only accessible by water. You may canoe or take the Loxahatchee Queen II. You can be met by a Park Ranger and be guided through the cabins and grounds or take a leisurely stroll on a self-guided tour of the grounds. This Halloween take a step back in time and visit the ghost of the “Wildman of Loxahatchee” on the beautiful Loxahatchee River!