The cursed children of Arcadia's Coker Cemetery
As October 31st approaches, we’re taking a look at some of Southwest Florida’s lesser-known folklore, legends and myths. Most are familiar with the tale of a Skunk Ape creature lurking around Florida swamps, but our coast is also full of a rich subset of tales that add to the history of our state’s past.
WGCU’s Tara Calligan sat down with author and folklorist Christopher Balzano to explore a tale of two families, two cemeteries, and two legends in Arcadia.
TC: What I want to start off with is the cursed children of Coker Cemetery in Arcadia, Florida. From your very website. It says, "in Arcadia, Florida, even the slightest mystery can give birth to a story about the curse. And Coker Cemetery is no exception." Please tell me the story.
CB: Arcadia has a reputation outside of Florida even, of being one of the most haunted towns in America. But in doing my research, I found that there was a hidden cemetery. And I was enthralled by the fact that it was children. And I had heard a story in a cemetery, nearby Oak Ridge cemetery of these kids who had all been killed, supposedly by their father, but he was not found not guilty after 20-30 years and let out of prison. And the stories were almost similar.
They're almost exactly the same that the paranormal activity itself, which was there are these balls of light that seemed to play with each other. And when people go there, they see these balls of light, and they are kind of floating in and out of each other. So people always want to say swamp gas or something like that will come up gas can't play with each other, right? They just kind of go up and blow up. But these were actual balls of light, that would seem to be like running around the ground, and then like jumping.
And then and this might be a carryover from the other cemetery, it was said that if you close your eyes and you count to 10, you could actually play hide and seek with these children who are in this cemetery. So, I started to do more research. And I found this really crazy story that I knew was probably not true. And yet, it made complete sense. And that's the story of the Lott family.
So, the Lott family are living on that land, and it's really hard to get to Coker Cemetery. I went there three times before I actually found it, because it is literally in the middle of an orange grove. You don't know you're there until you reach a certain point you're like, "oh, wait a minute, now I see. Okay, all right." And you can go.
The Lott family had hired an outsider to do some work around their farm. And the outsider is always either a traveling Jewish person, or an African American. It's really the tale of the outsider, right? And so, the week comes to an end, the person asks for their money, and the Lott's refuse to pay them. And he's like, "you better pay me." But they're like, "nope, you get in that car right now and get out of here."
And so, he looks at Mrs. Lott who's pregnant and he says, "I curse you that that baby will never see its first birthday." The baby is born, a month before its first birthday, it dies. Second child is born a month before its first birthday, it dies. Third child is born it lives a year and then dies a month later.
It's one of the things where you can document that. You can see the headstones when you go there, and this is part of where the story comes from. You should go to the cemetery. It's all these people. It's all the Coker family and their relatives and then these three random graves of the Lott children, of these little babies, right? Why are they there? It makes no sense.
But in the middle of all these other families, there's no connection. I went through all the genealogy, and I found no connection between a Lott family and any of the relatives of the Coker's. But, I also was able to go through the tax records and see clearly that Lotts paid their taxes every single year, until eventually, boop, they just drop off the records completely. So, they did leave without any kind of warning and they left the town.
I don't know whatever happened to them after that. Hopefully, they had tons of kids. but while they were in that area, they could not have a child that lasted over a year.
If you go there and you leave change on their headstones, you get good luck.
Learn more about other Florida lore, myths, legends and Ghost Stories research by folklorist Christopher Balzano at TrippingOnlegends.com.
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