The infamous Interstate 4 Dead Zone is one of America’s most haunted highways. Located between Tampa and Daytona Beach, Florida, this 138-mile stretch of road has been plagued with accidents, injuries, and strange occurrences since the 1950s. When workers broke ground on the highway in 1959, they discovered graves and decided to continue the construction of the highway on top of them. The day the graves were covered with fill dirt, Hurricane Donna changed its course from the Gulf of Mexico and headed northeast across The Sunshine State.
Hurricane Donna’s new route ran parallel to the highway’s planned route, and the eye of the hurricane settled over the graves. This hurricane grew to become one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit the state. Other strange occurrences have plagued the I-4 Dead Zone since it opened to the public, including a tractor-trailer that jackknifed on opening day right above the graves resulting in the highway’s first fatality. There have been over 1500 documented accidents on this stretch of highway since 1963.
If you love to be spooked and are looking for a different kind of road trip, the Florida haunted highway experience is for you.
First Stretch: Sanford
A Brief History of Sanford, Florida
You’ll begin your road trip in Sanford, which sits on the south shore of Lake Monroe at the head of the St. Johns River.
The Mayaca or Jororo people first inhabited the shores of Lake Monroe at the time of European contact but war and disease decimated the tribe and it was ultimately replaced by the Seminole Indians. During the Seminole Wars of the 1830s, the area was the site of a U.S. Army post named Fort Mellon and subsequently, European settlers founded the town of Mellonville which served a steamship port important for trade and distribution of supplies.
In 1870, Henry Shelton Sanford purchased the land west of Mellonville and planned a new city, "the Gate City of South Florida," destined to be a transportation hub for southern Florida. In 1877, the city of Sanford was incorporated and Mellonville was annexed six years later.
In 1887, Sanford suffered a devastating fire, followed the next year by a state-wide epidemic of yellow fever killing many settlers.
What Makes Driving Through Sanford So Haunting?
The graves that seem to be the starting point for all the troubles on the I-4 highway, originated in Sanford and belonged to settlers who died of Yellow Fever. Drivers have reported cell phone dead zones or their radios crackling with voices they don’t recognize when they pass through this area. Most of the accidents on this stretch of Florida’s haunted highway occur where the graves were discovered during construction.
Second Stretch: Daytona Beach, Florida
A Brief History of Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida is one of America’s top destinations for spring break, snowbirding, and travel in general. The I-4 was connected straight to Daytona at Walt Disney’s insistence on making it easy for both coasts of Florida to drive to Disney World.
During construction, land surveyors believed that a Native American burial ground was in the path of the highway as it led into Daytona Beach. They proceeded with construction anyway as the western portions of the I-4 were built and were greeted by Hurricane Donna crossing into the Atlantic Ocean as they halted construction on the eastern part.
What Makes Driving into Daytona Beach So Haunting?
Driving into Daytona Beach is an experience for those chasing ghosts. There have been reports of pioneer ghosts and indigenous people yelling at drivers on the side of the road as they travel. These ghosts seem to follow some drivers and ignore others. CB radios have picked up voices, moans, and screams. Cell phones and other electronic devices lose signal or pick up similar voices over the airwaves.
Safety on the I-4 Dead Zone
On a good day or night, the stretch between Sanford and Daytona Beach is an hour drive or less. Depending on traffic, weather, and what you see, you may be stuck on the I-4 Dead Zone a little longer than you’d like. It’s important to to be cautious when traveling the length of Florida’s haunted highway even if it's just because of the congestion.
You and other drivers will be looking for something to happen, which will affect your good judgment on the road. Drive the speed limit, follow the rules of the road, and remember that it’s better to see nothing on this road trip than being frightened into an accident you may not walk away from.
It's important to be aware of what else you might see on the road itself. Stories tell of phantom drivers and trucks on the road, especially at night. Concerned drivers have called police stations and the highway patrol to alert them to these phantom cars and trucks driving too fast and even crashing on remote stretches of the highway in a few reports.
Orbs floating across the highway erratically, apparitions trying to hitchhike on the side of the road, and freezing patches of the road despite hot temperatures have been reported when traveling the I-4.
Take it slow and steady and be prepared for anything whether you’re dealing with regular traffic or something otherworldly on the road.
If you’re interested in capturing the experience on camera, we recommend investing in a dash-mounted camera or GoPro that does the work for you. Don’t take pictures or videos yourself, as the distraction may prove deadly on this haunted highway.