Tag Archives: caution

The “Phantom Gator” of Fort Myers Florida

Text: “According to this legend, The Phantom Gator was once a real alligator that roamed the swamps many years ago. One day, it was caught in a poacher’s trap and killed. However, the spirit of the alligator refused to leave its home in the swamp and instead stayed behind as a vengeful ghost. It is said that The Phantom Gator can be seen on quiet nights, swimming through the dark waters of the swamp, its ghostly form visible just beneath the surface. Those who have seen it describe it as an eerie sight, with glowing eyes and a shimmering, translucent body. There was also a related story about a neighbor boy being attacked by the ghost of this alligator and I was told as a child to not go near the reserve where this attack occurred. I obviously didn’t really believe in the ghost alligator necessarily but I was absolutely terrified of the reserve and the whole swamp area and did not go near it.”

Context: It sounded as though this legend was more of a friend group thing but interestingly enough JD claimed it was first told to him by one of his cousins when he was very young (8 or 9). JD, being superstitious was adamant in telling me he “never went near the swamp” that the phantom gator reportedly resided in, even though he was not too quick to believe a ghost alligator was the true danger. But, out of his friend group he seemed to believe the story the most and feared the swamp it related to the most. He said some of his friends had went over near the swamp to explore but he didn’t come along just because he didn’t want to risk anything. He thinks he was so afraid because he got told the story when he was young and only told his friends about it later in life when they were already more mature and grown up.

Analysis: When being told this legend I thought it was very possible that it may have been created as a cautionary tale to warn people about the dangers of the swamps and the alligators that inhabit them. Alligators are common in Florida and can be dangerous if approached or provoked, especially for children who may not be aware of the risks. In this context, the story of the Phantom Gator may have been a way for parents and elders to scare children into staying away from the swamps and avoiding dangerous situations. By instilling a healthy respect and fear of the alligators, parents may have hoped to protect their children from harm. It was likely that the story would have been passed down orally through generations, with each teller adding their own embellishments and twists to the tale. It may have also been shared among different communities and social groups, becoming a popular topic of discussion and a way to bond over shared folklore and mythology in a more general sense. This definitely seemed like a more small scale legend, but because the group that spreads it believes in it and it has yet to be proven untrue, it should be considered a legend. I also think it is likely that similar legends pop up all around Florida by parents hoping to deter their kids from wandering into potentially dangerous areas like swamps.

“Measure Twice, Cut Once”

Kropp was a secret geek in high school. He thoroughly enjoyed sports, rap, and women but had a soft spot for cartoons. He says he would secretly want to be a superhero if he had the chance – “a dope superhero” at that. He is currently a USC student studying environmental science, is enrolled in the NROTC program and loves to skateboard. He has very close ties with his extended family. He hopes to one day commission into the navy as an officer.

“When it comes to sh** that matters, you measure twice, cut once.” Not only is Kropp talking about how much he loves woodwork (because he actually spends hours messing around with wood, even though he doesn’t have a woodshop area yet, he plans on getting one when he graduates college); but Kropp heard this friendly proverb from his father. When Kropp would make mistakes growing up his father would correct him and say this over and over again. He thought his dad was such a hero, such a role model. Then he heard teachers in school saying it. He felt betrayed. When he went home to ask his father about it. His father replied “Son…its a saying. Something you should live by. But something we should ALL live by.”

The way I heard about this is because he and I were working on a project together for a class. I measured the cardboard wrong and we had to go buy a new one. And there you have it. He shook his head and said “Measure twice, cut once”. When I asked him to elaborate he gave the story above. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand it. It was a common meaning – the phrase – but the context was unfamiliar to me.

Analysis: I really love this quote. My parents don’t mess around with tools or maintenance much, the way Kropp grow around a handy father. So I had never heard that saying before, but knew exactly what he meant by it. Basically, think before you do. Don’t jump into things without double-checking, holding everyone or thing accountable. He then elaborated that you could measure a thousand times though, and still end up cutting it wrong. But at least then you can say you tried.