This is the true story of my encounter with orbs on the Peace River outside of Arcadia. I always heard them called the Goat Hill Lights. They were pretty well known along the river valley when I was growing up in Wauchula. Wauchula is a city located in Hardee County, Florida,
This happened fourteen years ago during the winter of my senior year in high school. A bunch of us were swapping stories one Saturday night, trying to scare each other. Most of it was hog wash. Camp fire stories kind of stuff. But then one of the guys brought up the Goat Hill Lights, and that started an argument.
We’d all heard about them, but everybody had a different story. Some people said they were the souls of the Richardson children. That was a really famous murder case in Arcadia about a poor black family named Richardson. They had seven children, and they were all poisoned and killed one morning after breakfast. The father went to jail for murder, later was released as innocent. Janet Reno herself investigated and found out he had been railroaded. No one was ever convicted and supposedly a former neighbor made a deathbed confession. So the orbs were supposed to be the souls of the poisoned kids. I don’t know how that makes sense, however, since the orbs are way outside of town in the woods and I don’t think the Richardsons ever lived out there.
Here's a link to a story about it.
The other story was that the orbs were the souls of the British airmen that died in Arcadia during training in WW II. It’s true that the British shipped a lot of airmen to Florida during the war, and they did pilot training at the Arcadia air base. A bunch of them are buried at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in a special plot with a British Flag and full honors. The cemetery isn’t that far from the place with the Lights but it’s not next door either. Supposedly a plane went down at the Goat Hill and a trainee and an instructor died there.
Pretty soon the talk turned to why we should go see the orbs for ourselves. That wasn’t an easy thing though. The Goat Hill was in this area north of town that was fenced off with a gated road. There was thousands of acres of woods behind the gate with a few houses thrown in. The people living back there were known to be unfriendly and call the cops or shoot some rock salt at intruders at night. So walking in or driving in wasn’t going to work.
One of the guys had the family boat on a trailer and the keys to the truck. So pretty soon six of us are in the truck with a cooler of beer (yeah, I know) on the way to the boat ramp at St. Rt 70 and the river. By now it’s after midnight on a clear, moonlit night. We put on the river at the park and started up the river going slow and quiet. We tried to run off the moonlight and not use the spotlights. We were under age with beer, and the Fish & Wildlife sometimes sit on the river looking for poachers. But they use airboats, so you usually get a lot of warning when they move.
Once we got away from the road, it was pretty eerie on the river. The banks are high and full of oaks and cypress. The shadows are deep and there are lots of logs and stumps to dodge. Once you are north of the railroad bridge, there are no houses for miles.
Finally we got to a big bend in the river with a giant, high beach of white sand. That was the closest landing to the woods with the Goat Hill. We beached the boat and climbed up the beach out into some flat pasture lands with scrubby trees scattered around. The moon was bright, but there was this weird low ground fog that was a couple feet high. Fences, trees and stuff kind of stuck up out of the fog and you had to watch where you were walking.
It’s hard to explain, but the farther we went from the river the weirder things felt. And the screwing around just kind of stopped and everybody got real quiet. We broke out of some trees, and then we could see the hill where the orbs were supposed to be. It was a couple hundred yards out in the middle of a flat pasture. It’s a big round hill covered in oaks. It was black compared to the white fog that hugged the ground. There was a herd of cows, and it was funny because you could see their backs and heads but not their bodies and legs in the fog.
We waited a while and some beers got cracked, but we stayed quiet. Luckily, no skeeters were out.
Then it was like something just ‘happened.’ I felt something cold come over me. The hair on the back of my neck started to prickle and it felt likes something marched up my back. Like my skin crawled. Just then the cows started mooing and then they all took off running through the fog. You could hear the thuds and feel the rumble under foot. Everybody looked at each other and there were a lot of big eyes.
And then we saw the orbs. My jaw just dropped. This faint orange light came up out of the ground in the trees on the hill and slowly went up through the air to the tree tops. It hovered there. Then three or four more came up and started drifting through the trees. They started getting brighter and whiter and bigger.
The next thing, a big wind came out of nowhere and the mist started rolling around and the orbs seemed like they left the hill and started towards us. Somebody said ‘let’s get the hell out of here.’ And the whole bunch of us took off running for the river. It would have been funny to watch but it wasn’t at all funny at the time. I didn’t look back, I was too busy running.
We piled in that boat and pushed off. We ran a lot faster going down river than we did going up, Fish and Wildlife be damned. We all got busted when we brought the boat back at four in the morning, but it was worth it to tell the whole story at school on Monday.
I can’t say those lights were ghosts, but I know they were not man made and they weren’t swamp gas either. I’m a believer.
Clifford Murphy was raised in Wauchula and grew up on the Peace River valley