The Wild Man of the Loxahatchee

Vincent Nostokovich lived in the Loxahatchee River’s murky swamps and mangroves in Hobe Sound from the 1930s until 1968. 

As he was called, Trapper Nelson lived off the land and had no fear of snakes or gators and ate only what he could kill. He was a big man standing 6 foot 4, and because of his wild-man reputation, he earned the name “the wild man of Loxahatchee.”

Trapper Nelson started buying up land, eventually owning a reported 800 acres. He had trapped so many creatures that he needed the land to start up a small zoo, which became quite the tourist attraction.

He entertained zoo visitors by wrestling alligators, and as the story goes, he had an eye for beautiful women.  Movie stars, including Gary Cooper, visited Trapper Nelson’s camp.  Trapper also romanced the West Palm Beach socialites who were smitten with the strapping wild man who wrestled alligators.

On July 24th, 1968, Trapper Nelson was found dead in his cabin. Convinced he was dying of cancer, it is believed that Trapper Nelson inflicted the gunshot wound upon himself.

To this day, however, some locals maintain that it was murder and that the killer was a jealous husband or a disgruntled landowner who believed Trapper had “stolen” his land.

Mystery has since turned in to urban legend.

Shortly after his death, the state purchased the land, and it was turned into Johnathan Dickinson State Park. Since it’s opening, there have been strange sightings reported at the park. There have even been rumors that Trapper John himself appears, telling visitors the circumstances surrounding his demise.

There have also been reports of him warning people to stay away from Indian burial grounds, and then sometimes he’s a bit more playful, flirting with female visitors to the park and asking them for dates.

Could it be that the Spirit of Trapper Nelson still roams his land?

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Photo by Toni Cuenca on

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