Deer Island sits just offshore from the coast of Mississippi. It’s maintained by the Mississippi Coastal Preserve and it’s 400 acres are home to the great blue heron as well as ten different rare or endangered species. If seen from the nearby beaches of historical Biloxi, one would hardly assume this undeveloped paradise for boating and beach recreation is also home to some of the state’s most haunting urban legends – The Ghost of Deer Island.
One of the legends tells of a supernatural occurrence from centuries prior. The “Firewater Ghost”, as it became known, was a mysterious blue light that people would see roaming Biloxi Bay between Biloxi and Ocean Springs. One sighting, from back in 1892, describes a luminescent ball hovering about a foot over the water’s surface. It’s believed to be a restless sentry protecting the bay.
Legend of the Headless Ghost
The most famous urban legend from the area concerns a headless ghost that haunts the island. As the story goes, two fishermen happened upon the island back in the 1800s. They explored and decided to camp for the night. Later that evening, while tending to their fire, they heard rustling noises coming from the bushes. They assumed the raucous was caused by wild hogs, but when it didn’t let up they went to investigate. Imagine their surprise when a headless skeleton jumped out of the palmetto bushes and chased them all the way back to their boat! They returned to the spot the next morning, but the creature had vanished without a trace.
This particular story was first documented in a 1922 article written by local author and historian A.G. Ragusin for the Sun Herald. His primary source for the article, appropriately titled “Headless Ghost Haunted Deer Island In Olden Times”, was Captain Eugene Tiblier, Sr., who had lived in the area his entire life. But he also had the story verified by other fishermen who had visited the island and experienced similar sightings. In all instances, the men were confronted with a terrifying bone man before narrowly escaping his clutches, and this infamy has earned him the title of “Ghost of Deer Island”.
Fact or Fiction?
This legend of a headless haunt appears to originate from an even older source. According to an old pirate tale, a pirate captain once steered his ship to Deer Island in order to hide a large amount of treasure. Once the gold was buried, the captain asked for volunteers to stay behind and guard it. One of the crew members volunteered, not realizing that this participation would involve cutting off his head so that his ghost could guard the hidden riches instead (the captain assumed his eagerness was due to the fact that he wanted the treasure for himself when everyone left). His head was hung in a tree and his body laid to rest nearby, allowing his ghost to be sole protector of the loot.
Despite the grisly account, and the few eyewitness accounts from long ago, there hasn’t been much in the way of recent sightings. But the legend is still entertaining, and it remains a favorite piece of lore for the area. And who knows? The alleged treasure has never been found and could still be out there. Perhaps one day soon a happy go lucky tourist, sailor, or fisherman will cross the wrong spot at the wrong time and come face-to-skeleton with…the Ghost of Deer Island.
Ben’s love for horror began at a young age when he devoured books like the Goosebumps series and the various scary stories of Alvin Schwartz. Growing up he spent an unholy amount of time binge watching horror films and staying up till the early hours of the morning playing games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Since then his love for the genre has only increased, expanding to include all manner of subgenres and mediums. He firmly believes in the power of horror to create an imaginative space for exploring our connection to each other and the universe, but he also appreciates the pure entertainment of B movies and splatterpunk fiction.
Nowadays you can find Ben hustling his skills as a freelance writer and editor. When he’s not building his portfolio or spending time with his wife and two kids, he’s immersing himself in his reading and writing. Though he loves horror in all forms, he has a particular penchant for indie authors and publishers. He is a proud supporter of the horror community and spends much of his free time reviewing and promoting the books/comics you need to be reading right now!