New Smyrna Beach, an eclectic little seaside city in central Florida, has a mysterious secret that historians haven't been quite able to crack: the strange ruins of a giant structure, almost like the beginnings of a pyramid, that sit crumbling in the forest. But who built it, and why?
Some historians hypothesize that the community now known as New Smyrna was originally the site of St. Augustine, known as the nation's oldest city. Those who subscribe to idea believe that it could be even 500 years older than St. Augustine, a thought bolstered by Old Fort Park, a very strange plot of ruins that overlook New Smyrna's Intracoastal Waterway.
The ruins measure around 40-by-80-foot, and look almost like a Spanish fort. While some historians have attributed the long-unfinished creation to English settlers hoping to establish a colony in 1768, it's the choice of building material, coquina, that leads others to believe the structure much older. Coquina, a material consisting of sedimentary rock mixed with shells, was a primary building material used by Spanish explorers in the late 1600s. Building something the size of the Turbull ruins out of coquina would have taken a tremendous amount of time and manpower, something the English settlers were lacking, what with all the death, disease, and constant attacks from Native American tribes.
Regardless of who built it, the ruins were once home to another structure that made use of the existing supports. The Sheldon House, a 40-room hotel built 1854, was one of the most popular hotels in the area until it was destroyed during the Civil War. The hotel was briefly rebuilt after the Union shelled it, but it only lasted thirty years before it was torn down.
Today, the mysterious Turnbull Ruins are one of the largest attractions in Old Fort Park, but that's not exactly saying much. The strange location sees more ghost hunters than run-of-the-mill tourists, mostly due to the nature of the ruins as a well-kept local secret...and because of it's rumored hauntings. But according to Dr. Greg Jenkins, the strange tales are more than mere ghost stories.
According to local folk legend, there is a cast of dark spirit existing here; that many have dubbed the shadow people. These shadow people are described as very dark, almost black shadows that are seen creeping through the dense trees at dusk, and climbing on the walls and rubble of the ruins when the sun begins to go down for the evening. These shadow people certainly seem to have a conscience to them, as if they were watching those visiting the ruins…As if they were alive.
To explore some of America's most mysterious, unknown, and underrated ruins, just make your way to Old Fort Park in New Smyrna, Florida, but be sure to grab your proton pack, just in case.