Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Legend of Two-Toe Tom

My recent book, Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts, includes a number of fascinating folk tales from around Northwest Florida. One of my favorites, introduced to me by the late folklorist and historian E.W. Carswell, is the legend of Two-Toe Tom.
Two-Tom Tom, as the story goes, is a monstrous demon-possessed alligator who haunts the swamps of Holmes, Walton and Washington Counties as well as the neighboring areas just across the Alabama line. He is often associated with Sand Hammock Lake near Esto in Holmes County and Boynton Island near Vernon in Washington County.
Said to range anywhere from around 16 to 24 feet long, Two-Toe got his unique name because he lost all but two of the toes on one of his feet in a failed effort to capture him using a bear trap. Dynamite, "war rifles," shotguns and other weapons have also been used through the years, all without success.
Believe it or not, there are some indications that the legend may be based on a real alligator. During the early 1900s, a lumber crew killed a giant alligator in Walton County that measured 8 feet across the shoulders and 19 feet from the tip of his snout to the end of his tail. If the measurements are accurate, then he was the largest alligator ever recorded. But, he had all of his toes so he could not have been Two-Toe Tom. The report does indicate, however, that alligators of a monstrous size once grew in Northwest Florida.
If you would like to read the full story of Two-Tom, you will find a chapter about him in Two Egg, Florida. The book is available through www.barnesandnoble.com, www.amazon.com, www.twoeggfla.com and can be purchased in Marianna at Chipola River Book and Tea (located downtown on the same block as the Gazebo Restaurant).

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