Phinizy Swamp Nature Park has always been a popular place to view wildlife, but last week it became the perfect setting for a murder.
“It’s beautifully creepy, as we like to say,” said Ashley Crary, show runner for Crazy Legs Productions, which is using the park as a backdrop to film episodes of a new Investigation Discovery series called Swamp Murders.
“It’s a true-crime series,” she said. “We’re shooting six episodes, and this is where we are shooting all the swamp scenes.”
The specific murder cases to be profiled have not been made public, but the swamp is a common theme among them all.
“They are basically stories of homicides, mainly in the South,” she said.
Some of the crimes occurred in swamps, and others ended there, as bodies were dumped or hidden.
The park, operated by Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy, was transformed into a movie set as crews established wardrobe and makeup areas and imported truckloads of props and technical gear.
Bob Young, the academy’s president and CEO, even appeared as an extra.
“I was a fisherman who found a body,” he said. “But that’s all I can tell you.”
The swamp, with dense cypress bays and native foliage, turned out to be the perfect place to re-create homicides that occurred in locales as diverse as Florida, Texas and North Carolina.
“We have scouted all over Georgia, and we chose this area because it really exemplifies the variety of locations we’re looking for,” Crary said.
The site was also convenient for the Atlanta-based production company, which used metro Atlanta area sites for other scenes.
Long before the re-enactments are planned, the show’s producers spend a lot of time gathering background for the show.
“We interview the actual folks involved,” she said. “Attorneys, people in law enforcement, victims’ families, law enforcement – even journalists who covered the cases.”
Several of the crimes were cold cases that took many years to solve.
“They are definitely mysteries,” she said. “The viewers will get to go along for quite a ride.”
Despite blustery weather and a storm or two, the filming went smoothly, although crews encountered a few snakes and beavers and a curious bobcat.
On Wednesday, they were also looking for a missing body – actually a dummy made up to look like a dead person – that vanished during the night.
“True to form, like in an actual crime, the body sank,” she said. “But we know where it is, so we’ll find it.”
The first hour-long episode will premier at 10 p.m. April 22 on Investigation Discovery.