White Rock Lake | The Lady of the Lake
Located in Dallas, Texas
Oh wow, guys, this one is personal. I’m excited I got a chance to write on this one, because I grew up in the area right around White Rock Lake - and I still have family in that area. I spent time at the parks, walking trails, Cultural Bathhouse Center, and many places around the lake itself during my childhood, youth, and adulthood.
Well. Let’s jump straight in shall we?
If you’ve read any of the other blogs I’ve done as a guest writer for Ghost Texas, you know I’m gonna start with history. Can’t help it. History geek.
Way back in the day, the land that is now the lake belonged to farmers – to the Daniel and Cox families. Thomas Walker Daniel and his wife Frances settled in the area around 1830-1840 and their son became friends with a son of the Cox family during the Civil War. After the war, the families settled adjacent to each other.
[Just as ghosty aside, the Cox family cemetery is still near the lake itself, but it is considered a private cemetery and isn’t open to the public. An estimated 500 people are buried within it, as it accommodated the entire community, and it is on the historical register.]
Fast forward to around 1910 – construction began on White Rock Lake in response to a water shortage in the area; the lake was completed in 1911. Construction of residences around the lake picked up in the 1920s, and in the early 1930s construction started on making certain areas into public parks. The lake itself continued to expand in depth and width, and more buildings popped up around it as well. There’s also a dam on the lake, dating back to the original construction in 1911. If you ever find yourself in East Dallas, and you take a little drive down Garland Road, you can see the remains of the dam near the spillway.
Although I grew up in the area, I didn’t know a lot of this history about the lake, especially the ties to WWII. During WWII, the area was used by the US Army as a recruit induction camp, and 403 German prisoners of war were housed in a barracks at Winfrey Point – these prisoners were troops who had served with Rommel in Africa.
In 1953 another severe water shortage hit Dallas and the immediate surrounding areas, and swimming was banned in White Rock Lake in an effort to keep it cleaner as a municipal water supply and reservoir. It wasn’t used as a water supply for long, but to this day the swimming ban remains in effect.
Right, so to recap: we’ve got ties to the Civil War, ties to WWII, and a cemetery on site. Added to that, it’s a body of water, and water is a wonderful conductor of energy. Including psychic energy.
Seems like we’ve got a lot of really great pre-requisites for a haunting or two here, don’t you think?
*rubs hands together* MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA….
This is where we get into the story of The Lady of The Lake. I remember being scared out of my mind in grade school, listening to my classmates at Lakewood Elementary talk in hushed voices, eyes wide with terror, about the ghost lady of White Rock Lake.
Accounts differ on how she manifests, who she is, and how she came to be a ghost on White Rock Lake. One source I read made a great point about that. J. Rene Guerrero, who wrote a novel about the Lady of the Lake, stated that the difference in claims may point to there being multiple hauntings - not just one Lady of the Lake. I gotta say, that made me shiver, and it makes sense to me.
I feel like it’s most logical to discuss the evolution of the story of the Lady in terms of timelines and actual happenings.
First, we have the tragic drowning of Hallie Enid Gaston in 1927. The second earliest mention of the Lady of the Lake is the story that Anne Clark wrote for the Texas Folklore Society back in 1943; and although that’s when the story was written down, sources say that it’s probable that the tale of the Lady would have been circulating for years or even a couple of decades before Anne Clark wrote it down. The third most widely reported account of the story dates back to 1953 – which, if you remember from the history discussed above, is when the swimming ban took effect. Some accounts say the Lady is the specter of someone who suffered a deadly boating accident, while others say it was suicide, and still others say it was a woman crashing her car into the lake. Again, I find it reasonable to suppose there may be multiple tragedies spawning multiple hauntings.
I did find an article that said there were two documented cases of young women dying at the lake. Louise Ford Davis drowned herself there on July 5, 1935. Another occurrence was November 24, 1942 when Rose Stone drowned herself in White Rock Lake.
There’s a lot of information but nobody knows who she is for certain.
What’s curious, in my humble opinion, is that the sightings of her – the interactions with her – all seem quite similar, but also have marked differences. In most accounts of people coming into contact with the Lady, they report a woman in a wet dress – usually an evening dress – appearing at the side of the road, waving them down for help. Now, the places where folks encounter her differ somewhat, too – some say they’ve seen her on Garland Road at Lawther, some at Winstead Drive. This is another detail that makes it seem possible to me that there are multiple spirits at work here, maybe. The Garland Road at Lawther is a very busy spot in terms of traffic – Garland Road is a major thoroughfare with three lanes traveling in each direction. Winstead, on the other hand, is more in the heart of a residential section.
Most accounts agree on the detail that when they pull over to help, she explains that she’s had some sort of bad luck and needs a ride home, and then she insists on sitting in the back seat because her dress is wet.
There are accounts of run-ins with the Lady where the folks state that the Lady gives them an address on Gaston Rd or in Forest Hills (neighborhoods nearby), but when they pull up at the house, she’s disappeared from the back seat of the car.
Other accounts state that she sobs for the entire length of the drive to the address she’s given; others report silence and no sobbing.
So – multiple Ladies of the Lake? Just one? I don’t know, I personally have never seen her. I can tell you, though, that there are parts of White Rock Lake that I wouldn’t go to after dark if I were alone – and not because of crime. There are parts of that lake that are intensely creepy even in the daytime.
And who’s to say the Lady is the only ghost out there? The Lady of the Lake may be the most well-known and widely reported, but that doesn’t mean she’s the only spirit out there.
One last little tidbit for you: White Rock Lake has been listed among the most haunted bodies of water in the world.
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