Welcome to the first post of my new Legends and Lore series. After completing last year’s posts about the Native American moon names, I debated on something to take its place. Since I enjoy hearing stories about legends and folklore, I thought exploring them a bit more would be fun.
While somewhat similar to Mystery Monday, this series will feature either an urban legend or a bit of folklore. To kick things off, we’ll turn to an urban legend in my home state.
White Rock Lake is a reservoir located in the northeast part of Dallas, Texas. Construction began in 1910 to help satisfy a water shortage for the city’s growing population. After completion in 1911, residential housing began to spring up around the area. In the 1930s, the Dallas Park Board with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), began developing the lake’s shores into a municipal park.
White Rock Lake as seen from the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Photo by Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0
During World War II, the U. S. Army used the CCC camp as an induction point for new recruits. In 1943, the barracks were used to house German prisoners of war.
Today, White Rock Lake and White Rock Lake Park serve as recreational areas, with more than nine miles of hiking and biking trails. There are also several picnic spots, areas for bird watching, and fishing piers. Motorized boats are prohibited on the lake, but sailing is popular there. The area is surrounded by major streets such as Mockingbird Lane, Buckner Boulevard, and Garland Road.
One of the many trails surrounding White Rock Lake
Photo by Eapender at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
But White Rock Lake is also the location of a popular Dallas urban legend known as The Lady of The Lake.
For many decades, people have claimed to see a pale-looking woman in her twenties roaming the area on moonlit nights in search of a ride home. Over the years, the urban legend gained so much notoriety that Readers Digest named White Rock Lake as one of the most haunted bodies of water in 2018.
Sailboats on the lake near sunset
Photo by Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0
Tales of the Lady of the Lake date back to the 1930s. According to the Dallas Morning News, the first written account was by Texas author Frank S. Tolbert in 1953.
Tolbert’s account was from a conversation with Guy Malloy, a former director of displays at Neiman Marcus in the early 1940s. Malloy claimed to have given a ride to a young girl while driving home one night. The girl told him she had been at a dance with her boyfriend and they were later involved in a car accident at the lake.
Malloy wrapped her in a raincoat and placed her in his back seat. When he arrived at her Gaston Avenue address, she had disappeared. The raincoat remained.
Other versions of the legend began to surface. In some accounts, the woman is wearing a wedding dress, in others, she’s dressed in a nightgown. Some say the woman drowned in a boating accident, killed herself at the lake, or that her ex-boyfriend drove both of them into the water after she told him she was marrying someone else.
In each account, the woman stands beside the road, waving at passing motorists. She often asks to be taken to an Oak Cliff address. Witnesses say she prefers to sit in the back seat because her dress is wet. The woman sobs quietly throughout the car ride but doesn’t say anything else. Upon arriving at the designated address, has disappeared. Sometimes she’ll dash frantically from the car.
The legend goes that motorists who return to the home to inquire about the woman are told she previously lived in the house but drowned in the lake years earlier.
In 2019, Elvia Limon, author of the Dallas Morning News article, and a friend went on separate ghost tours of the area. While neither encountered any spirits, they both had some interaction with dowsing rods. Limon stated the dowsing roads told there was more than one spirit at the lake, but less than five. However, she was unable to determine if one of them was the famous Lady of The Lake.
Her legend lives on.