Jean Lafitte’s Treasure

Hey, Readers! Earlier this month I wrote about the legend behind Don Franciso’s buried treasure. This week, I’ll share another story about rumored buried riches.

Jean Lafitte (born c. 1780, died c. 1823) was a French pirate and privateer who operated in the Gulf of Mexico during the 1800s. He operated a warehouse in New Orleans to assist in the distribution of goods by his brother Pierre. After the government passed the Embargo Act of 1807, the Lafittes moved their operation to an island in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. By 1810 the operation was quite successful and the brothers had a profitable smuggling trade. They also engaged in piracy.

In late 1815 and early 1816, the Lafitte brothers acted as spies for Spain. Jean was sent to Galveston, Texas. He essentially developed Galveston Island as another smuggling base.

Aboard the Bolivar Ferry near Galveston Island

In February 1823, while cruising near Omoa Honduras on his schooner General Santander when he engaged in battle with two Spanish merchant vessels. A battle ensued and Lafitte was wounded. He is believed to have died on the morning of February 5, 1823. However, his legacy and legends involving his buried treasure live on.

I read about one such legend in the book Texas Myths and Legends by Donna Ingham. The story goes like this.

On a cold February night in the 1880s, an elderly war veteran rode through the area of LaPorte, Texas. Twilight came, and he looked for a place where he could shelter for the night. He supposedly saw the silhouette of a house and a stable in the light of the rising moon.

He knocked at the door. No one answered and the place was locked, but he managed to crawl through a window. The room had a fireplace and a stack of wood, and soon the old traveler was warm and cozy. Using his saddle as a pillow, and the blanket for a pallet, he soon fell asleep.

Sometime during the night by a “presence” in the room. By the light of the fire, he saw a man who beckoned to him. He followed the ghostly figure into the next room, and then into a third one.

“It is here,” the apparition said. “It is here that more gold lies buried than is good for any man. You have but to dig, and it is yours.”

Before vanishing, the spirit went on to say that gold must be used only for good purposes and not one penny spent for evil or selfish reasons.

The old veteran returned to his makeshift bed and soon fell asleep, only to be awakened once more. He followed the specter into the room. This time he swore he could see great quantities of gold and jewels. “Do not force me to come again.” With those words, the ghost was gone.

Troubled by the words, “More gold than is good for any man,” the traveler left the house, saddled his horse, and rode away.

This is one such story about Lafitte’s supposed buried treasure. Tales of haunted houses related to Lafitte and other supposed locations abound. Some claim to have found a small amount of treasure, but when they return to the place, they are unable to locate it. Rumor has it Lafitte buried much of his treasure on Galveston Island

In numerous places along the gulf coast, people come in search of the treasure. To date, no one has discovered the loot, but that doesn’t stop others from trying.

Don Francisco’s Treasure

Hey, Readers. Happy first Monday of April.

Some of my earliest memories are of stories my mother told me about events that happened to her or members of my family. A couple of those true events served as inspiration for short stories. As you might guess, the tales that most intrigued me were those involving a mystery or a legend.

I recall one story that was passed down by my grandfather. As a young man before moving to Texas, he worked on several plantations in Alabama. One place was rumored to have money buried there. According to Papaw, many men tried to dig it up, but when they reached a certain depth, they became frightened and ran away without completing the task.

He also said that a wealthy man (who obviously didn’t need the treasure) hired two men, held them at gunpoint, and ordered them to dig. Like all the others, after digging for a while, the men became frightened and begged the man to relieve them of their task. He wouldn’t, and they eventually reached the buried money. Before he could pay them for the job, they ran away in sheer terror.

Another story Mom told was of a house where my family lived in Irving, Texas. Mom said there was a tree on the property, and she sometimes saw lights come down the trunk of the tree and disappear into the ground below. Mom said the ground at that spot was much softer than the surrounding areas. According to my grandfather, the light and the soil indicated money was buried somewhere beneath the tree.

Like many tales and legends, there are similar stories. In the book Portraits of The Pecos Frontier by Patrick Derren, a resident of Fort Stockton, Texas claimed there was money buried on her family property, but no one knew its exact whereabouts. The family often saw mysterious lights, but much like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, they could never pinpoint the exact location as the lights kept moving.

According to the website Texas Hill Country, many believe there is an estimated $340 million in buried treasure in this state alone. There are many stories and legends surrounding these treasures. Today, I’ll tell you about one of them.

Don Francisco’s Buried Treasure

Don Francisco Rodriquez was a Spanish nobleman who amassed a fortune during the 1700s. He lived in what is now San Antonio. He had two children, a daughter named Delores and a son also named Francisco who went by the name of Lefty and was in the Spanish army.

The San Antonio skyline with the Hemisphere tower on the left. San Antonio is the second-largest city in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States. (Royalty-free image by Sepavone, courtesy of Dreamstime.)

Delores fell in love with a Spanish Captain named Cordero. It was during the time when Spain and France were attempting to get control of Texas. Cordero came under suspicion by the Spanish authorities who planned to send him away. In order to remain close to Delores, Cordero changed sides and joined the French.

Fearing the French would win, Don Francisco hid his treasure in a cave near what is now known as San Pedro Springs and sealed it with a large stone. He never told anyone, including his daughter, where the exact spot was.

Lefty and Cordova, both on the front lines of their respective armies, found themselves in a sword battle. They fought until both were mortally wounded, and both men died.

Upon learning of his son’s death, Don Francisco suffered a stroke. He sent for his daughter, who was at church praying for the safety of her brother and sweetheart. She went home but was too late. Don Francisco died taking with him to the grave the location of the buried treasure. Overcome with grief, Delores died shortly thereafter.

The story of the buried fortune continued on. People searched for the location and some found a cavern they thought might be the hiding place. Those who entered found it inhabited by bats, snakes, and even wolves. After one man fired at a wolf, the explosion of the rifle caused a rockslide further burying what may have been inside.

That didn’t deter the fortune seekers and many continued to search. It’s said those who entered the cave came out empty-handed and deeply fearful. (Sounds reminiscent of the story my grandfather told.) Not one single person went back a second time.

Many refused to talk about their experience, while others claimed to have seen a mysterious blue light (another similarity). Still, others say they saw the ghost of Don Francisco.

Centuries later, the location of Don Francisco’s fortune remains unknown. His legend, however, lives on.

Later this month, I’ll have another buried treasure story from the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Marfa Lights

Okay, I’m cheating again. There is not a new Mystery Monday post this week, but there’s a good reason. After a couple of weeks of being “stuck in the middle” of Blood Red Dawn, I’m writing again. (Sorry, couldn’t resist a reference to an old Steeler’s Wheel song.)

Part of my problem came about because of the third book, Edge of Twilight. I haven’t even begun that one, but a secondary character in Blood Red Dawn will be the male lead of book three. After an evening of serious brainstorming, I addressed my concerns. Not only is Blood Red Dawn moving along, but I’m making notes and a skeletal outline for Edge of Twilight.

To solve the problem for Mystery Monday, I decided to bring back my very first post from 2019. The Marfa Lights have long been a source of fascination for me, so I hope you’ll enjoy reading about them.

The town of Marfa is located in Presidio County between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park. With a population of less than two thousand, it might just be another dot on the map in a remote area of Texas where people measure distance by minutes and hours rather than miles.

“How far is it to San Antonio?”

“About six hours.”

“Where’s the closest Walmart?”

“Three hours away.”

In recent years, Marfa has become a center for minimalist art. The Chinati Foundation and Building 98 are two of its major attractions. I frequently mention Marfa and the art community in the third book of my Driscoll Lake Series, Unclear Purposes.

But long before the artists arrived in the Trans-Pecos region, Marfa became famous for something entirely different—a mysterious phenomenon known as the Marfa Lights. Just what are these lights and when were they first discovered?

In 1883, Robert Ellison and his wife were driving cattle westward from the railroad in present-day Alpine through the 5,067-foot Paisano Pass when they stopped their wagon on a high, open plateau called Mitchell Flat. Around sundown, the mysterious lights appeared. Ellison thought them to be the campfires of Apache Indians.

Not long afterward, a surveyor named O. W. Williams claimed to have seen the lights. He later recorded in his journal the Indians of that region believed they were the spirit of an Apache chief named Alsate. Ranchers in the 1890s saw the lights and assumed they were Apache campfires. However, when they checked the following day, no one could find signs of any fires.

Sightings continued throughout the years, including during World War II when the Army established a pilot training base near Marfa.

I took this photo in the town of Marathon which is about 57 miles (or 55 minutes) from Marfa. It gives you an idea of what the West Texas landscape looks like.

I first heard of the Marfa Lights in the late 1980s when the television show Unsolved Mysteries did a story about them. In July 1989 the show’s producers asked three scientists from Sul Ross University and the nearby McDonald Observatory to investigate the lights. One was a professor of chemistry, the other was a geologist, and the third was an astronomer. The investigation included eleven other technicians and observers.

The team placed border markers along the road through the Chinati mountains to easily identify automobile headlights. Around midnight, a light appeared near one of the markers which were determined not to be from traffic. The team concluded this light did not come from a man-made source but was unable to determine the origin.

In 2004, a group of students from the University of Texas at Dallas spent four days studying the lights and concluded they were from automobiles traveling along U. S. 67. In May 2008 scientists from Texas State University spent twenty nights in the area. They concluded the lights could be attributed to headlights from vehicle traffic.

Other theories include they are a mirage caused by gradients between warm and cold layers of air. Marfa is at an elevation of 4,688 feet and can experience as much as 40-50 degree temperature differentials between night and day.

It’s not surprising these lights have become a popular tourist attraction. They are best viewed on US 90 about nine miles east of Marfa. There is a pull-off, complete with tables, where you can have a nighttime picnic and wait for the lights to appear.

In 2003, the town of Marfa used $720,000 from the Texas Department of Transportation and the federal government to build the Marfa Lights Viewing Center. It has restrooms, mounted binoculars, and several bronzed plaques.

I have never seen the Marfa Lights, but I have a family member who has. A friend who once lived in the neighboring town of Alpine saw them several times. Ironically, her husband, who was with the border patrol, never saw them during the years he worked in the area.

What do you think? Automobile or campfire lights? A ghost? An atmospheric phenomenon? Please leave a comment.

The Lady of The Lake

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.

lake, sky

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.

Bridge, bicycle, person, sky, trees

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.

Water, pier, sailboats, sky

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.

December – The Cold Moon

Hey, everyone. It’s hard to believe we’re at the twelfth and final post in a series on Native American names for full moons. If you’ve missed any of the others, here’s the list.

December Cold Moon
A December Full Moon

The December full moon is aptly named the Cold Moon. This is the month when winter fastens its grip and the nights become long and dark.

Interesting Facts

  • Other names for the December full moon include the Long Night Moon, the Little Spirit Moon, and Hoar Frost Moon.
  • The full moon was believed to make people go crazy. The word “lunatic” was used to describe a person who was considered mentally ill, dangerous, foolish, or unpredictable – conditions once attributed to lunacy. The word derives from the Latin word “lunaticus” meaning “moonstruck.”
  • Winter moons often seem the brighter. This is because the earth is closer to the sun during the winter months.
  • A ring around the moon is an indication rain will soon occur. This isn’t just weatherlore, but due to a reflection of light on ice crystals in thin wispy cirrus clouds.
  • The full moon is often thought of as an event of a full night’s duration, but this is misleading because the Moon seen from Earth is continuously becoming larger or smaller (though much too slowly to notice with the naked eye). Its absolute maximum size occurs at the moment when the expansion has stopped.
  • This year’s Cold Moon occurred Saturday, December 18.
  • The Winter Solstice is Tuesday, December 21.


It is lucky to hold a moonstone in your mouth at the full moon; it will reveal the future.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts about the names of the moons. I certainly enjoyed writing them and hate to see this time come to an end. However, I have something new planned for 2022.

Do you have a favorite moon name or season? Please share in the comments. And now, I’ll leave you with a video.