The Legend of La Llorona

Hey, everyone. Today is Halloween, so I thought it would be a good day for another Legends and Lore post. I originally wrote this as one of my first Mystery Monday posts back in 2019.

A few weeks ago, Jan Sikes and I were discussing the following story about my grandfather’s brother, and she thought I should write a blog post about it.

Sometimes the most intriguing mysteries are ones passed down within your family. As a child, I was fascinated by stories my mother told me of things that happened to her or her relatives. Such is the case with a story about an ancestor who encountered a woman in white.

My grandfather’s brother, Hez, was on his way home one night after visiting his fiancée. He traveled by horseback, and the route required him to pass by a country cemetery. As he approached, he saw a woman standing beside a gate. When he spoke, she did not return his greeting. Feeling a bit unnerved, he started the horse in a trot.

The woman could keep stride, and Hez coaxed the horse to go faster. But even when in full gallop, the woman remained beside him. When he reached a second gate, she turned and went back into the cemetery. Hez died unexpectedly three weeks later.

Imagine my surprise when I first heard of the legend of La Llorona, the crying woman dressed in white. Supposedly, the legend dates back to the Aztecs when a white-adorned goddess left a cradle with the Aztec women. The cradle was empty except for an arrow shaped like a sacrificial knife. Supposedly, the tribe could hear her crying at night. Then she would vanish into a river or lake.

In the sixteenth century, there was a story of a peasant woman named Luisa who bore three sons to an upper-class man named Don Muño Montes Claros. When he abandoned Luisa to marry a woman of his stature, she killed the children, then ran through the streets wailing and screaming. Upon hearing the news of his children’s death, Don Muño committed suicide.

Over the centuries, the legend evolved along the Texas-Mexico border into The Legend of La Llorona. As the story goes, she was once a loving mother who went crazy and drowned her seven children. Unable to rest, she wanders at night in search of her babies.

The Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park, Texas, not far from the Mexico border. Fort Stockton is about 100 miles from here.

As expected, there are many variations to the story, each adapted to fit a specific geographic locale. La Llorona supposedly is seen in cemeteries, one of which is St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Fort Stockton, Texas.

There are also accounts of a similar sighting in Henderson County which is deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas.

But the tale that intrigued me most was one I read in Patrick Dearen’s Portraits of the Pecos Frontier. According to local residents, the woman in white was seen as late as the 1960s. She would wait beside Highway 1053 between the towns of Imperial and Fort Stockton.[i]

A man who resided in Imperial often made the drive. On his return trip from Fort Stockton, the woman would “attach” herself to the man’s car and ride for about ten miles. His attempts to distract her, including driving at speeds up to 100 MPH, were futile. He never saw her on the trip to Fort Stockton, only when he returned to Imperial. Residents say the man died in a plane crash in the late 1960s. Apparently, this man was the only one with whom the woman would “hitch a ride.”

That account is the closest I’ve heard to the one involving my ancestor. He lived in rural Alabama, having never visited Texas. Methods of communication were scarce in the early 1900s, so it’s doubtful he knew of the Legend of La Llorona.

I found it interesting that both men died unexpectedly after having seen the woman.

Coincidence? Imagination? Something else? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The incident with my grandfather’s brother inspired me to write The Dare. It is one of thirteen stories included in my short story collection, scheduled for release in January 2023.

Texarkana’s Phantom Killer

This month’s Mystery Monday is about a series of murders that took place in 1946. Almost eighty years later, the mystery is still unsolved. Interested? Read on.

Texarkana is a city in Northeast Texas. Along with its twin city, Texarkana, Arkansas, it’s home to around 65,000 people. In the 1940s, the combined population was less than 30,000.

While there is some dispute about how the town got its name, most believe it’s a portmanteau of Texas, Arkansas, and nearby Louisiana. State Line Avenue is the demarcation line dividing the two cities. I couldn’t resist sharing this vintage postcard photo because of its humorous caption.

I stand in Texas with my ass in Arkansas.

Several famous people were born in the twin cities, including ragtime composer Scott Joplin, businessman/politician Ross Perot, and numerous NFL and MLB players.

But in 1946, Texarkana wasn’t thinking about politics or sports. Many of its residents lived in fear because a phantom killer was on the loose. And there was certainly nothing humorous about the series of horrendous crimes.

The first attack occurred on February 22, 1946, when twenty-five-year-old Jimmy Hollis and his girlfriend Mary Jeanne Lowry parked on a secluded road known as “Lover’s Lane.” A man wearing a white cloth mask resembling a pillowcase with holes cut for his eyes shone a flashlight in the driver’s side window.

The mysterious stranger ordered the couple out of the car, then struck Hollis in the head with a pistol, fracturing his skull. He then sexually assaulted Laney.

Hollis and Laney both survived the attack. Others weren’t so lucky.

On the morning of March 24, a passing motorist discovered the bodies of Richard Griffin and Polly Moore in Griffin’s car. Like with the first couple, Griffin had parked along a secluded road. His body was in the front seat, Moore was in the back. The killer shot both victims twice in the back of the head. A nearby blood-soaked patch of earth suggested the couple had been killed outside and their bodies placed in the car.

On April 14, around 1:30 in the morning, Paul Martin and Betty Jo Booker left a musical performance at the VFW club. Police found Martin’s body at 6:30 by the northern edge of North Park Road. He had been shot four times. They found Booker’s body almost two miles from her boyfriend’s. She had been shot twice. Martin’s car was located three miles away at Spring Lake Park with the keys still in the ignition.

Area stores sold out of guns, ammunition, locks, and other protective devices. Residents stayed inside their homes after dark, believing they would be safe. But that wasn’t the case for Virgil Starks and his wife, Katie, who lived almost ten miles northeast of Texarkana.

Around 9:00 p.m. on the night of May 3, Virgil Starks was sitting in an armchair reading the newspaper when someone fired two shots to the back of his head from a closed window. After hearing the sound, Katie ran into the room. When she saw her husband slumped in the chair, she rushed to call police, but the killer shot her in the face.

Katie tried to get a pistol but was blinded by her own blood. Hearing the killer at the back door, she ran out the front to a neighbor’s house to get help. Katie survived the shooting.

Several enforcement officers were involved in the investigation, including the sheriffs of Bowie County, Texas and Miller County, Arkansas, Texarkana police, Arkansas State Police, and Texas Rangers.

Police searching for clues. (Public Doman)

Hollis and Laney were the only victims that could describe their assailant. Both described him as around six feet tall. However, Hollis believed he was a dark tanned Caucasian. Laney thought he was a light-skinned African American. Police repeatedly questioned their accounts, believing they knew the attacker and were covering for him.

The “Phantom Killer” nickname came after the deaths of Booker and Martin.

Authorities questioned over four-hundred suspects during the investigation. At least nine people confessed to being the killer, but their statements didn’t agree with the facts.

Included in the list of suspects were a local car thief and counterfeiter, an 18-year-old university freshman who died by suicide in November 1948, an ex-Army-Air Force machine gunner, a hitchhiker, and a taxi driver.

On April 27, police in Corpus Christi, Texas, arrested an unknown man who tried to sell a saxophone to a music store. Victim Betty Jo Booker played the saxophone at the VFW the night she died. Her instrument was missing. After several days of questioning, authorities released the man for lack of evidence.

On May 7, someone found the body of Earl McSpadden on the Kansas City Southern Railway tracks sixteen miles north of Texarkana. A passing freight train severed his left arm and leg. The coroner’s verdict stated his death was “at the hands of persons unknown.” He further stated that McSpadden was dead before being placed on the railroad tracks.

Because McSpadden’s murder was never solved, many locals speculated he was the sixth victim. One rumor claimed McSpadden was the phantom, and he committed suicide by jumping in front of the train.

The Phantom Killings was the subject of the 1976 film, The Town That Dreaded Sundown as well as a 2014 remake.

The Ghosts of the Hotel Galvez

Today we’ll travel back to my home state of Texas and the City of Galveston for this month’s Legends and Lore post.

Located on Galveston and Pelican Islands, the City of Galveston was once the largest in Texas. The 1900 Galveston hurricane changed that. Still known as the deadliest natural disaster in United States history and the fifth-deadliest Atlanta hurricane, the storm claimed between 6,000 and 12,000 fatalities. Official counts cite around 8,000 dead. After the storm, investors grew alarmed and turned inland to Houston which is now the largest city in the state.

Today Galveston is a coastal resort city with an economy consisting of tourism, shipping, financial, and medical industries. It’s the home of the University of Texas Medical Branch which has an average annual enrollment of 2500 students.

Galveston as seen from the International Space Station
(Public Domain Photo)

Galveston is rich in history. As you might expect along with that history comes tales of haunted places, one of which is the Grand Galvez Resort and Spa.

The historic hotel has 226 rooms and opened to the public in 1911 as the Hotel Galvez. Once referred to as the “Playground of the Southwest,” celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jimmy Stewart, and Duke Ellington were frequent visitors. American Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon Johnson also stayed in the hotel, as did General Douglas MacArthur.

But the Hotel Galvez is also known for some permanent tenants. Guests who checked in but have never checked out. The hotel is ripe with paranormal activity. Who are some of its permanent inhabitants?

The Love Lorn Lady

Audra is the most famous ghost that resides in the Galvez. In the mid-fifties, she was a twenty-five-year-old bride-to-be. Her fiancé was a mariner who often sailed in and out of the port of Galveston. She would often rent room 501 which was close to the elevator. Audra used the elevator to access a ladder that led to the roof.

Audra would climb to the red-tiled roof to await her fiancé’s ship, sitting inside the hotel’s rooftop turret. After a devastating storm, Audra received word the ship had capsized and “all hands were lost.” Inconsolable, Audra hung herself in the hotel’s west turret.

Sadly, her fiancé arrived in Galveston a few days later, having survived the storm. Visitors to the hotel claim Audra frequents the fifth floor, although she’s most often seen in her matrimonial room.

Some claim to feel a sudden chill before Audra’s specter appears. Others say there is an inexplicable slamming of doors, televisions turn on and off, and lights flicker back and forth. Front desk staff say they have a difficult time making electronic keys for the room.

Sister Katherine

Sister Katherine is another spirit who haunts the hotel. She belonged to the Sisters of Charity which oversaw the St. Mary’s Orphans Asylum. During the 1900 hurricane, the asylum was ravaged by the storm.

Trying to save as many orphans as possible, the sisters made rope out of cloth, tied them to the children and their waists, in hopes of withstanding the storm’s devastating winds. Some believe the ropes were counterproductive, leading to the deaths of ninety children and ten sisters. They were found still attached to one another along the beach where the Galvez is now located.

Their bodies were buried on-site, which lead some to believe the Galvez stands above their mass grave.

Phantom Children

A small girl, dressed in nineteenth-century clothing often frequents the hotel gift shop, lobby, and staircase. She’s often seen bouncing a ball. Other phantom children are said to run throughout the hotel, laughing and often playing the piano. Visitors can hear the sounds of their laughter, but the children remain unseen.

Would You Visit?

I have not stayed in the Galvez, but I wouldn’t be opposed to doing so. What about you? Would you book a room in a haunted place?

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.

Book Reviews: #Texas Authors @JanSikes3 @WHVenema

Hey, everyone. For those of you in the US, I hope you enjoyed the long weekend. Welcome to the first Tuesday of July. I’m plugging right along with my TBR list, and today I have three reviews. All three books are written by Texas authors, and two of them are set in Texas.

The first is by friend and fellow Story Empire author Jan Sikes.


Jag Peters has one goal in his quiet comfortable life—to keep his karma slate wiped clean. A near-miss crash with a candy apple red Harley threatens to upend his safe world. He tracks down the rider to apologize properly. Slipping into a seedy biker bar, he discovers the rider isn’t a “he”, it’s a “she”, a dark-haired beauty.

Rena Jett is a troubled soul, who lives in a rough world. She wants no part of Jag’s apology, but even while she pushes him away, she is attracted to him. When he claims to see a ghost—her brother—can she trust him? And could her brother’s final gift, a magical rune stone with the symbol for “happily ever after” have the power to heal her wounds and allow opposites to find common ground—perhaps even love?

My Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ghostly Interference is a blend of romance, paranormal, and healing. Rena Jett is a young woman who lost her brother, Sam, in the war. She’s lived a tough life—abandoned by her mother she and Sam spent years in the foster care system. After Sam’s death, she has no one who loves and cares for her.

Jag Peters comes from a middle-class family. He’s a computer geek but has an intense love of music, and once desired to play in a band. Jag and Rena meet by accident—he literally almost causes her to wreck the only thing she has left of her brother, a candy apple red Harley.

Beneath her tough exterior, Rena is vulnerable. She wants a home and a family but feels like she won’t fit into Jag’s world. Jag has issues as well. It’s said opposites attract, and that couldn’t be truer with these two. Oh, and there’s Sam’s ghost who keeps appearing to Jag.

The story line is well developed, and we see both characters grow and mature. Throw in music (which is always a plus for me), plus the Texas setting, and I was completely enthralled. All in all a satisfying and enjoyable read. This is the first in the White Rune Series. and I look forward to the next book.

The next books are by author William Venema, and are part of a series. I learned of his works through Jan, purchased the first book, and kept it on my TBR list for about a year. After finishing it (in two days), I immediately bought a copy of the second novel.


Captain Robert E. Clark arrives in Panama on his first tour of duty as a lawyer. He struggles to reconcile his Southern upbringing and West Point training with a strange new environment. Panama is a muddled mix of conflict and corruption, where, among other things, marriage vows don’t mean what they did at the First United Methodist Church of Pemberton, Georgia. When Clark is assigned to prosecute a murder case involving the death of a thirteen-month old little girl, his ambition causes him to neglect his wife and daughter more than usual and—even worse—bend the rules in ways that call into question what kind of man he is and what he truly values.

In this riveting novel, William Venema tells an intriguing, thought-provoking tale of unrestrained ambition and its consequences. Death comes in many forms, each lethal in its own way.

My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I enjoy reading a good legal thriller, so when I heard about Death in Panama, I was intrigued enough to buy a copy.

Set during the early 1980s, the book follows the story of Army Captain Robert E. Clark on his first tour of duty in Panama. Clark, as he is called by his friends, has been assigned to the Judge Advocate General Corps at Fort Clayton. A graduate of West Point, Clark’s life is the army, despite having a wife and young daughter.

He isn’t perfect, and some reviewers said they had a hard time liking his character. I had an even harder time liking his wife. From the start, she appeared selfish. She cares little for him and his wants, even when he has to make an emergency trip to the states when he learns his father is dying.

Clark throws himself into his work and not long after arriving is assigned as chief prosecutor in the murder trial of an army specialist accused of murdering his thirteen-month-old niece. The story covers the investigation, trial, as well as the “aftermath.”

While there are a few instances of author intrusion, overall, the writing is solid. Enough that I’m interested in reading the sequel Dawn in Dallas as it follows Clark’s life after the army.


It is 1986, and Robert E. Clark has no idea what the future holds as he leaves the Army JAG Corps and embarks on a civilian legal career. He secures a position at Underwood & Crockett, a prestigious law firm in Dallas, Texas, even though his young daughter and ex-wife reside in Pemberton, Georgia, the small town where he grew up.

Things get complicated when Robert receives disturbing news from home at the same time he is confronted with unethical behavior by one of the senior partners in the law firm. The challenges of his new career and his responsibilities as a father pull him in opposite directions.

Dawn in Dallas has its share of plot twists and interesting characters and along the way reveals some of the darker secrets of life inside a large law firm and the serious deficiencies of our court system.

My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After reading Death in Panama, I couldn’t wait to pick up a copy of Dawn in Dallas. Like the first book of the series, I read it in two days.

This book picks up a few years after the first when (now) Major Robert Clark has been reassigned to a post in Georgia. Having gone through a divorce which left him with getting supervised only visits with his daughter, Robert decides to leave the Army and move to Dallas, Texas where he’s offered a position with one of the most prestigious firms in the state.

He soon learns that everything isn’t as it should be. Not only that, but there are also problems with his daughter and ex-wife. His visits to Georgia aren’t looked on favorably by one of the firm’s partners.

At first, we see Robert making some bad choices (much as he did in Panama) but when asked to do something unethical and illegal, he must decide between right and wrong. That’s where we begin to see real character growth.

In Dawn in Dallas, we meet some new characters and see some familiar ones from Death in Panama. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.

After posting my review, I was delighted to learn a third book is in the works. You can bet I’ll be buying a copy.