The Lady of the Lake
For decades, White Rock Lake has served as the perfect staycation destination for the people of Dallas. Located just twenty minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown, the serene shores of White Rock and the surrounding White Rock Lake Park offer over a thousand acres of recreational fun. Less serene, however, is the eerie history hidden just beneath the lake’s placid surface. According to local legend, White Rock is home to a frightening female apparition known as the Lady of the Lake. For nearly as long as the lake has been around, stories of passerby unwittingly picking up a passenger from the other side have circulated. So Although the lake may be ideal for a relaxing day by the water, be sure to head home before the sun goes down, as the mysterious Lady of the Lake is said to wander through White Rock after nightfall.
History and Background
Like most lakes in the great state of Texas, White Rock Lake is manmade. Before it was a lake, the area housed a collection of farms owned by local Dallas families until an ongoing water shortage prompted construction on the lake to begin in 1910. The lake was completed the following year, supplying water to the city and effectively ending the crisis. In the ensuing decades, the shore was developed into a municipal park, and families began moving into the area by the dozens.
The lake quickly became a popular recreational spot, but the last swimmers had permanently climbed ashore by the early 1950s. Wanting to preserve the sanitation standards of the Dallas water supply, the city officially banned swimming in 1952. By the 1990s, White Rock Lake and the surrounding area had blossomed into a picture-perfect picnic and leisure destination, complete with a dog park, bike paths, and scenic hiking trails.
White Rock Lake Park also boasts the Baths House Cultural Center, the Dallas Arboretum, and the Dallas Botanical Garden. Additionally, the lake is home to the White Rock Sailing Club and has become a popular spot for boating of all kinds, including kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats available for rent. Along with sailing, fishing remains a popular pastime, with several fishing piers positioned around the lake’s shoreline. Last but not least, the park forms the site of the White Rock Marathon, a nationally recognized race and qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
The secluded shores of White Rock Lake make for the perfect weekend getaway, ideal for all kinds of lakeside activities from canoeing to paddle boating to basking in the hot Texas sun. Gazing down at the gentle waves lapping against the side of your rented paddleboat, the water may start to look pretty inviting, especially on a hot summer day. But no matter how tempting, and no matter how hot, visitors of White Rock Lake must resist the urge to dive in. Although the lake no longer supplies the city with drinking water, City of Dallas officials claim that the swimming ban remains in place due to debris and bacteria runoff from the surrounding area. If that doesn’t convince you to keep your arms and legs inside the boat at all times, perhaps what lurks beneath will. The apocryphal Lady of the Lake is said to rest at the bottom of the lake during the day, her spectral form floating just beneath the passing boats overhead. And if that image weren’t terrifying enough, the Lady is rumored to claw her way onshore each night to traverse the nearby road.
The most infamous legend circulating about the Lady of the Lake occurred on one of these nighttime strolls, and goes as follows: One cold, dark night in 1952, a young couple was on their way home from a work dinner party thrown by the husband’s boss. It was well after midnight and the two were completely exhausted. Wanting nothing more than to get home and crawl under the covers, the wife closed her eyes and began to drift off. Suddenly, the car lurched to a stop, jolting her awake. She looked up to see a woman dressed in a tattered white gown standing in the middle of the road, bathed in the yellow glow of the headlights. Her long hair hung around her face like a curtain and her eyes were as big and startled as a deer’s. In the light, the wife also noticed that the woman appeared to be soaking wet.
“Hello?” the husband called out to her. She looked up at him with her big, startled eyes, and when he asked her if she needed a ride, she nodded silently. The wife got out of the car and opened the door for the woman. As she climbed into the backseat, her hand brushed up against the woman’s; she later reported that it felt as cold as an ice cube. She asked the woman where she was going, and she replied with her address. Her husband nodded and drove on.
For miles, they rode on in silence, but the wife could hear the steady drip drip drip of water from the woman’s dress and hair. At length, they arrived at the address the woman had given them, an old house at the end of the road. The house was dark and quiet, and the lawn looked overgrown and unkempt, almost as if no one lived there at all. The couple turned to face the backseat, but the woman had vanished, leaving nothing behind but a puddle of water.
Confused and frightened, the pair got out of the car, approached the old house, and knocked on the door. After a moment, an elderly man hobbled to answer it. He looked just as confused to see them as they felt by the whole thing. The couple explained what had happened, and the expression on the old man’s face gradually shifted from confusion to resigned recognition. He nodded solemnly and informed them that the hitchhiker they had picked up was his daughter. The only problem with that? The man’s daughter had drowned 10 years ago in a boating accident on White Rock Lake.
In other versions of the story, the woman throws herself from the cliff above the lake after her lover rejects her. Regardless of which version of the story is true, ever since that night, drivers have spotted the haunting spectral form of a woman in white standing on the side of the road. And according to reports, the young couple wasn’t the last to offer the woman a ride either. Over the years, reports have flooded in from drivers who claim to have picked up a strange woman in a dripping wet gown. The drivers usually have nothing but a puddle to corroborate their stories, as the woman always vanishes before reaching her final destination. Though the old house where the woman’s father once lived has long since been boarded up and condemned, her spirit still wanders the area around White Rock, searching in vain for a way back home.
Aside from roadside reports, strange happenings have also occurred within the lake itself. One group of illegal swimmers details an especially eerie story. One evening, three teenagers snuck off to an isolated section of the lake to swim and drink beer, ignoring the “no swimming” signs posted throughout. The group swam away from the shore, laughing and splashing one another playfully. Out of nowhere, one of the girls felt something strange brush up against her leg. Suddenly in a panic, she tried to tell her friends that she had just felt something touch her leg, and it felt almost hand-like. The girl’s friends didn’t believe her and tried to convince her it must have been a fish or a stray piece of trash. But the girl wasn’t so sure.
Not wanting to ruin the fun, the girl tried—and failed—to put the incident out of her mind. She felt intensely creeped out, almost as if whatever lurked beneath the water wanted to drag her down with it. Moments later, she felt it again, and this time there was no mistaking it; it was definitely a hand, and it was definitely trying to pull her under the water! The girl screamed, kicked her legs as hard as she could, and made a beeline for the shore. Could it have been the spirit of the Lady of the Lake? One thing was for sure, the group never went swimming at White Rock Lake ever again!