Friday, October 5, 2012

On the Hunt for the Creatures of White Rock Lake by Nick Redfern

We thought that since we were now in October it would be a good time to share some tales from Nick Redfern's Memoirs of a Monster Hunter.  This was Nick's first publication with New Page Books back in 2007 and since then we have published 7 other books with Nick.  In fact there's a new one signed for Spring of 2013 (keep checking back to see our new list).

Here we venture with him onto the path of the Lady of the Lake excerpted from Chapter 8.....

Our new abode, which was destined to be our home for almost two years, was a pleasant third-floor apartment at a gated complex that was situated practically on the shores of Dallas’s White Rock Lake, a picturesque and tree-shrouded area that was tucked away only a few miles outside of the city’s downtown. But just like everywhere we seemed to go, White Rock Lake had a distinctly strange atmosphere, and it was an atmosphere that just got stranger and stranger as time progressed. Legends of monstrous fish, bizarre man-beasts, the Lady of the Lake, deranged killers, and wartime Nazi spies all emanated from the heart of White Rock Lake. Oh, and nothing less than an island had mysteriously gone missing from within its murky waters.

Constructed in 1911 as Dallas’s first reservoir, White Rock Lake has 9 1/2 miles of shoreline, thick trees, a path for walkers and cyclists, and is home to an estimated 33 types of mammals, including squirrels, rabbits, skunks, raccoons, possums, bobcats, red foxes, and minks, and no less than 54 varieties of reptiles, among which are rattlesnakes, turtles, a whole variety of lizards, and horned toads. Salamanders and frogs also abound, along with an incredible 217 species of bird, including swans, pelicans, sea gulls, loons, and all manner of ducks.

As I got to know some of the elderly locals, a number of whom had been there since the 1930s, I learned that the tale of the Lady of the Lake had been circulating for years. As the story went, a Dr. Eckersall, a local physician, was driving home from a country-club dance late one Saturday night when he saw a young girl by the lake, who he suspected was in trouble. He quickly stopped his car, and motioned her to climb into the back seat of his vehicle.

“Please, please take me home,” she begged. The doctor drove quickly to her destination, and as he pulled up before the shuttered house, he said: “Here we are.” Then he turned around. Yep, you guessed it: The back seat was empty, except for a small puddle of lake water dripping down onto the floorboard. He thought for a moment then rang insistently on the house bell. Finally the door was opened by a gray-haired man.

“I can’t tell you what an amazing thing has happened,” began the doctor, breathlessly. “A young girl gave me this address. I drove her here and…” “Yes, yes, I know,” the man wearily interrupted. “This has happened several other Saturday evenings in the past month. That young girl, sir, was my daughter. She was killed in a boating accident on White Rock Lake almost two years ago.”

Needless to say, this was a tale I was very pleased to get my teeth into. And like a lot of such tales, there were many rumors but very few facts. The late writer and researcher Ed Syers said:
“In the 1920s, an excursion boat operated on the lake. One warm summer night, perfect for a moonlit ride, a young couple attended a formal party on the boat. An argument between the lovers ensued—possibly alcohol-induced—and the woman left the boat, jumped into her date’s car, and sped off into the dark night. The poorly maintained road around the lake twisted and turned, and the distraught woman lost control of the car where Lawther Road runs into Garland Road. The car careened into the lake and she drowned.”

This was particularly interesting to me as our apartment complex was on Garland Road, so I continued to dig into the tales. According to acclaimed Austin, Texas-based ghost hunter Lisa Farwell:
“One of the scariest reports of the ghost appeared in a 1987 Dallas Times Herald article by Lorraine Iannello. Iannello interviewed a mother and daughter, Phyllis Thompson and Sue Ann Ashman, who had a frightening encounter with the female phantom. The two were sitting on one of the boat docks at night when they spotted a white object floating in the lake. The women heard a blood-curdling scream and saw the white object roll over onto its back. The object turned out to be a body; it stared at the horror-stricken women through big, hollow sockets where the eyes should have been. Then, just as quickly, the terrifying sight disappeared.”

Interestingly, a perusal of old newspapers revealed to me that, in the late 1970s, the story of a woman who was claiming to be the “real” Lady of the Lake surfaced briefly in an article written by Dallas Morning News columnist John Anders. According to Anders, the woman had written to the newspaper describing how, on one night back in the 1930s she and her lover were parked by the lake, watching a full moon. While they sat together, however, the man’s car suddenly rolled into the lake, its parking brake presumably having failed. Dripping wet, she hitched a ride to her parents’ house on Gaston Avenue. And sure enough, the legend of the mysterious drowned lady started soon afterward. The woman cryptically signed her note “Jam Net Jaid,” taunting Anders to figure out her real identity. She remained elusive. But the one case of the Lady of the Lake that I personally investigated turned out to be truly creepy.

After we moved to White Rock, I was interviewed by a local magazine that specifically served East Dallas. The feature, titled In Search of Sasquatch, had been written by the magazine’s editor Kris Scott, and brought me a lot of local attention and also, and more importantly, a lot of stories and leads to follow up on. And one such story, from Bobby John Craig, had a direct bearing on the ghostly woman of the lake. Craig’s family was originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, but had moved to Texas in the 1960s. And as a lifelong fisherman, Craig had fished White Rock Lake for many years.

As I listened, Craig told me a macabre tale about the fateful night he sat on the far side of the lake in 1971. It was a summer’s evening and he had been fishing for a while, with considerable success, when he was overcome by an all-encompassing feeling of dread, and saw something slowly begin to haul itself out of the water about 20 feet in front of him. To his horror, he could see that it was a woman—or perhaps some insane soul’s monstrous and diabolical idea of what a woman should look like would be a better description.

Craig told me that the woman was dressed in dark rags, had long black hair, deathly white skin, and her soulless eyes were utterly jet-black. Dirty water dripped from her mud-encrusted locks, and she moved slowly toward him with a maniacal grin on her face. Her slow, jerky fashion reminded Craig of the relentless flesh-eating zombies that were featured in George A. Romero’s classic movie Night of the Living Dead. The creature—it may have looked human, said Craig, but a creature is all it really was—continued to move toward him in faltering steps, its arms outstretched, while it issued a dark and sinister moan and pointed an elongated finger in his direction. This was enough to convince Craig to grab his rod and gear, and hit the road, which he duly did.

On the following day, and after the shock had worn off, Craig tentatively revisited the site of his unearthly encounter. The woman was gone. And despite the fact that Craig continued to fish that same area for several more years, he never saw the horrific specter again. But there were far stranger things than weird, wet women afoot at White Rock.

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