In slightly more than
100 years Abilene developed from an almost entirely agricultural
economy to a diversified economy based on oil, agriculture, commerce,
light manufacturing, and service. World War 2 was the watershed
for the city's growth and economic development. The initial and
most obvious drawback to Abilene's economic development was a lack
of water, since the normal annual rainfall is only 23.59 inches.
The city excavated Lytle Lake (1897),
Lake Abilene (1919), Lake Kirby (1927), and Lake Fort Phantom Hill
(1937) to assure a municipal water supply.
In 1937 the construction of Fort Phantom Hill Dam
was begun on Elm Creek near the southeast corner of the county.
The area covered by the reservoir was annexed by the growing city
of Abilene. The county economy became more diversified in the 1940s,
as cattle ranching regained some of its importance and farmers increasingly
turned to crops like sorghum and wheat.
Pickings were slim and when evening approached,
he had no game for the supper table. He approached a small grove of trees,
hoping desperately to find something before he returned home empty handed.
He found it. A band of Indians ambushed him as soon as he cleared the
open field. Injured, he managed to escape the raid and ran home as fast
as he could. Clawing at the door with the Indians closing in, he forgot
all about his password. His wife shot him dead before he cleared the stoop.
Legend has it she still walks the lake's shores dressed in white and carrying
a lantern, cursed to an eternity of wandering for slaying her beloved.
Photo taken from
on top of the dam
The Local Legend
Some may argue Lake Fort Phantom Hill is haunted
by those who've died there through the years, but by far the most
famous specter would have to be the Lady of the Lake. Legends of
the lady date back to the mid-1800s, long before the lake even existed.
Like most ghost stories, the details change through the years, but
those who have seen her say she's there and she's real. The archives
of the Abilene Reporter News contain several accounts of the lady,
often increasingly gruesome. One account places her origin nearly
150 years ago, back to the early days of settlers reaching out into
the Old West. A man and his wife had settled in the area where the
lake now rests, building a small cabin in the woods in the heart
of the Plains Indian Territory.
After several attacks by their unfriendly
neighbors, the man and his wife established a code system, agreeing
that no one entered the house without first speaking a secret password.
Without the password being given, the orders were to shoot anything
that tried to enter. The pact worked well for a while, but failed
miserably late one evening. The man left early that day to hunt
for food, leaving his wife behind, secure in the home.
The area of the lake
where many sightings of the "ghost" has occurred.
|Another account puts
the lady's origins in the mid-1940s. A man and woman were to meet
at a church near the lake to exchange wedding vows. She arrived early,
excited about her big day. But after hours of waiting, her groom never
came. Heartbroken, she pleaded with the authorities to find her man.
Surely he wouldn't leave her at the altar. Something must have happened.
The man was found early the next morning, dressed in his finest suit
and floating in a boat in the middle of the lake. His face bore a
horrific expression of pain and fear, but doctors could never determine
the cause of his death.
Some say the Lady of the Lake still roams the shores
in search of her husband's killer, wearing the same white wedding
dress she wore the day she was to be wed. It is also said that her
desire for revenge is so great that her eyes are as black as the
A third version of the lady's origin was printed
in the early 1980s. Unlike the other two stories, the woman dies
in this tale. A beautiful young woman and her lover agree to meet
for an evening of romance near the lakeside, but when her man arrived,
he was enraged about a rumor he's heard. The two began quarreling,
man growing more angry with each word spoken. He
grabs her by her hair, drags her into the lake and drowns her. In this
version, the slain lady roams the lake in search of the man who murdered
her, wearing the same white dress in which she died and carrying the lantern
she had lit when he arrived that fateful night. The ghost's origins may
be up for debate, but all stories agree on how to conjure her presence.
To see her, go to one of the area cemeteries for three nights in a row,
shortly after midnight and wait. On the third night, wait exactly one
hour and two minutes and remain perfectly silent. Then she will appear
among the headstones, wearing a tattered white dress, carrying her lantern
and surrounded by a red (or blue, depending on the version) mist.
Marie Hammond in particular believes the
area around Lake Fort Phantom may be haunted. That's because, one cold,
wintery night, she may have caught the briefest glimpse of one of the
most infamous and unfortunately, one of the least documented of the area;
the infamous Lady of the Lake.
"I'm still not sure what I saw, but I know it was strange",
Hammond said. "I didn't think anything about any ghosts until later."
On New Year's Eve, she looked out over
the lake to see a strange woman lurking there. Dressed in light-colored
clothing and apparently shrugging off the bitter cold, she seemed to wander
almost aimlessly and unnaturally around the lakeside.
And then, far too quickly, she was gone.
"I had drawn the shades but was still
looking outside, Hammond said. "That area has very good lighting,
and I could see everything. I looked away for a moment, and when I looked
back she wasn't there. She just disappeared".
Hammond said she only learned of ghostly legends of the lake later, and
never quite figured out how the woman, real or otherwise, managed to escape
her sight so quickly.
Besides the lake itself, the
ghost also strolls through an area of the lake that is composed
of a labyrinth of dirt roads called Lover's lane.
Another witness tells of an encounter in
this area with the lady of the lake:
"My boyfriend and I were parked on one
of the back roads in the lover's lane section of the lake. We had
just starting making out when I suddenly felt him tense up and say
that someone was approaching the car. I turned to see a woman in
a white dress walking up to my side of the car. I thought it was
someone coming to ask for help as I saw nothing really suspicious
Once she reached the door, she bent forward
and looked into the window on my side (of the car). That was when
I freaked out. She had no eyes, nothing but blackness. I screamed
and she casually turned and walked off, back the way she came. We
started the car and left immediately."
Another eyewitness tells a different story: "The
Lady o' the Lake" is real stuff man. One night me and some of my
homies where riding our harleys out at the lake, and we stopped at the
benches across from the dam to smoke a phat one. As we were puffing and
laughing and carrying on we noticed a faint glow appearing across the
water to the west of us. Now we had some dang good reefer man but this
stuff was "REAL" So as this glowing object got closer and closer
we realized it was a woman!
She was wearing a white dress and was soaking wet,
and all she would do was moan in a long horrific spine tingling noise
that just made us crap our pants! No one moved or said a word as she passed
through our little circle. Then just as she appeared , she disappeared
back across the lake as if to be floating right across the top. We looked
at each other and fired the hogs up and got the hell out of there , you
bet your butts!!
As we were riding through the lake towards the
exit over by the dam, we could hear a faint scream and the air out side
got real hot and thick, it felt hard to breathe, and all of a sudden we
turned onto US 180 and everything was fine as if nothing ever happened.
As we rode off I could feel someone watching me from afar. I turned to
see a glow moving across the lake itself ,moving in a way as though it
were searching for something or someone. Perhaps she was returning to
the point out in the lake where her body rests.
The main focus of
our investigation was to concentrate on the areas along the north
shoreline and where the main sightings along the lover's lane area
occurred. The lake was very low during our visit.
After arriving at the lake and doing a brief
recon, in which we may have captured some possible activity, we
decided to check out the area where the ghost is rumored to turn
and walk out across the lake. We had a nice vantage point that was
located up high upon a bluff that overlooked a great deal of the
northeast shore. Several pictures were taken, but only one seemed
to provide a positive result. This was also the location where we
sighted a "girl" walking near the shoreline on a previous
We then decided to move down to the shoreline
itself. The trek down is dangerous, especially in the dark, as the
shore is littered with jagged rocks and broken glass. Several pictures
were taken down by the shore line that may contain evidence of possible
We used a rather simple technique that consisted
of taking a picture whenever the thermal scanner or showed any slight
variation of the ambient air temperature and when the EMF meter
registered anything above the normal background.
After spending a great deal of time here,
we hiked back to the car and moved westward to the boat ramp, which
is located just before the dam on the northwest shore. This is the
area where the ghost supposedly materializes and is also the most
westward point of any of the reported sightings. We stayed at this
location for about another 45 minutes without any signs of any activity
The investigation was then wrapped up and
we headed back to the hotel.
Click on the thumbnail
to view the larger image
One photo taken near
the shoreline reveiled and interesting image. It is difficult to
tell exactly what is in the photo but it registered at 20 degrees.
There is no doubt that the area
is the focus of an urban legend, but is there some possibility of
an actual haunting distorted into the legend? As in our previous
investigation, there is some sort of visual phenomena that "looks"
like a woman walking near the lake's edge. This could be an optical
illusion of sorts, created by the power plant lights on the opposite
shore but further testing is required to prove that hypotheses.