Weird California
Weird California
Weird California - By Joe Parzanese

Lake Isabella

Map Lake Isabella, Lake Isabella, California 93240

Does the ghost of a murdered Chinese cook hover over the waters of Lake Isabella?
Does the ghost of a murdered Chinese cook hover over the waters of Lake Isabella?

Now under the waters of Lake Isabella, the town of Whiskey Flat started off in 1858 as Rogersville, named after the man who first found gold in the area. Lovely Rogers had a fight with his mule, and picked up a heavy stone to throw at it as it ran away. As he did, he noticed the glint of gold and realized that he had a 42 ounce gold nugget. Thus Big Blue Mine was born. The town's name was soon changed to Williamsburg and then to Whiskey Flat when the first saloon opened in what was previously a dry town. The name stuck around until 1864 when it was renamed Kernville. In 1954 Kernville moved when Lake Isabella was formed, although several buildings including the jail, general store, schoolhouse, and a Methodist church were dynamited instead of being moved. The town still celebrates its wild west days with an annual celebration called Whiskey Flat Days held on President's Day weekend consisting of a rodeo, a parade, wild west shootouts, etc.

Lake Isabella
Lake Isabella

When the waters in the lake run low, you can occasionally see the ruins of Whiskey Flat. For example in 2004, the ruins of an old bridge, the schoolhouse, and the church could be seen poking out of the waters. And on certain eerie nights, one can see the ghost of Wong, a Chinese cook, hovering over the water.

Sometime in the early nineteen hundreds Wong came from Hong Kong by way of San Francisco to Mount Breckenridge, a logging camp that was up in the mountains of the area. He was employed as a cook in the camp, and one day refused the advances of a rather inebriated married white woman. Angered at being rebuked, she tore her clothes, and ran and lied to five loggers about how Wong had tried to rape her. The loggers grabbed poor Wong, dragged him to a nearby tree, and strung him up. After watching him die, the five men then went into the mess hall and ate the food Wong had just prepared.

A poor attempt at an investigation ensued, but the loggers and the woman stuck to their stories and no proof was found that the loggers were guilty of any crime.

Lake Isabella
Lake Isabella

A few months after, five Chinese men showed up in town. They mostly stayed to themselves, didn't look for work, and had plenty of money with them to spend. These five Chinese were part of a Tong from San Francisco and had come for retribution on those who had strung Wong up. No one would speak to them about the incident, and the Tong had no way of knowing who had actually been involved in the hanging. But, never the less, one by one, the five loggers disappeared. In some cases their families still remained, and they didn't move; they just disappeared. To this day, no bodies have ever been found, nor any grave. When the last of the five loggers disappeared, the five Chinese Tong members quietly left town.

The stories go that either one of the Tong was psychic or the Tong utilized ancient Taoist techniques, but whatever the reason, the ghost of Wong appeared to them and guided the five Tong members in identifying his murders. He pointed out each one in turn to his fellow Chinese, and they imparted justice on the murderer.

A few decades later, the entire area was turned into Lake Isabella, but the ghost of Wong is said to still float above the waters, pointing out his accused.


Outside References:

Last Edited: 2013-10-26


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