Weird California
Weird California
Weird California - By Joe Parzanese

Stow Lake

Map Golden Gate Park
Stow Lake, San Francisco, California 94118

Stow Lake harbors a ghostly Lady in White!
Stow Lake harbors a ghostly Lady in White!

In addition to having buffalo and windmills, Golden Gate Park is home to a few spirits as well! A couple of ghosts have been haunting the park, including a phantom police officer. The spectral cop has been rumored to pull drivers over, at which point he usually just disappears, car and all, but in several stories, actually issues speeding tickets, and even citations for things like not having your headlights on. However, when those ticketed go to the courthouse to resolve the ticket, they find out that the police office who cited them has been dead for over a decade, and the ticket was never issued! Additionally, if the ghost cop is pulling you over, he is unable to follow you outside the park and will mysteriously vanish as you exit the park. The legend states that the officer died in Golden Gate Park, probably from an automobile accident.

But the far more famous spirit in the park is the ghost of a Lady in White. She has been seen floating above or nearby Stow Lake, a woman dressed all in white, with no face! Her story is varied depending on the accounting, but there are several similarities to La Llorona.

Stow Lake
Stow Lake

According to one version of the story, a woman took a walk through Golden Gate Park sometime in the early 1900s. She had her baby with her in a stroller and decided to take a rest near Stow Lake. While sitting there, relaxing, another woman joined her, sitting next to her, occupying her attention. While the two talked to each other, the stroller simply rolled away down into the waters of the lake, causing the poor baby to drown, supposedly unnoticed by either woman. The story continues with the mother, upon noticing the missing stroller, searching everywhere throughout the park and around the lake for her lost child. Once the mother realized that the only place left to look is in the lake she dives into the waters and never surfaces again, becoming the ghost that now haunts the lake.

Now the White Lady or Lady in White of Stow Lake haunts the park. The most common sighting is the aformentioned spectral floating lady in white. Also common is running across a terrified young woman (sometimes described as barefoot) who will ask you "Have you seen my baby?" before disappearing before the viewers eyes. Another version, has the same woman, ghostly and terrifying, rising up out of the cold waters of the lake only to ask spectators, "Have you seen my baby?" In many of these versions, there is much in common with the old La Llorona tales, that one can frequently find down in Southern California.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on January 6th, 1908 what may be the first public accounting of the ghost. The article describes police stopping a fleeing automobile, the terrified driver ranting about a glowing spectral woman that had approached him.

Stow Lake
Stow Lake

And of course, an urban legend has risen up surrounding the ghost. According to the legend, you can summon the White Lady by going to the water's edge and saying three times "White Lady, White Lady, I have your baby". Afterwards the terrifying phantom will rise forth from the cold depths of the lake at which point she will ask you if you have seen her baby. The urban legend doesn't have a right answer to this question as if you say "yes", she will haunt you the rest of your life, but if you say "no", she will simply kill you. Sounds like a win-win situation there, now doesn't it.

Stow Lake is found within Golden Gate Park and is three miles long and a half mile wide. Made up of 1017 acres, it is roughly twenty percent bigger than New York's Central Park. Stow Lake is the largest of the park's man made lakes. It is a popular destination with boat rentals, a boat house, an island, and two bridges providing access to the island. It is very beautiful during the day, and it is obvious that most of those renting boats on the lake are completely unaware of what may lie beneath the waters.

Obviously, both the story of the Woman of Stow Lake and the phantom police officer are more urban legend than fact. There are multiple White Lady ghosts throughout even California. And there are even a few phantom police officers in the state, issuing citations. Strangely enough no one has yet to produce an actual ticket written by these ghostly police officers. Still, perhaps you should be cautious in Golden Gate Park at night, and if you see a terrified woman or a have a police officer unexpectedly pulling you over, be careful, they could be ghosts!


Last Edited: 2017-09-15


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