The Lady In White
They say that a crazy weeping woman appears in a street near the high school. That she dances the twist and rock‘n roll; that she dances rock‘n roll and the twist, and if you look at her you’ll go completely mad…
The Weeping Woman. The Woman in White. The Hitchhiker. La Llorona. The Lady of the Lake. Mulher de Branco. These are all names for stories with a ghostly female specter clad in a flowing white gown. There are variations of course, like all folk tales of this nature that have spread throughout the cultures of the world. The names I mentioned above are not all of the names given to the spirit said to roam the waterways, beaches and back roads of the globe. Those aren’t even close to all of them. This story is so widely spread that I’m almost positive that you’ve heard some variation thereof. Some might try to make an argument that these can be subcategorized, such as some of these stories more fit the title of The Weeping Woman and not that of the Hitch Hiker but I feel that they are close enough to group them together. But just for the sake of clarity, let’s go over the premise and set up a basecamp that we can work out of. Did you like that metaphor? Yeah, me either.
So, like I usually do, I’ll relate the first version of this story that I can remember hearing. I’ll then go into some of the variations that are found throughout the cultural beliefs around the world. Now I grew up around a lake. And although we did move houses from time to time, the lake was usually no more than a ten minute walk. This is a huge lake. 50.5 miles long. The largest natural lake in the Evergreen state and third deepest in the U.S. The beautiful Lake Chelan (Shuh-lan). This lake has always been a part of me; it’s in my blood. I was born in the town of Chelan which is located at the lake’s southern tip right before its crystal clear waters flow into the mighty Columbia River. My family would move between Chelan and the town seven miles away, Manson, which also rests by the lake. It is a truly gorgeous glacier fed body that is a large source of income for the small towns that lie on its shores (everyone wants to go to Lake Chelan for the summer.) This lake was a huge part of my life and while I no longer reside there, most of my family still does. Now if you grew up in a small town, you are familiar with the stories that are told. Usually to children by adults but also those stories spread amongst peer groups. This lake and its small towns are no exception. There are many stories and legends associated with the lake and the Woman in White was among them. The story I was told follows as such:
When the towns of Chelan and Manson were first being settled, there was a beautiful woman by the name of Maria. She was of Mexican heritage and worked as a maid for a rich business tycoon who was helping building the towns. Maria and the son of the tycoon fell in love and began to have a love affair. Over the years, she gave birth to two children that belonged to the tycoon’s son. She finally begged him to marry her and he agreed. But a week before they were set to wed, Maria’s lover married the daughter of one of his father’s business partners with whom he had been cheating on Maria with all along. When the news reached Maria of her lover’s deception, she became enraged with hatred and jealously, and in a moment of incoherency, torn with emotions, Maria drowned her and her lover’s children and then committed suicide. When questioned on the whereabouts of her children at the gates of Heaven, she was not permitted to enter. She now has to wonder this plane of existence, on the shores of lakes and rivers and on the back roads, searching for her murdered children or any children that might fit their description. Her constant weeping serves as a warning for those children who might be a little too close to the water.
So that’s the story that kept me up at night and extra vigilante whilst taking a late night swim. Like I said, there are a lot of variations to this. The Hitch Hiker story is often immersed with this one although there are variations of that tale as well. There are many similarities between the two tales and like I said are often merged as one. Both are tales of a specter that is cursed to roam the earth. The spirit is that of a jilted woman who is wearing a white dress or gown that was deceived by her lover and in turn, she murders their children in a fit of rage. She then commits suicide which begins her cursed journey. Now the Hitch Hiker mythos can also include variations in which she is an innocent victim of circumstance, dying in a car accident in some cases but it can also include a horse and buggy. Sometimes, they don’t even have to involve an accident but instead foul play like being murdered by a shunned suitor or something similar. But, again, there are those variations that include strong parallels to the tale of the Weeping Woman and therefore I have included it in this post. So let’s get into why this story might have stayed with us for so long and why it keeps being told in different reincarnations.
Not the same thing.
Now I should point out that like a lot of the stories that I was told by my peers and authority figures, with the advent of the internet, I did some research on whether this story had a basis in fact. I found nothing to suggest that it was (but there were a few that surprisingly were, but that’s for another post). But the Lady in White type story has been told for centuries. The story of La Llorona from Mexico for example, has been told for at least 500 years. These stories continue to live, in my opinion, because they serve an important purpose. As I mentioned in my last post The “Science” of Myth-Building, stories like this can be used as very effective tools to warn people, especially youths, to the dangers of the world. It definitely kept me and my contemporaries from taking too many late night swims. Civilization has a habit of springing up around bodies of water and with that water comes danger. Fear is an important part of one’s self identification. It helps keep us alive. I can’t think of a better way of instilling a rightful dose of healthy fear short of actually facing that danger in the flesh, which is, you know, dangerous. As I also mentioned in my last post, the stories vary because they’re traditionally told orally and like a giant line of telephone, things are bound to get jumbled along the way. They also change to become more personalized to the region in a geographical way and to the people telling the story. One way this story in particular has spread, is that like in the version that I recounted from my childhood, after committing suicide, the wayward Woman in White is forced to roam ALL the shores of the lakes, rivers and the back roads of the world. This is a very useful plot device in that it eliminates the need to include a particular history of the Wailing Woman into the area’s folklore and it also broadens the reach of the weary spirit’s watch. And in opening up the area of where she can roam, it also widens the scope on where one would/should look for her. It also effects the patented Fortean Mind’s Fear-O-Meter! ©
You might have noticed that I didn’t include the story of Bloody Mary in this post despite similarities to the Weeping Woman tale. That is because the lore surrounding the Bloody Mary mythos is very large and I feel that I couldn’t do it justice including it here. It might make it into the tumbler of ideas for blog posts, but no promises. So something I’ve been thinking about doing in my posts is adding a new section called “Down the Rabbit Hole!” in which I’ll post more links to resource materials that I came across in my “research”. Let me know what you think, and if it seems at least semi-popular, I’ll keep doing it. That’s it for me. As always, stay classy Grimerica.
Down The Rabbit-Hole
A German White Lady story with a little twist. – I found this on the CSI’s (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) website of all places. Surprisingly, there are very few snarky remarks.
The White Lady of Newstead Abby – One of the many UK versions of the story. It looks short but just hit the ‘continue’ button.
The White Lady Who Haunts Union Cemetery in Easton, Conn. – This story has another twist as no one knows who the White Lady is. Ed and Lorraine Warren claim to have documented activity here as well. The video, set to Clint Mansell’s Requiem for a Dream, only shows a beautiful old graveyard and at around 4:10, starts showing what the poster of the video claims to be orbs. And I think they really are, if by orbs you mean dust. Also, the video is of Union Cemetery in New England, not Connecticut. So I’d just focus on the article. J
The White Lady of Perion – This mythos is so popular, it has even sprung up in games. I added this purely for entertainment purposes.
The White Lady of Durand Eastman Park – A couple versions on the same local legend. One involves the daughter of the White Lady being murdered and the White Lady searching for her in vein. Sometimes she’s seen with her loyal dogs. A lot of awesome historical pictures in this link.
Why Are There So Many Ghost Stories About a “Woman In White”? – An article that I literally just came across on io9. I always stumble on awesome material after I write my post.
Did I leave out your local version of the Weeping Woman? Probably. Like I said, there are A LOT. Feel free to leave a link to it in the comments, or if you got the time, give us the lowdown of your town’s own legendary Lady in White. Thanks.