Is Lake Lanier Haunted? Tragic History and Cursed Ghostly Encounters
Lake Lanier located in Northern Georgia is one of the most haunted bodies of water in the United States. Multiple deaths have occurred in its waters over the years, which could be the reason behind the ghostly sightings and encounters. OR is it that the lake is cursed? The tragic history of how the lake was established and the memory of the waters that flow into it could also be to blame. Grab your floatie and a drink and wade with us (safely) through the waters as we attempt to answer the question Is Lake Lanier Haunted?
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Lake Lanier’s Tragic Origins
When I picture a lake, I think of a deep, serene body of water that Mother Nature made. And, while Lake Lanier is frequently described as beautiful and peaceful, it is not technically made by Mother Nature herself. Instead, this lake is manmade and was established semi-recently in the 1950’s. The reason? To prevent flooding but also to supply water and electric to nearby urban areas such as the city of Atlanta. Technically, Lake Lanier is a reservoir made by damming up the Chattahoochie River and into which the Chestatee River also flows. Before we dive deep into the making of the haunted Lake Lanier, we first have to examine the waters that flow into it.
The Chattahoochie River’s Death Waters
The Chattahoochie River’s source is located deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The word Chattahoochie is a Muscogee word that means either “painted” or “rocks”. Which may be because of the granite outcroppings lining its shores. Granite takes on a light red color under certain conditions, which makes it look like its stained in blood. Interestingly, granite has metaphysical properties that grant protection and abundance to those who harness its energy. It’s linked to both the water and earth elements and is made up mostly of quartz and feldspar. Both of these stones in and of themselves are powerful conductors of otherworldly energy.
The Chattahoochie River was once a separating line between two large indigenous nations – the Creek (Muscogee) and the Cherokee. Both peoples flourished along the shores of the Chattahoochie since at least the sixteen hundreds. But both nations also share common ancestors who lived along the river dating back to at least the 800’s AD. There’s no doubt a portion of the Cherokee and Creek peoples, and before them their ancestors, lived and died on the land that would become the bottom of Lake Lanier. There is speculation that Native burial grounds lie at the bottom of the lake. Among others…
The Trail of Tears
But to skip over the indigenous history along the Chattahoochie River and Lake Lanier would be to overlook an important piece to the ghostly puzzle. In 1838, the U.S. government forcibly removed the Cherokee Nations from their homeland in Georgia. Prior to the Cherokee’s expulsion, the Creek nation was also forced to leave beginning in 1814. There are claims that a part of Lake Lanier was once part of the Trail of Tears. When I researched a map of the Trail of Tears, there are some definite lines overlapping the haunted Lake Lanier. So I don’t think those assumptions are far from the truth.
That being said, much tragedy occurred in the area long before the lake was made. According to History.com, at least three thousand Natives died on the Trail of Tears. But I would venture to say that number is a low estimate. And a number on a page doesn’t begin to skim the surface of the sorrow these people felt from multiple battles with the U.S. government, forced displacement, and to many, death. Their tears surely flowed into the Chattahoochie River.
The Bloody Waters of the Civil War
In addition, the river has been a site of historical significance when it comes to the American Civil War. The river banks saw multiple skirmishes and battles and bloody deaths that resulted from said conflict. No doubt the blood of these men flowed into the river too. This tainted water, full of bloody secrets and tragic memories, flows into the haunted Lake Lanier. Painted rocks, indeed.
The Chestatee River’s Mysterious History
The Chestatee, another River located in Northern Georgia, fed into the Chattahoochie River but is now where Lake Lanier sits. Chestatee takes its name from the Cherokee people and means “place of lights”. They say this is because the Cherokee kept bonfires ablaze along the river, lighting the way for hunters and providing their torches with a source of fire. And though I can’t find any information on it, I wonder if “spook lights” or ghostly lights have ever been spotted along the riverbanks.
Interestingly, the Chestatee River’s source is the Blood Mountain, Georgia’s highest peak on the Appalachian Trail. Folks still debate the origin of the mountain’s name. Some say it’s because of an epic battle between the Muscogee and Cherokee, while others say it simply refers to the red-tinted lichen that covers the rock. Either way, it is ominous.
When They Built the Lake…
In 1957, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a lake by damming up the waters of the Chattahoochie and Chestatee Rivers. But construction wasn’t that simple. Before even starting the project, the government bought out over seven hundred families who owned over fifty thousand acres of farmland in the area that would become the bottom of Lake Lanier. Families that had been put their blood, sweat and tears into working the land. Had lived some of their best years there. And even passed that land down their family line. The government came in and offered them WAY less than they deserved. And they were forced to move.
They Never Moved the BODIES…
In addition to leveling businesses, farmhouses, and barns, the government also had to destruct multiple cemeteries. The claim is that they relocated the graves that were marked and/or claimed by living family members. However, they also admit that many graves in these cemeteries were likely unmarked and/or forgotten by family members over time. And so what happened to the dead who were left behind? Their graves now lie at the bottom of a haunted Lake Lanier. Just another likely reason why so many ghosts are felt, heard and seen in the lake’s waters. This doesn’t even account for the long-lost Native burial grounds in the area.
Before construction, and before buying out the farming families, there was a town called Oscarville, GA where racial injustice occurred. In 1912, an eighteen year old woman was brutally raped and murdered. The crime was blamed on a local black man, two black teenagers, and a black woman. Sadly, the man was lynched and a sect of the Ku Klux Klan called the Night Riders began tormenting the local black population of Oscarville. So much so they were forced to leave their homes behind. A part of Oscarville would eventually be covered in lake water. The entire area has been home to much racial conflict, injustice, and bias for centuries. And further only enhances the angry residual energy that lingers over Lake Lanier.
Why is Lake Lanier Haunted?
Let’s recap the history of this manmade lake, shall we and we’ll see why it’s so haunted:
- The Lake crosses county and state lines and therefore is a liminal place (between places – neither here nor there and therefore traditionally is a portal of the spirit realm)
- Cherokee and Muscogee battles, deaths, and burial grounds
- The Trail of Tears: displacement and deaths
- Chattahoochie and Chestatee Rivers feed Lake Lanier with their tragic memories and residual energy
- Oscarville as a site of lynchings and racial injustice, displacement
- Families forced to leave their farmlands and memories behind
- Cemeteries submerged in lake water
- Unmarked graves and bodies at the bottom of Lake Lanier
- Killed and displaced wildlife in the creation of the lake
- Civil War historical sites: bloody battles and deaths
If all of those reasons aren’t good enough for you, here’s a few modern facts. Since its establishment, Lake Lanier has caused at least five hundred deaths. Two hundred and three of which have occurred since 1994. These deaths are mostly drownings, cars that drive into the lake, as well as boating and jet ski incidents. R&B singer Usher’s ex-wife’s son died because of a jet ski accident on Lake Lanier. In 2019, a thirty-year-old man fell off of his jet ski in Lake Lanier, assumedly drowned, and was never seen again. In the same year, a man jumped into the lake to save a friend in distress and also died.
There Are Arms that Reach Out in the Darkness…
Because Lake Lanier is nearly two hundred feet deep in some places, it makes searching for bodies rather difficult. A well-known diver named Buck Buchannon whose gone on multiple dives there claims he’s “reached out in the dark and felt an arm or a leg that doesn’t move.” It doesn’t seem too unlikely, as there have been people who have gone missing around the Lake who have never resurfaced. In addition to being extremely deep in places, there are multiple structures at the bottom of the lake. I’m sure people could easily get their feet, hands, and arms trapped in debris and never make it back out.
The Blue Lady of the Lake: Lanier’s Famous Ghost
Probably the most famous of all ghost stories on Lake Lanier is the Lady of the Lake. In 1958, a bridge over Lake Lanier was the site of a tragic car accident involving two young women. One’s name was Susie Roberts and the other a Delia Parker Young. Apparently the two had nearly run out of gas, stolen gas from a station close by and hightailed it out of there. Only to meet their tragic end, when they ran off the side of the bridge and drowned in the waters below.
A Body is Discovered and A Ghost Emerges
Eighteen months after their disappearance, a woman’s water-logged body was found in the lake by a local fisherman. But before this grisly discovery, people crossing the bridge claimed to have seen the ghost of a woman in a flowy blue dress. Walking back and forth on the bridge, pacing, as if waiting for someone or something. So when the fisherman found the girl’s body, locals suspected it was either Susie or Delia. Though no one knew for sure who it was and they laid the body to rest in an unmarked grave.
Since the 1950’s, the Lady of the Lake became a paranormal legend and drew the attention of paranormal investigators and curious teenagers alike. They said if you visited the bridge off of State Road 53 that crosses Lake Lanier, you’d catch a glimpse of her. Some teens went to school claiming they’d seen her, while others said it was all a silly local story. Even more frightening are the tales that tell of people feeling hands grabbing them from beneath the dark waters. Trying to drag them down into the depths. And, while some may scoff at this notion, it might not be far from the truth with all of the debris at the bottom of the lake. And the “arms and legs” diver Buchannon claims to have felt on numerous occasions.
The Lake Lanier Haunting is Based on TRUTH
Here’s where it gets really interesting. The legend of Susie and Delia and the Lady of the Lake was eventually waved off as a made-up story. Until in the 1990’s, the Jerry D. Jackson bridge required renovation. Workers dredging the area around the bridge discovered a submerged, mangled 1954 Ford…with the skeletal remains of a young woman. This woman turned out to be Susie Roberts. So the young woman, who we learned was Delia Parker Young, who had been lying in an unmarked grave for forty years was given a proper epitaph. Legends say the Lady of the Lake is the spirit of Delia. Yet, I’m not convinced it’s one or the other young women who lost their lives that night. It could be one or the other…or someone else entirely.
Recent Deaths and Incidents at Lake Lanier
According to Forsyth County News, in the Summer of 2022, there were not only accidents and injuries at the Lake but also deaths. On May 29th, 2022, a young man named Jose Camarillo was swimming in the lake and suddenly disappeared. He was found later, unfortunately dead. In addition, four other drownings occurred, all men. Frantz Scutt was a forty-eight year old man from Gainesville Florida, who apparently also drowned and whose body was found on July 2nd in the Little River area. Every year there seems to be injuries, accidents, and drownings at the Lake. The numbers don’t ever fade or go away.
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