East Dallas ghost stories and tragedy at White Rock Lake

Researching ghost stories for the October Advocate, we came across a lot of interesting old stories. Some of them are funny, some sad.

Funny first: In 1947, Frank X. Tolbert interviewed a guy named Lon Farrington, who was the caretaker of an old mansion on Ross Avenue. Tolbert describes the house as “a mustard-colored, 3-story frame house at 4606 Ross, which once was the home of a pioneer Dallas lawyer, the late Henry Coke Sr.”

The mansion is not there any more. But it must have been where there is a credit union now, across the street from Alexander Mansion.

Anyway, this Lon Farrington was 78 at the time. So he was born in 1869, the year treason charges against Jefferson Davis were dropped. When he started working at the house, in 1935, “a negro chauffeur” warned him the house was haunted: “Mr. Farrington, you won’t be able to stand it. Cries come from that house at night. Stairs squeak. Bells ring. And other sounds you can’t even describe,” Farrington recalled him saying.

Farrington found the noises were not ghosts, but in fact were the claws of squirrels and rats running around inside the house at night.

As caretaker, however, he played up the ghost stories “to discourage prowlers and courting couples that often get him up at night,” Tolbert wrote. If ghost stories didn’t scare them away, Farrington would. The big, tall man slept in an old-fashioned nightgown. When he would hear someone snooping around the old house, he would come charging out of his quarters in that white nightgown with a Winchester 30-30 and his dog, whose name was Cat, chasing behind him.

One more cute ghost story and a tragedy at White Rock Lake after the jump.

In February 1937, Dallas police arrested four teenage boys at a house on Goliad between Concho and Delmar. They were caught inside the house with two flashlights, two pistols and a pinch bar. The police figured it was a burglary, as the house was furnished but unoccupied.

But the boys told police a different story: they’d heard the house was haunted by a woman who was murdered in the house and whose body was buried in the front yard. The boys were taken to the police station. We’re not sure what they thought they were going to do with those pistols.

Advocate managing editor Christina Hughes Babb unearthed several stories of tragedies at White Rock Lake. Quite a few people drowned in the lake, including one accomplished swimmer. Some drowning victims’ bodies never were recovered. And in 1934, a small plane crashed into the lake, killing everyone on board.

While reporting a different story this week, I came across another tragedy at White Rock Lake, this one a little more recent. In April 1966, 20-year-old University of North Texas student Robert Patton was sail-boating with some friends on the lake when he fell overboard and never resurfaced. His Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers, aiding in the search with their own boats, found his body five days later.

The Chessmen, from left to right: Johnny Carter, Tommy Peebles, Doyle Bramhall and Robert Patton

Patton had been a member of The Chessmen, a Denton-based garage band, which formed in 1964 and became one of the most popular bands in the Dallas area. The band opened for Jimi Hendrix in 1969.

The Chessmen already had picked up Doyle Bramhall as their drummer when Patton died. And after Patton’s death, Jimmie Vaughan joined the band.

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  • Bbear012002

    My grandfather drowned at white rock lake while trying to save another man. My grandfather was found, but his beloved dog that was with him never was. I am 30 now and my grandmother has told me this story. He drowned when my mother was 13, my mother unexpectedly died when I was 13.

  • Tomatodallas

    Having lived here in East Dallas for more than 50 years, my next book could be, “The Lurid Legends of Lakewood”. It would give accountsof tales of lust, murder, suicide, more tragedies and some downright dirty dealing. However, I don’t want to get sued in my golden years here.  But having said all of that, I still enjoy living here. Regards,

  • http://www.sparefoot.com/Dallas-TX-self-storage.html SpareFoot Dallas

    Very interesting. Did not know anything about any of this, including The Chessmen background. Thanks