Lakewood is known for charming cottages, funky restaurants and the natural beauty of White Rock Lake. But beneath that serene façade, it is home to some of the spookiest places in Dallas and the city’s most famous ghost.
Fitzhugh Avenue neighbor J. René Guerrero spent years researching the community’s dark side for his novel, “White Rock,” which follows protagonist Laura Milton as she grapples with the ability to see spirits at neighborhood landmarks that many residents will recognize.
The paranormal has always fascinated Guerrero, who grew up listening to his grandmother’s tales about witches, vampires and mummies. One evening when he spent the night at her house, the doorbell rang in the middle of the night. As he prepared to open the door, his grandmother warned him of restless spirits searching for a home. When they went back upstairs, they saw an apparition of an old woman slowly walking down the road.
“I like being scared, but liking something and being confronted with it are two different things,” he says. “After it happens a number of times, you realize there are other forces at work. I’m not going to tell you I know what it is, but there’s something on the other side of that veil. It’s not just unbridled energy. It has focus and purpose.”
As the author investigated the city’s paranormal history, he soon learned that East Dallas neighbors had their own scary stories to tell. Here are four neighborhood haunts where residents say unexplainable events have occurred.
The Highland hotel has an upscale, luxurious reputation that is a far cry from a sordid event that allegedly took place in its past. The building opened in 1967 as the Hilton Inn at Mockingbird Lane and Central Expressway. It became a popular rendezvous point for mobsters traveling to Dallas on business.
Two former hotel employees told Guerrero that in the wee hours of the morning in June 1969, they were working a party when armed men entered the hotel event space and fired into the crowd, killing those inside. The next day, the event was mysteriously missing from the papers.
Did corrupt police officers cover up the shooting? Did the mob blackmail journalists into silence? Do ghosts of the past feed off the lives of the present at The Highland hotel? Check in for a night and see for yourself.
The Granada Theater
Snuffer’s is home to one of the neighborhood’s most well-known ghosts. The spirit of a man stabbed there decades ago supposedly causes levitating glasses, echoing voices and swaying lights.
But the ghost that haunts the restaurant may also frequent its next-door neighbor, the Granada Theater. When the Granada still operated as a movie theater, an employee told Guerrero that the door to the projector room opened and closed on its own.
It’s unclear if the Snuffer’s ghost was up to his usual tricks in a new location or if a more sinister event in the theater’s past prevented another restless soul from finding eternal peace.
Rumors claim that parts of Lower Greenville sit on an old Indian burial ground. In that case, many buildings on the street could be haunted.
Speaking of Lower Greenville haunts, Ships Lounge is one of the oldest dive bars in town. Established in 1947, much of the original bar remains intact. But when it reopened in 2016 after a brief hiatus, it sported a new seating area with bookshelves and a pool table on the second floor.
Legend has it that Ships’ original owners used to live in the newly renovated space. As the bar sailed to success, the marriage floundered. The wife, believing her husband had cheated on her, killed him before taking her own life. A friend found them dead in the upper-story apartment a few days later.
Today, a bartender says that on slow nights, staff can hear pictures falling off the walls or books tumbling off the shelves — as if the couple was still fighting years later.
White Rock Lake
Nearly every neighbor has heard the story of the Lady of White Rock Lake. On a hot July night in the 1940s, a couple found a soaking young woman wearing a white dress on the shore of White Rock Lake. She asked to be taken to an address, but when the vehicle arrived, the back seat was empty, but still wet, where she had been sitting. After a fruitless search, the driver knocked on the door, and the man who answered said his daughter had died in the lake two years before.
In the 70 years since the Lady appeared, other versions of the story emerged, muddling the truth about what really happened that night. Sometimes she is said to be from Highland Park rather than Lakewood. Some claim she asked to be taken to a house in Oak Cliff instead of a residence on Gaston Avenue. Others say she didn’t drown in the lake. She committed suicide. And still others attest that she knocked on doors around the lake, asking to use the telephone.
Discrepancies in the tale can mean only one thing: There’s more than one ghost haunting the lake, Guerrero says.
His theory may seem far-fetched, but history is on his side. Before White Rock Lake existed, the Freedmen established three municipalities in the valley that eventually became the lake. Each municipality had its own cemetery, all of which were assimilated when the City of Dallas began planning for a water reservoir in 1907.
“I know (there’s more than one ghost) because there has been so much death in that place,” Guerrero says. “All that spiritual residue is concentrated in one area, and I believe it is a contributing factor to all the strange things that have happened there over the decades.”
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