'Curse' of Lake Lanier rears its ugly head again as boat explodes at Georgia reservoir

From tales of a long-dead woman roaming the lake in a dress to a multitude of people who have lost their lives or have been dangerously harmed in boating accidents, the Georgia lake has got a bad rap


                            'Curse' of Lake Lanier rears its ugly head again as boat explodes at Georgia reservoir
Lake Lanier situated on the foothills of Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains is considered to be haunted by some (exploregeorgia.org)

Lake Lanier was trending on Twitter on Sunday, and people immediately knew that yet another unfortunate event might have occurred. It was reported that there was an explosion on a boat carrying several people on May 9 afternoon, and six people, including two teenagers, were injured and had to be airlifted to hospital. With the onset of spring and with summer just around the corner, "the curse" associated with the Georgia water body has reared its head yet again and as number of people who die there keeps rising. 

The reservoir situated in Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains hosts millions of families each year. It has close to 76 recreational areas including 10 marinas, 40 Corps-operated parks and campgrounds, and Lake Lanier Islands. The expanse of its shoreline runs 690 miles and the lake is well known for its aqua-blue colored water, breathtaking scenery, and countless recreational activities. But despite its beauty, the lake has taken on a sinister reputation because of the disturbing number of unfortunate events that have occured there.

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Lake Lanier deaths over the years

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement, 57 boating fatalities took place at the reservoir while 145 people drowned to their deaths between 1998 and 2018.

From 2015 to 2018, Lake Lanier saw 43 lake-related deaths and 128 boating accidents. On May 26, 2020, a 33-foot boat was navigating the waters and was hit by a 36-foot boat that was coming for its help. No deaths were reported, only injuries. 

In June 2020, a crash caused the death of a 9-year-old, and a 13-year-old went missing when the boat hit a pontoon. The number of deaths happening at the reservoir continues to grow every year and fast forward to May 9, the body of a 23-year-old boater, who went missing from the lake on Saturday, was recovered after 24 hours. Authorities said he had jumped off a pontoon and never came back. 

In another accident that took place on May 9 at the lake, a boat exploded and six people, including two teenagers, were severely injured. A 16-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy were flown to a nearby hospital, while a 39-year-old woman was taken to another medical facility. The explosion happened as the boat was refueling at gas docks at the Port of Indecision, according to DNR spokesman Mark McKinnon.

So what makes Lake Lanier so dangerous?

Lake Lanier is built on a cemetery

Lake Lanier is a manmade reservoir that was created in the 1950s to provide water, hydroelectricity, and recreation opportunities to residents of Sugar Hill, Gwinnett County, and the rest of metro Atlanta. Many families were displaced from their homes and many communities were flooded to make way for the lake. It was officially ready in 1957 with the completion of the Buford Dam by the Corps of Engineers.

Apart from the farms, orchards, and buildings, a number of existing cemeteries and family graveyards were also displaced. An estimated 20 cemeteries were impacted by the creation of Lake Lanier. However, these displacements were done in an organized manner using detailed maps as a way to estimate the boundaries of Lake Lanier. All efforts were made to relocate family graveyards and church cemeteries, and as often as possible they were moved to where other family members were buried. 

Is Lake Lanier haunted?

Over the years, several divers have reported eerie sightings under the murky waters of the lake. There are countless videos on YouTube that show houseboats that remain sunken in the waters along with debris. Divers have also reported seeing catfish as big as a Volkswagen and feeling creepy body parts in the lake. Longtime diver Buck Buchannon in one of his interviews said he's felt the dead in the waters of Lake Lanier. 

"You reach out into the dark and you feel an arm or a leg and it doesn't move. That's creepy," Buchanon said. Many people are still of the belief that the souls of the unclaimed bodies are still moving beneath the surface. Out of the many suicides, drownings, and accidents at the lake, there are some bodies that haven't been found yet, according to Nicholas Baggett of the Army Corps of Engineers. 

For divers like Buchannon, and many others who share the same belief, no claimed body means spookier waters.  "Nobody has been able to lay them to rest. They're on the bottom of Lanier. Hopefully, you find them before they find you," Buchannon said. 

In 1958 Delia Parker Young and Susie Roberts crashed near the Jerry Jackson bridge, one of the original structures of the Lake Lanier after they lost control of their vehicle while speeding away from a local gas station without paying. The women never made it home and 18 months later, fishermen saw the decomposing and bloated body of a woman floating on the lake's surface with no arms and missing two toes.  

The body couldn't be identified by coroners but the locals near Dawsonville were sure it was Delia. They were sure it was her because dozens of drivers on State Route 53 has seen her after she vanished. She allegedly appeared as a handless spirit who roamed down the highway in a blue dress. The ghost appeared to be lost, said many who had witnessed her presence. 

It didn't take long for Delia's legend to pass off as a myth. Three decades passed since then and Delia's and Susie's names were forgotten. Around this time renovation work on the bridge began and as construction workers dredged the bottom of the lake, they found the wreckage of a 1954 Ford model that the women were last seen speeding away in. Also discovered inside the car were Susie's bones - dental records verified the identity. The handless body they had buried in the past was re-labeled with Delia's name. As for Susie, some say she can still be spotted wandering the backroads of the State Route 53 making her way from Dawsonville to the top of the old Bridge.