Two people drown in Lake Lanier on July 4 weekend, is Georgia's manmade reservoir cursed?

Since Lake Lanier was built in 1956, experts say 675 people have died in these waters

                            Two people drown in Lake Lanier on July 4 weekend, is Georgia's manmade reservoir cursed?
Lake Lanier, Georgia (Getty Images)

Over the July 4 weekend this year, it was reported that two people had drowned in Lake Lanier in Georgia. According to reports, a 59-year-old man jumped off his boat on July 3 at the Duckett Mill campground and never resurfaced. The man's body was recovered by the Hall County Fire Department. The victim was identified as Bruce Lee Hild of Winterville. On July 4, a 45-year-old man drowned at Lanier Park around 12.30 pm local time. Officials said he was swimming and went under but didn't resurface. He was pulled from the water by another swimmer. The victim’s name has not been released pending notification of family.

Many took to social media on hearing the reports to share a much-talked-about story surrounding the lake — the place is cursed. One user tweeted, "FYI if you're ever visiting Atlanta, avoid Lake Lanier like the plague. It's cursed. Saw it trending, knew instantly what happened." Another wrote, "Lake Lanier should be designated the #MurderPuddle of Georgia."

What is the real history behind the lake and is it really haunted? Since Lake Lanier was built in 1956, experts say 675 people have died in these waters. Not all of the bodies have been found.

Creation of Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier lies in the northern part of the state of Georgia and is sprawled out among the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains for 26 miles. It is 258 ft deep at its deepest point and lies across an area of 59 square miles, with over 690 miles of shoreline. The lake, originally named Lake Sidney Lanier after the poet, is a manmade reservoir and was completed in the 1950s to provide hydroelectricity and navigation and control flooding of the Chattahoochee River and also supply water to the city of Atlanta.

In 1950, the US Army Corps of Engineers began breaking ground and constructing the Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River, which would be completed in 1956 and begin the process of flooding the foothills to create the lake. During the five years it took for the lake to completely fill to its intended water level, the government bought acres of prime farmland and pristine wilderness, forcing more than 250 families to move and the relocation of 20 cemeteries and their corpses in the process. Buildings houses, fields, bridges and many structures were inundated as the reservoir filled up.

Eerie stories

Georgia's Department of Natural Resources reported 145 drownings and 57 boating fatalities at Lanier from 1999-2018. Boating fatalities may include drownings, but only in connection with a moving boat. Lake Lanier had two boating fatalities in 2015, eight in 2016, two in 2017 and two in 2018. Seven drownings took place on Lanier in 2015, nine in 2016, five in 2017 and eight in 2018.

There are many ghost stories about Lake Lanier. One concerns the "Lady of the Lake", a ghost who is said to walk the Dawsonville Highway bridge. Another ghost named Agnes is backed by a handful of contradictory stories, from hanging herself at university to drowning. Another tale says 88 people died in a 1903 accident and may still be haunting the area, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Lady of the Lake

The Lady of the Lake myth involves a 1958 incident when a car was presumed to have run off the road into Lake Lanier. Two years after the manmade lake opened, Delia Parker Young and Susie Roberts sped out of a gas station without paying en route to the nearby town of Dawnsonville. The car and the bodies were not found at the time. 18 months later, a body floated to the surface and was found missing two toes from its left foot while its arms buoyed without hands. While officials suspected that the body belonged to Delia Parker Young, it was buried in an unmarked grave. Years later, in 1990, when a construction crew was working on the lake, they discovered the 1950s Ford sedan with human bones inside. The body was later identified by the Roberts family as being that of Susie Roberts. 

According to local myths, the Lady of the Lake wears a blue dress and is believed to be Delia Parker Young. She appears to be missing both her hands and spends her time wandering up and down the bridge outside of Gainesville on Dawsonville Highway. 

Is the lake really haunted?

Given that the lake sees over 11M visitors annually, statistically, the deaths are few enough to be viewed as accidents. However, locals warn that visitors should take every precaution and safety measures, including the use of safety jackets and to avoid going in the lake after consuming alcohol.

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