Tales from the Trail: The Lady of the Lake

Many ghosts are said to haunt the Spruce Railroad Trail on Crescent Lake in Olympic National Park.

Location: Olympic National Park

Trail: Spruce Railroad Trail on Crescent Lake

At over 600 feet deep and 12 miles wide, Crescent Lake in Olympic National Park is a gorgeous natural wonder with a dark past.

According to local native legend, the area around the lake was marred by war between two tribes, the Quileute and the Klallam. Mount Storm King, at lake’s southern banks, grew angry and threw a chunk of its peak into the glacial valley where the tribes were fighting, killing the warring men. This boulder blocked the river and created Lake Crescent.

The lake’s violent past continues into modern history.

On July 6, 1940, two fishermen spotted the body of the woman floating on the lake. The body wasn’t identified right away, so the public named her the “Lady of the Lake.”

It was later determined to be that of Hallie Illingworth, her body having surfaced from the depths of the lake three years after her disappearance in 1937. She was a Kentucky native and waitress at the Lake Crescent Tavern who had married an abusive local man, Montgomery “Monty” J. Illingworth, who was eventually arrested for her murder.

he Lake Crescent Lodge and Tavern in 1933.
The Lake Crescent Lodge and Tavern in 1933.

But Hallie is just one of the lake’s victims. In 2002, a 1927 Chevy was discovered 160 feet beneath the lake’s surface, closing a 73-year-old cold case of a couple that went missing in 1929. And, in 1956, an ambulance plunging into Lake Crescent after careening off a nearby highway.

With all this haunting history, ghost sightings have become common in the area. There have been reports of a ghost sitting at a table in the Lake Crescent Tavern while others have said to have seen her walking across the lake to the shore. Locals have also claimed to have experienced unexplained noises and sightings in their houses near the lake.

Unfortunately for those looking to go for a terrifying trail run this spooky season, the roughly 4-mile trail along the lake is now closed for construction. But look forward to the GOAT Marathon and Half-Marathon to be back in 2021 — the course ends at Lake Crescent where the Lady waits.

Olympic National Park Lake Crescent map