The Legend of Creve Coeur Lake

In the early 1890s, a sense of intrigue swept through St. Louis, fueled by reports of peculiar occurrences at Creve Coeur Lake. On August 15, 1892, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat captured the attention of readers with an article detailing numerous eyewitness accounts of a mysterious phenomenon unfolding under the cover of darkness. Scores of individuals claimed to have glimpsed what could only be described as a demonic presence lurking in the depths of the lake.

According to these witnesses, the malevolent entity would manifest at the stroke of midnight, taking particular interest in young couples seeking moments of intimacy along the lake’s serene shores. Its arrival would invariably unsettle the amorous pairs, as the demon would proceed to shadow their every move. Abruptly, the creature would unleash its wrath, thrashing violently within the water until a disconcerting foam materialized on the lake’s surface.

One night, Caleb Jackson, an African American farmhand, bore witness to an extraordinary sight. As he observed the creature swimming across the lake, an inexplicable phenomenon unfolded before his eyes. Strangely, as the demonic being departed from the shorelines and ventured into a secluded cove, the water surrounding its path began to bubble and churn with a boiling fervor.

Intrigued by Caleb’s encounter, a journalist from the newspaper sought to delve deeper into the enigmatic tale. Reluctantly, the aged laborer shared a story passed down through generations, recounting the origins of the haunting legend as relayed by his grandfather.

According to local lore, in the late 1700s an Indian tribe lived and hunted at the edge of the lake. During that time, the tribe鈥檚 chief had a beautiful young daughter who was desired by every man in their community. One day a delegation of Frenchmen from the Louisiana Territory came into the area to broker a peace treaty with the Chief. After the group met, the natives prepared a giant feast to celebrate peace and prosperity between the two parties. During the celebration, the son of the governor of the territory broke away and took a walk around the lake with the chief鈥檚 daughter. The young princess was smitten. Though he was odd, there was something about the charismatic handsome white stranger who promised to come back for her after their diplomatic mission was completed.

The young girl did her best to stay in contact with the Frenchman and waited for his return. Sadly, once the governor learned of his son鈥檚 intentions to marry a girl he considered to be a primitive savage, he strictly forbade his son to be with her. Within a few weeks the governor arranged for his son to marry the daughter of an honorable family in the area.

Days turned to weeks, weeks turned into months and after a while the princess realized that the Frenchman wasn鈥檛 coming back for her. Late one night she climbed onto a bluff and jumped into the lake and was never seen again.

The next morning, the chief discovered his daughter’s absence from her tent. Gripped by worry that she had been abducted, he swiftly commanded his entire tribe to gather along the lake’s shores, determined to extract information from each member. A wise, elderly woman stepped forward, revealing that the chief’s daughter had confided in her that she didn鈥檛 want to live if she couldn鈥檛 be with the governor鈥檚 son. Consumed by inconsolable grief, the chief instructed one of his braves to fetch a canoe and paddle him to the center of the lake.

The heartbroken chieftain, overwhelmed by grief, beseeched the Great Spirits, imploring them to cast a curse upon the vast expanse of water. Consumed by the sorrowful manner in which the princess had met her demise, the Chief decreed that his daughter’s spirit be forbidden from accessing the realm of the Great Spirits. He commanded the Great Spirits to enact retribution upon her, transforming her soul into a fearsome demon. The tragic tale of the young princess would stand as a cautionary lesson, warning other maidens against entangling themselves with deceitful fair-skinned men.

Ever since that fateful day, the princess has been condemned to an everlasting existence within the depths of the lake. She remains forever deprived of the blissful embrace of true love, yet an inexplicable attraction pulls her towards the young lovers who venture near its waters. As the tender hearts draw near, her anguish takes tangible form, causing the tranquil lake to convulse and churn with torment.

After the princess鈥 death some French fur traders heard the story from the natives and started calling the lake, Creve Coeur. When translated to English, the phrase means heartbreak. Today the body of water may or may not still be cursed, but the name rooted in heartbreak has stuck for over two hundred years.

For more eerie tales from St. Louis, please check out my book, “Ghost Stories & Graveyard Tales: St. Louis”!

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