Ghost of Stow Lake spotted on, you guessed it, Halloween

I know we’re all supposed to have moved onto Christmas by now (Walgreens has – they were shoving over Halloween merchandise yesterday to start stocking ornaments!) but I couldn’t resist this macabre tale from the Bike Nopa website.

On a Sunday morning ride through Golden Gate Park, the NOPA VELO cycling troupe veered off JFK Drive around 10:30am to head up into Stow Lake. That’s when they reported seeing the infamous white ghost of Stow Lake.

She’s been a San Francisco urban legend for many decades, and is apparently the ghost of a woman searching for her lost child (maybe it wandered off for pink popcorn?)

Once we were half-way around the lake, someone shouted, ‘There’s the ghost, across the water near the pagoda.’ We all stopped and sure enough a woman in a white flowing gown was pushing through the reeds like she was looking for something. We all heard a distinctive, eerie wailing as if someone was in deep distress or mourning. We knew the lake was supposed to be haunted, but we had no idea we’d actually see the ghost!

They even called out to the ethereal being (she continued wailing and gesturing). Nearby tourists with small children retreated in fright and “one child ran up the hillside for safety.” The ghost reportedly stuck around for nearly 10 minutes while everyone gaped and carried on. Read the full story at Bike Nopa

The woman ghost of Stow Lake has been a San Francisco urban legend for almost 100 years. There are claims her tragic story appeared in a local newspaper but I’ve never seen any evidence of it:

It is said that a young woman was boating on this lake with her young toddler sometime in the late 1800’s. The toddler accidentally fell into the lake and the young mother in panic, jumped into the water to rescue her baby. It’s said that both her and the young child drowned in the lake. [hauntedamericatours.com]

How does one deal with the emotional trauma of a ghost sighting? Apparently by snacking on Twix bars at Ocean Beach, which was the only thing that could calm the nerves of the 2 wheeled troupe. Ahem.

So, is this fact or fiction? I say “Party foul!” and it’s complete fiction but what do I know… One of my readers claimed on Facebook that her husband saw the ghost 3 years ago on November 2nd. Spoooooooky!

Sarah B.

[via Curbed SF]


  1. This sounds like a San Francisco version of La Llorona, the wailing woman of Mexico City who drowned her children to gain the effections of a Lover. After her lover spurned her for her attorocitym she commited suicide, and was denied entrance to Heaven until she can find her children and atone for her sin. La Llorona now wanders the earth near bodies of water looking for her lost children and wailing.

    This old Mexican folk tale, over 100years old, is heard throughout California anywhere with a large Mexican population; in the Central Valley people in small farming communities, where beleif in the supernatural if fervent, see her all the time, usually after a 36 pack of Bud, wandering down canal banks.

  2. Aaah you guys had me going until Bike Nopa posted photos of the ghost. Nice.

    But I have heard different accounts of her appearing in night time. But it’s always a story from “a friend of a friend”. Either way, I would never drive around Stow Lake alone.

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