The Alaska Iconoclast series is predicated on the question, “What if a legend is really true?” So, my natural curiosity leads me to look at legends — especially paranormal legends. There are hundreds of urban legends in every country in the world. What makes me take notice of a legend is when it is reported in more than one place — or more than one country. The White Lady is one such legend.
A White Lady (also known as the Mulher de Branco) is a type of female reportedly seen in rural areas and associated with some local legend of tragedy. White Lady legends are found around the world. Common to many of them is the theme of losing or being betrayed by a husband, boyfriend or fiancé. They are often associated with an individual family line or said to be a harbinger of death similar to a banshee.
Following are some of the places this legend lives in the world:
In popular medievallegend, a White Lady is fabled to appear by day as well as by night in a house in which a family member is soon to die. According to The Nuttall Encyclopaedia, these spirits were regarded as the ghosts of deceased ancestresses.
The White Lady (also known as the ‘Running Lady’) of Beeford, East Yorkshire resides on the “Beeford Straight”, a stretch of road between Beeford and Brandesburton. Motorists have reported her apparition running across the Beeford Straight toward the junction of North Frodingham. Anecdotal tales also report a motorcyclist picking up a female hitchhiker on the same stretch of road. A few miles later the motorcyclist, upon turning around, noticed the passenger had vanished. In one instance, a car crashed into a tree killing 6 people . It is rumored to be her curse.
Another legend tells of the White Lady jumping off the Portchester Castle while she was carrying a child she didn’t want. Her spirit is said to haunt the castle to this day.
The White Lady of Acra (New York) is a legend of a young woman dressed in all white supposedly seen at night along the road she last traveled on or near the cemetery not far from her fatal accident.
Branch Brook Park in Newark, New Jersey, is home to the legend of the White Lady of Branch Brook Park. Two conflicting stories are told about this ghost. In one version, the lady was a newlywed who was killed along with her husband on her wedding night when their V8 Ford Mustang skidded out of control and crashed into a tree in the park. In another version, the couple were on their way to a prom when their limousine crashed; the boy lived but the girl died, and she is allegedly still looking for her prom date. The White Lady of Branch Brook Park was also known in Newark’s Roseville section, which borders the park, as Mary Yoo-Hoo. For many years the tree in question was along a sharp curve in the park road and part of its trunk was painted white, but it has since been cut down completely. It was said that on rainy or misty nights passing headlights produced a ghostly image crossing the road. There is some evidence that the details of this legend have been borrowed or blurred into other legends. Annie’s Road, in particular, is thought to be a rehosting of this legend.
“The Ghostly Sphinx of Metedeconk” by Stephen Crane recounts the tale of a White Lady whose lover was drowned in 1815.
Tolamato Cemetery in St. Augustine, Florida, has been home to stories of a haunting by a “lady in white” since the 19th century. Legend states that the ghost is the spirit of a young woman who died suddenly on her way to be married, and who was buried in her wedding dress.
In Madisonville, Louisiana there is a legend about a woman called “The Silk Lady”. Her ghost is said to haunt Palmetto Flats by Highway 22. The story goes that back in the mid-1800s there was a woman who was riding back from town after seeing her lover off. She was riding down an old logging trail when a snake spooked her horse. She fell, hit her head, and died as a result of the injury. Several people have reported her as a woman dressed in a whispy, silky dress and that her feet don’t touch the ground. When she sees someone she is said to cackle like a banshee.
In Altoona, Pennsylvania she is known as the White Lady of Whopsy. Her ghost is said to haunt Wopsononock Mountain and Buckhorn Mountain in the western part of Altoona. It’s said that she and her husband had an ill-fated crash over what’s known as Devil’s Elbow as you head into the city itself where both of them tumbled over the side of the mountain. According to legend, she is seen looking for her husband on foggy nights, has been picked up as a hitch hiker, and her reflection is not seen in the mirror but she always disappears around Devil’s Elbow.
In Fremont, California there is a White Lady (called the White Witch) ghost sightings in Niles Canyon. A woman named Lowerey was one of the first people in the area killed in an automobile accident. People claim to have seen her in a cemetery in the area with strange lights and local legend says you can see her walking the ridge between the Niles Hollywood style sign and a few miles from there into the canyon.
In Hattiesburg, Mississippi a Woman in White is connected with the history of Burnt Bridge Road. In the 1970s a woman was killed in a car accident while crossing a wooden bridge over a small gully. The resulting fire destroyed the bridge, which was later rebuilt in concrete, and gave the road its new name. The charred and decaying remains of the original bridge can still be seen near the new bridge.
A white woman was first reported to be seen in the Berliner Schloss in 1625 and sightings have been reported up until 1790. This castle is the residence of the kings of Prussia, so the Lady has been linked to several historical figures:
- the guilt-ridden countess Kunigunda of Orlamünde, born Landgravine of Leuchtenberg (Oberpfalz), who, according to legend, murdered her two young children because she believed they stood in the way of her marriage to Albert of Nuremberg.
- the unfortunate widow Bertha of Rosenberg from Bohemia, overthrown by the heathen Perchta.
- There is a legend of a white lady who was a prince’s wife in the town of Rheda-Wiedenbrück, North Rhein Westfalia. The prince was away, fighting in the 30 years war, and his wife took a wandering minstrel as a lover. The prince returned unexpectedly, caught the two lovers, and killed the minstrel in the moat. He then took his wife and encased her behind a wall in his manor with some food and water, so that she wouldn’t cheat on him again as he returned to the fighting. The prince died in battle, the food and water ran out, and his wife died. Her spirit now haunts the manor. When the manor was renovated, the new owner had his construction crew tear down the wall she was encased behind. The next day, the worker who tore down the wall, was working on the roof of the manor when he fell, broke his back, and died. The manor is called Haus Aussel.
In the eastern and the northern of the Netherlands tell farmers stories about the Witte wieven (white ladies).
These white ladies changing babies, abduct women and bring disaster to people who have made their evil.
But there are also stories that say that the white ladies have actually helped people in childbirth, or people have given good advice.
Mist are named to the white ladies.
In Slavic Mythology, a white lady was the ghost of a girl or young woman that died violently, usually young women who committed suicide, were murdered or died while imprisoned. The ghost is usually bound to a specific location and is often identified as a specific person (i.e. Elizabeth Báthory).
White Ladies are popular ghost story topics in the Philippines. Along with other mythological creatures and ghostly beings like the Manananggal, Tiyanak, Kapre, Wak-Wak, and Tikbalang, White Ladies are often used to convey horror and mystery to young children for storytelling. Sightings of White Ladies are common around the country, and usually every town and barrio has its own “White Lady” story.
Balete Drive White Lady
The most prominent one is the White Lady of Balete Drive in Quezon City. It is said that it is the ghost of a long-haired woman in a white dress, who according to legend, died in a car accident while driving along Balete Drive. Most stories about her were told by taxi drivers doing the graveyard shift, such as the one where a taxi crosses Balete Drive, and a very beautiful woman is asking for a ride. The cabbie looks behind and sees the woman’s face was full of blood and bruises, causing him to abandon his taxi in horror.
In other instances, it is said that when solitary people drive on that street in the early morning, they briefly see the face of a white-clad woman in the rear-view mirror before she quickly disappears. Some accidents on this road are blamed on apparitions of the White Lady.
Many sources have said this legend was actually manufactured by a reporter in the 1950s, and also a possible combination of multiple stories from the area.
Legend has it that many years ago, a woman was to be married to a man she did not love. Her father told her that she must always do as her fiancé said since he was soon to be her husband. On the day of her wedding, she committed suicide by jumping off a balcony. This is why she is to this day known as the White Lady, because she was wearing her wedding gown on the day of her death. It is said that she haunts the Verdala Palace and many people who attend the August moon ball confirm that she does indeed appear in the palace.
According to another Maltese legend, the White Lady of Mdina was killed by her lover after she was forced to marry another man. Many have claimed to see this spirit, always after eight o’clock in the evening. She usually appears to children under eight years old, heart-broken teenage boys, and elderly men. While she tells the children goodnight and bids them to return home, she advises the teenagers to “find another” or to join her and become a part of her “shadow” (her ghostly followers). She also attempts to lure elderly men into her “shadow.”
Portuguese producer David Rebordão created a popular internet video featuring a fictional White Lady. The video consists of supposedly “recovered footage” found at the scene of a fatal car accident, near Sintra, Portugal. In the video, a woman and two young men are shown taking a car trip to the mountains. One passenger records the trip with a video camera. While driving along the road, the travelers spot a strange female hitchhiker, whom they pick up. The passenger with the camera focuses on the hitchhiker, who seems strangely quiet, but says her name is Teresa, and states that she has not been the same since her accident. She then points out a spot on the road where she says she died. She suddenly turns to the camera and screams, showing her face, which is now apparently badly scarred and bloody and vanishes immediately. The car, according to reports, was found flipped on its side, killing two of the travelers. According to the text at the end of the video, police investigating the accident found that a girl named Teresa Fidalgo died in a car accident in 1983 at that very spot. Many viewers considered the video an imitation of The Blair Witch Project. The producer, David Rebordão, admits this, explaining the story’s fabrication on his website. Rebordão confirmed, in an interview with Júlia Pinheiro (channel TVI) that the story was fictional, and that he had created the character himself. He stated that he was very surprised at the notoriety the story has achieved all over the world.
Called Dama Branca or Mulher de Branco in Portuguese, the Brazilian Lady in White is said to be the ghost of a young woman who died of childbirth or violent causes. According to legend, she appears as a pale woman in a long white dress or a sleeping gown, and although usually speechless, will occasionally recount her misfortunes. The origins of the myth are not clear, Luís da Câmara Cascudo’s Dicionário do Folclore Brasileiro (Brazilian Folklore Dictionary) proposes that the ghost is related to the violent deaths of young white women who were murdered by their fathers or husbands in an “honor” killing. The most frequent reasons for these honor killings were adultery (actual or suspected), denial of sex, or abuse. Monteiro Lobato in his book Urupês describes a young woman starved to death by her husband because he suspected she was in love with a black slave and only gave her the stewed meat of his corpse for food.
The best-known White Lady of the Czech Republic is the ghost of Perchta of Rožmberk at Rožmberk Castle. Perchta of Rožmberk (c. 1429–1476) was a daughter of an important Czech nobleman, Oldřich II of Rožmberk. She married another nobleman, Jan of Lichtenštejn (John of Liechtenstein) in 1449. The marriage was quite unhappy. One of the reasons might have been the fact that Perchta’s father had been reluctant to pay the agreed dowry. Legend has it that as her husband was dying, he asked for her forgiveness for his treatment of her. Perchta refused, and her husband cursed her. This is why she haunts his holdings, which include Český Krumlov Castle, where she has been seen most often. During her married life, Perchta wrote many letters to her father and brothers with colourful descriptions of her unhappy family life. Some 32 of these letters had been handed down.
The most famous white lady of Estonia resides in Haapsalu castle. She is said to be the woman who a canon fell in love with. She hid in the castle as a choir boy, and remained a secret for a long time. But when the Bishop of Ösel-Wiek visited Haapsalu she was discovered, and immured in the wall of the chapel for her crime. To this day she is said to look out of the Baptistery’s window and grieve for her beloved man. She can be seen on clear August full-moon nights.