The Spooky History of Crater Lake

Crater Lake’s Spookiest Stories

Let’s all gather around the campfire and share our favorite stories of spooky hauntings and ghostly apparitions. Located in Oregon, Crater Lake is home to quite a few tall tales and folklore about spooky happenings. We’ve got stories to share about the old man in the lake, the spirits of wizard island, and ancient legends about the Crater Lake area.

Crater lake is the deepest lake in the United States, coming in at just under 2,000 feet deep. The lake is so deep that for a long time, it was rumored to be bottomless. Its origins are violent and spooky, just like its tall tales. Crater Lake was created when Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed over 6,000 years ago. As it rained and snow melted, the crater filled, creating a lake. The lake is home to two islands, Wizard Island which is a volcanic cinder cone and Phantom Ship, a resistant remnant of an ancient volcanic cone.

For as long as Crater Lake has been around, people have been telling stories about its origins and what they see on the lake or its shores. Here are our favorite stories.

The Old Man of the Lake

Crater Lake’s Old Man of the Lake is not actually a man at all, but a very old tree stump. And, if that doesn’t sound otherworldly to you yet, just wait.

This tree stump has been bobbing vertically around Crater Lake since at least 1896, that’s more than 100 years! The 30-foot tall tree stump is likely made of hemlock and is about two feet in diameter. The exposed end of the tree is wide enough and buoyant enough to support the weight of a person.

The tree has been studied many times throughout the years and we know many cool facts about it, including:

  • Carbon dating puts the tree itself at 450 years old
  • The Old Man grows moss that’s usually found deep within the lake
  • The tree migrates regularly, so boat captains must communicate regularly about its location
  • Because of the lake’s clarity, the entire submerged part of the tree can be seen from above the water

Where the stories about the Old Man get really interesting is the lore that he can control the weather. This theory was tested in 1988 when the Old Man was tied down off the eastern shore of Wizard Island to allow for submarine exploration of Crater Lake. Almost immediately the weather turned from clear to stormy. And then, it snowed in August. Once the Old Man was released back to his wandering of the lake, the weather cleared.

To many who frequent the lake, the Old Man is a character with a personality and intriguing whims. He regularly traverses the lake, covering miles on a windy day. Many regularly pay homage to the floating tree stump.

Spirits of Wizard Island

Wizard Island might seem like a strange name for an island floating in the middle of a lake, that is, until you see it. Wizard Island gained its moniker based on its shape, which looks like a wizard’s hat. This newer volcano, or volcano cone, emerged from Crater Lake approximately 7,300 years ago.

Stories abound about the spirits of Wizard Island. Many tell tales about seeing ghostly campfires on the island. When fires are reported on the island, rangers go investigate, only to find no fires and not even evidence of a fire. There have been many reports of these ghostly fires, one even claimed to see 10 people standing around a roaring bonfire, but no evidence was ever found.

Native Legends of Crater Lake

Like many rural locations in the United States, Crater Lake is old. And the stories about Crater Lake are as old as time, some dating back to when the first people lived in this area. Native Americans have many stories passed down from one generation to the next about Crater Lake.

Many believe that the lake is cursed, that hexes have been placed on the water, and that it’s inhabited by evil spirits. An ancient story tells of two spirits, Llao and Skell, who fought a bloody battle at Crater Lake. Both spirits died in that battle and continue to haunt the surrounding area, creating massive storms and disrupting the lake.

Another legend of Crater Lake comes to us from the Klamath Indians. This tribe believed that Crater Lake was too beautiful, too sacred to be looked upon by human eyes. To this day, many visitors feel the same. The crystal clear waters magnify and intensify the colors, so that the blues, greens, and purples of the deep waters seem almost unreal and unnatural.

There are so many ghost stories about Crater Lake, and ones about other national parks. We hope these haunting stories have inspired you to book your next vacation somewhere that you can enjoy a good spooky tale and maybe even feel a shiver of fun run up your spine.

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