Is Lake Lanier Really Haunted? Let’s Settle This.

As the operators of, we always get a healthy dose of comments whenever the lake is mentioned. The lake has some controversy literally “buried” beneath the surface…

So is Lake Lanier haunted?

The fact is that there is no actual evidence that Lake Lanier is haunted.

But that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill.

While many locals have heard all kinds of stories about the “haunted lake”, these are the ones most frequently repeated by media outfits and thrill seekers…

The 6 Most Prevalent Lake Lanier Haunting Stories

  1. The Lady of the Lake: Often sighted in a flowing white gown, Susie Roberts, who tragically drowned in 1958, is said to appear near the bridge where her life met a watery end. Witnesses report seeing her combing her long hair, a ghostly figure that adds to the lake’s haunted reputation.
  2. Unrelocated Graves and Restless Spirits: The Corps of Engineers left several graves unrelocated in 1956, which many believe has led to hauntings around the lake. Additionally, the spirits of 27 victims, whose bodies were never recovered, are rumored to haunt the waters, contributing to the eerie atmosphere of the area.
  3. The Legend of Delia May Parker Young: Alongside Susie Roberts, Delia May Parker Young is another sorrowful spirit of the lake. After their car skidded off a bridge in 1958, locals claim to have seen Young, dressed in a blue dress, near the bridge, allegedly dragging those who get too close to the depths below.
  4. The Underwater Church Bell of Van Pugh: In the ghost town of Van Pugh, submerged by the lake’s creation, it is said that the church bell can still be heard ringing from beneath the waters, a haunting reminder of the town that once was.
  5. The Haunted Sunken Houseboats: There’s rumors of a sunken houseboat underwater that wasn’t secured properly before the lake was flooded. Legend has it that this house is haunted by the spirits of its former residents, trapped under the lake’s surface.
  6. Mysterious Indian Burial Grounds: Reports suggest that an Indian burial ground was disturbed during the lake’s creation. This desecration is believed to be a source of the paranormal activity experienced in the vicinity.
  7. The White-Raft Apparition: Two fishermen in the 2000s encountered a chilling sight—a man in a hooded white raft. As they looked at him, he allegedly jumped into the water and swam aggressively towards their boat before vanishing into the depths.
  8. Supernatural Swells and Deadly Whirlpools: Some survivors of near-drownings at Lake Lanier report feeling unseen hands pulling them underwater during sudden storm swells, suggesting a supernatural force at play in these dangerous waters.

For a good summary of these rumors (and more), check out this video:

The Tragic Legacy of Oscarville

Oscarville, once a bustling community, was submerged in the late 1950s to create Lake Lanier, erasing much of its rich North Georgia history and displacing its residents.

Originally, this area was significant for its Native American roots, which were later home by a growing and vibrant Black community. The community thrived until racial tensions led to violent expulsions during the (specifically in 1912), culminating in the tragic displacement of these families.

The federal government, through the River and Harbors Act of 1946, played a pivotal role in this transformation, allocating $45 million for the lake’s development. This included the contentious use of Eminent Domain to acquire land, deeply affecting many local landowners and altering the region’s demographic and cultural landscape.

Actual Statistics & Chronology of Lake Lanier Accidents & Deaths

While the “ghost stories” are clearly taking on a live of their own… here’s what we know about some actual historical accidents:

Between 1994 and 2018, Lake Lanier was the site of 33 boating incidents, 145 drownings, and 57 boating-related deaths. The period from 2015 to 2018 alone accounted for 43 deaths and 128 boating accidents, with 214 incidents involving boating under the influence

As one of the largest lakes in the region, Lake Lanier is bound to have higher numbers. But, this is still fertile ground for haunted lake stories…

There’s a long record of prominent stories leading to it’s reputation as the deadliest lake in the Southeast.

Here are some general timeline incidents:

  1. Recent Incidents: In 2023, a 61-year-old man tragically drowned after failing to resurface while swimming in 46-feet deep water. Another alarming incident involved a 27-year-old man who disappeared under similar circumstances; his body has yet to be recovered, and the search continues.
  2. 2012: A Year of Notable Tragedies: This particular year was marked by multiple fatalities, including the death of Usher’s step-son from injuries sustained in a jet ski accident and the loss of two brothers from Gwinnett County in a boating collision. The responsible boater was later convicted of multiple charges, including homicide by vessel.
  3. Legislative Response to Tragedies: Following the 2012 accidents, Georgia saw the introduction of two crucial boating laws aimed at increasing safety on Lake Lanier. These laws, named after the victims, focus on stricter BUI regulations and mandatory life jacket usage for children.
  4. Electrical Hazards and Unusual Incidents: The lake has also been a site for less common but equally fatal accidents, including electric shock drownings and unexplained boat fires and explosions.
  5. Lanier Islands Closes Margaritaville Beach Access: Citing safety concerns and the high number of annual incidents.
  6. Ongoing Safety Measures and Legal Recourse: Safety advocates continue to emphasize the importance of wearing life jackets, designating sober boat operators, and supervising children. For those affected by tragedies, legal avenues such as wrongful death lawsuits are available.

Major Movies and TV Mentions of Lake Lanier

Similarly, here are some of the pivotal film productions that have kept the rumor mill turning:

Side note: Interestingly, parts of the critically acclaimed series Ozark, were also filmed at Lake Lanier (and not the Ozarks!).

Why is Lake Lanier So Dangerous?

Haunting stories aside, why might Lake Lanier actually be more dangerous that most lakes?

These are some of our evidence based theories:

  • Lake Lanier is HUGE: As one of the biggest lakes AND most popular tourist destinations in the Southeast, the sheer number of people and available water equals a higher risk proposition… all other issues aside.
  • Drunk Boating: There’s far less visibility and awareness around BWI’s (boating while intoxicated) in general. Due to Lake Lanier’s size, the availability of all sorts of watercraft makes this a potentially volatile combination. In fact, some of the worst accidents happened with alcohol in the mix.
  • Variable Water Levels: Lake Lanier is part of a larger watershed for Georgia and points south. As such, during periods of extreme drought (see more about this history) or wet periods, obstructions can lurk just below the surface. Remember, Lake Lanier was man made fairly recently (late 1950s), so it’s not a “normal lake” where the course of nature has broadly refined obstacles over time.
  • Unauthorized Swimming / Boating: There are certain areas (usually clearly marked) that are not suitable for swimming or boating. For good reason! Usually connected to the above issue. But tourists often think they know better. It’s just water, after all. What could go wrong?

Does Controversy Sell?

So is Lake Lanier really haunted?

Most of the current locals don’t pay much heed to the rumors, but there’s a certain element of “controversy sells” that perhaps helps local tourism.

A helpful allegory might be Salem, Massachusetts. A terrible history (burning “witches” at the stake… basically anyone who didn’t conform), but today this history no doubt supports hundreds of local businesses and curious tourists… whether thrill seekers or history nerds.

As evidence of this, look no further than the cottage industry of haunted boat rides that have sprung up in recent years like…. Lanier Islands (the largest tourist enterprise in the region) has even gotten in on the action, launching a new “Apocalypso” ride.

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