A mysterious disappearance, a lost love, a haunted lake
| Let me tell you a story.|
--Is it a ghost story, Grandpa?
Of course. Now, hush and listen.
Very early on a cool July morning in 1978, a young woman called Shoshona Wilder eased her canoe into the misty waters of Lake Tonkata. This happened just down the lake, not far from where we're sitting right now.
Unable to sleep, she had crept out of the cabin and wandered to the shore to admire the lake, and decided to try the canoe. She was not an experienced paddler, having first been in a canoe only the day before with her fiance, Gilbert; but the water was glassy smooth and she was entranced by the calm beauty of the lake, the surreal shifting of the mist over the reeds, the chirrup of red-winged blackbirds in the willows overhanging the water, the peeping of the frogs along the shore. And so she zig-zagged happily into the mist.
Neither she nor the canoe was ever seen again.
# # #
"Okay, Gil, tell me again. Walk me through that morning."
"Like I said before, Sheriff, I slept in. I often do when we're at the cabin, I get a real good sleep in the cool air up here. So, anyway, Shosha wasn't in bed, guess she'd got up early. She does that too, likes to go for a walk on the shore. Now, right away I missed the smell of perking coffee and frying bacon. At the cabin, Shosha gets up early, makes breakfast, then wakes me up and we eat on the veranda overlooking the lake. But I didn't really think anything was wrong at that point."
"Did you notice anything missing?"
"Her shorts and T-shirt were gone from the floor where she had tossed them the night before."
--I like the way you make the different voices, Grandpa!
Shush. Remember, don't interrupt the storyteller.
"And you hadn't heard anything, some odd noise, banging car door, nothing like that?"
"No. Like I said, I sleep like the dead when we're out here. Oh, crap, you know what I mean."
"So you looked around for her?"
"Yeah. She was obviously not in the kitchen, and she wasn't sitting on the veranda."
"Well, I was a bit groggy. I had maybe-one-or-two-too-many beers last night."
"Is that usual for you? You drink a bit too much now and then?"
"Not really. Maybe once in a while."
"Shoshana, was she drinking too?"
"She had a couple beers. Honest, Sheriff, we weren't that drunk. Anyway, I headed down to the lake, expecting to see Shosha sitting on the end of the pier splashing her feet in the water. But of course, she wasn't."
"That's when you noticed the canoe was gone?"
"Right. It was obvious that she'd taken it out on the lake for an early-morning paddle. But what scared me was that the PFDs were still on the post where we'd hung them to dry out the day before. We'd been fooling around and splashing and had got pretty wet. Silly goose, to go in the canoe without a life jacket. Anyway, I waited for a while for her to come back. When she didn't that's when I called 911. Then I drove along the shore road looking for her until I spotted your car come by."
"How have you and your girl been getting along?"
"Well, fine. We're getting married next month."
"So, no arguments, no fights, like that?"
"You're barking up the wrong tree, Sheriff."
"Well, here's how it looks from here, Gil. You were the last person to see her, last night. You were drinking. We've only your word for it that she was okay last night, or that she disappeared this morning. What if we drag the lake and find her out there where you dumped her last night?"
"Oh, for Christ's sake! She's paddled out into the lake and got in trouble somehow. And instead of sitting here wasting time yakking, how about we get some boats and cars and go find her?"
# # #
So the boat from the Sheriff's Department, and a bunch of deputies and neighbors got into boats and cars and searched. Lake Tonkata is a fair-sized lake, but not that big, and by nightfall of the second day they had searched every hole and creek and inlet. They poked under every overhanging spruce or willow and found not hide nor hair of her, nor any piece of canoe. They tried some divers, and peered into the lake in a glass-bottomed boat. They searched, and searched, and searched. Nothing. Eventually, after a week, the search was called off.
Gilbert, he was upset and angry. He wanted them to keep looking. He swore at the sheriff and deputies and begged them to keep searching, and he yelled at all his neighbors to help him look. They tried to calm him down and in the end everyone just gave up and went their own way.
In the end, there was no evidence of foul play, and the Sheriff decided that Shoshana was a grown woman who had paddled up the lake, met somebody, hauled out the canoe and driven off to God-knows-where. Maybe she'd turn up somewhere, some time. Case closed.
Now, you can see that poor Gilbert was just busted up, to loose his love just before their wedding, and wasn't at all impressed with the official conclusion to the case accusing his beloved of infidelity. He stopped eating right and didn't shave or cut his hair or change his clothes. He bought a motorboat and spent hours searching the shore. He drove all around the lake road, and stopped here and there and wandered around on foot, searching for any sign of Shoshona. He stopped at every cabin on the lake and grilled them about if they'd seen her, and really made a pest of himself to the point where people would hide from "Crazy Gilbert" and not answer the door when he came by.
I guess it was all too much for him, 'cause a month after she disappeared, his boat was found floating in the middle of the lake. His body they found, with a cement block tied to his foot. Suicide, they said. Couldn't live without her, decided to join her.
--Aw, that's so sad!
Yes, it surely is. They say that ever since, in the lonely misty morning, or late at night in the dark of the moon, you can sometimes see Gilbert's ghost wandering the shore searching for his lost love. You listen now. Hold your breath and listen. You hear that Shush-shush sound down at the lake?
--Yes, I hear. What is it?
Some say that's just the waves lapping against the shore and reeds. Me, I say that's Gilbert's ghost, wandering the shore and calling for his lost love. "Shoshana! Shoshana! Shoshana!"
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