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Many bodies of water in Texas are said to be haunted by ghosts of some sort, from wailing specters to silent revenants. One of the most famous of these locations is a small lake near San Perlita in Willacy County known informally as the Devil’s Lagoon.


Growing up in the decade following World War II, Greg Montalvo heard the story at his grandmother’s knee.

In 1895, scant years after Richard King had wrangled a chunk of the San Juan de Carricitos land grant out of the hands of its rightful heirs, a young man and woman living on the King Ranch decided to get married. Their parents made arrangements for a ceremony at a chapel some hours distant, and on the auspicious day, a procession of wagons and carriages set out, transporting the wedding party.


Partway through the journey, the driver of the coach that contained the bride, the groom and their parents inexplicably pulled off the accustomed road, taking a shortcut that passed by means of a rickety wooden bridge over a deep lagoon.

The passengers called out in alarm at the route, only to be ignored by the driver, who whipped the horses into a flat-out run. Halfway across, the bridge suddenly collapsed under their weight, plunging them into dark water that both pressed against the doors and poured in through the windows.


The bride and groom, realizing this was the end, embraced their parents, kissed each other and vowed eternal faithfulness in whatever existence that lay beyond the threshold of death.


Driver, horses, passengers: all of them drowned. The coach was never recovered. But, Greg’s grandmother always told him, at midnight, under the light of an autumn moon, the spirit of the driver spurs the ghostly steeds with a hellish whip, and the carriage emerges from the depths, bearing its dead passengers into the world of the living once more.

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