Editor's Note: the Almanac includes the following as legend and folklore - not history. Although some elements of the story may indeed be historical fact, we offer these stories, along with other stories in Mysterious L.A., as a part of the cultural fabric of Los Angeles County.
The White Lady of Elysian Park is one of those local Los Angeles folklores passed down from one generation to the next. It has frightened children and served as another foolish way for young people to demonstrate fearlessness. The story is about a ghostly woman dressed in white who haunts the hills and valleys around Elysian Park in Los Angeles. It has similarities to that of the Mexican legend of La llarona (the Wailing Woman), although, unlike La llarona, the White Lady doesn’t seem to limit herself haunting bodies of water.
Where the legend originated is a mystery. There are actually a number of other "White Lady" ghost stories elsewhere in California, including one on the Queen Mary oceanliner in Long Beach. The Almanac found little written about the Elysian Park story and it appears to be mostly orally retold, which is how we first came across it. One of the two most common versions says that the White Lady is actually La llarona herself, although we suspect that just to be a merging of the two spooky legends. The other story relates how the White Lady was a young Mexican American woman who, during the war years of World War II, ended up being brutally assaulted and murdered by U.S. Navy sailors who she had the misfortune of spending time with. Some versions even have her being decapitated. We couldn't find any news story of such a horrendous crime that might be related. It did, however, remind us of the "Black Dahlia" murder of about the same period. We can’t help to note that, during that period, the Mexican American community then had good reason to feel hostile to sailors. Perhaps, the story was meant as a cautionary tale to dissuade young Latinas from dating the swarm of sailors then in Los Angeles.