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and the Legend.
refused to believe the legend was true. As I sat with my best friend Cindi
in her car parked at the river’s edge, waiting for some of her old high
school friends to join us for a swim, I could feel the ambiance of this
area, its history during the California Gold Rush. Though I wasn’t
thrilled with meeting her friends, I liked it here, and to pass the time,
we’d started talking about our town’s prominent legend.
killed her children on the night of the blue moon.” Cindi emphasized the
words blue moon with a ghoulish
flair in her voice and waved the porcelain figurine in her hands, a woman
wearing a long red dress.
disagreed. “I’m not so sure she killed her own kids.”
With the air
conditioner rattling, my mind traveled back to the gold rush when the
legend of the Weeping Woman began. Over one hundred seventy years ago,
hundreds of men camped at this very spot on the South Fork of the American
River, finding or losing their dreams for a pinch of gold dust.
town was called Dry Diggins back then, now my hometown of Placerville,
California. It looks nothing like it did back in 1850 after the gold rush began
at Sutter’s Mill, just nine miles downstream from here. There was a
saloon in Dry Diggins, The Boomerang
Gambling Hall and Saloon, where a woman who purportedly looked like
the figurine sang for the miners, merchants, and gunslingers. One day,
three murderers were caught and hanged from a large oak tree on Main
Street, earning the town the nickname Hangtown.
Today, families laid out their blankets
and picnic baskets along the riverbank, and children splashed and squealed
in the frigid shallows, just out of reach of the midstream current. I
could imagine the men digging and panning for gold among the frolicking
kids, as if the rushing water carried whispers of the past.
“Earth to Abby. You’re zoning out on me again.”
Cindi handed me the figurine. “Lolita sure was beautiful.”
stared at the porcelain woman in my hand, her flowing black hair, Spanish
green eyes, and golden brown skin, a most striking woman of her time. Her
signature red cloak and red dress, the one they say she wore on the night
of the murders, hugged her porcelain curves, and white pantalettes peeked
out from beneath the gown. An engraving on the base read Lolita
in sweeping letters, her stage name when she sang at the Boomerang.
They say her real name was Abigail, too, like mine, but I don’t believe
she was a killer.”
makes you think the legend isn’t true?”
sensed a ghostly presence of someone beside me. A chill prickled the hairs
on my arm, as if Lolita were coaxing me to defend her. “Some say she was
seen dancing and singing at a party the night her children died, so she
couldn’t have killed them.”
that’s only a theory.” She looked out the window toward the dirt road
that led down to the riverbank from the upper parking lot. “I’m hot. I
want to go swimming. What’s taking them so long, sis?”
were like sisters, Cindi and I, and her endearment made me feel like I
wasn’t alone in this world. I curled a strand of crimson hair around my
index finger. There were two beauties in the car, and I wasn’t one of
them. The term beach blonde fit
my best friend to a T. She was slender, tanned by the California sun, and
her figure would make Barbie Doll jealous. We’d been friends since
middle school, though I didn’t know what she saw in me. I didn’t look
like her, dress like her, figured it was just a matter of time before
she’d tell me to get lost. It took a while to realize we both needed
each other. She boosted my confidence on days when I felt down in the
dumps about myself, and I encouraged her to see herself as more than a
I couldn’t tell her the real reason I thought the legend of the Weeping
Woman was wrong. Cindi would go completely nuts if I told her I’d
actually seen the kids’ ghosts, right here on this riverbank. Recalling
that encounter still gave me the shivers.
was the evening after I’d heard the little girl call for her mamma in my
bedroom. I needed to get away from the house, so I drove here to think
about that encounter and wonder what it meant. The setting sun colored the
sky pink and orange and cast a golden glow across the swirling currents.
From out of nowhere, two small children appeared on the riverbank,
skipping along, throwing rocks into the water, and laughing like children
at play. One was a girl, the other a small boy. Wondering what two
children were doing out here by themselves, I walked toward them. “Hey,
abruptly stopped and looked at me.
are your parents?”
can’t find our mamma,” the little girl replied.
I’ve heard that voice before.
approached them but oddly, though they hadn’t stepped backward, my steps
did not bring me any closer to them. “Who’s your mamma? Maybe I can
find her, give her a call.”
Abigail,” the boy said.
sister added, “The miners around here call her Lolita.”
I stopped. There were no miners around here. I had to have heard wrong.
The little girl couldn’t possibly be talking about Lolita, the Weeping
the lady,” the boy said to his sister.
girl grabbed his hand, and they began to glimmer and glide backwards down
I stood in awe, I realized I was seeing the spirits of Lolita’s murdered
wish I could help you.”
careful what you wish for,” the girl said, and they shimmered out of
fingers of a sudden wind had softly stroked my hair, raising tiny dimples
on the back of my neck. My sixth sense told me I would see them again.
Even now, I
recalled how they looked. The little girl wore a blue Victorian dress and
bonnet. The boy wore cut off pants with suspenders. That night, I’d
flicked through pages of a history book on the Gold Rush Era and found a
section about the Weeping Woman legend. There I’d seen an old sepia
photo of the same children, dressed the same way, standing at the river in
front of a wooden rowboat. They were real back then...ghosts now...but why
did they reveal themselves to me? What was Joseph trying to say before his
sister hushed him? She didn’t...didn’t what? Kill them? Right. My best
friend wouldn’t believe a word of it.