Pacific Northwest Lore: The Spirits of the Lake and the Stubborn Old Man.

Vancouver, WA Photographer

I have always been interested in lore and stories about how places receive their names, especially if they are a little bit on the creepy side. So, being October, I thought it would be a fun little side project to build some stories of what I have found out about some beloved regions here in Southwest Washington.

Portland and Vancouver have had their stories, and histories told multiple times, but what about here in North County? Well, I have found some great stories that have been passed down.

Spirit Lake

Bodies of water tend to get their names from local legends or explorers. So with a name like Spirit Lake, there has to be something behind it, right?

Multiple Native American tribes had stories about this lake, all of them stated that there was some kind of evil being in or around this lake. So much so, that Paul Kane, a Canadian artist, could not find a local guide to take him there.

From demons that would lure local hunters, Salmon in the lake being cursed beings, or a beast so massive, it could stretch across the lake. It’s hand large enough to reach out and seize boats in the lake and pull them to the depths below.

You can read more about the legends here.

Spirit Lake is still an eerie place. High up in the mountains with multiple logs covering the surface and slowly rehabilitating from the blast.

Vancouver WA Photographer

During the eruption of  Loowit (Mt. St. Helens) in 1981, Spirit Lake received the full lateral blast, and the lake waters formed a wave as high as 850 feet tall on the north side of the lake. Lahar and pyroclastic flows blocked the natural flow and raised the lake 197-206 feet and covered the surface of the lake with shattered trees.

During this time, a man, his cats, and his cabin disappeared.

Harry R. Truman

When you think of curmudgeonly old men, you can picture Harry R. Truman in your head. He was the type of guy that drove a pink Cadillac and would get a forest ranger drunk so that he could burn a pile of brush.

Truman, 83, and his 16 cats were the caretakers at the St. Helens Lodge that was located directly in the blast zone. Here are the historical coordinates on the map.


On May 17th authorities tried for the last time to get Truman to abandon his lodge, but his response was “If the mountain goes, I’m going with it.”

You can watch an old interview with him and his personality from the local news channel here.

The next day, the most massive landslide in recorded history and a pyroclastic flow traveling atop the avalanche, engulfed the Spirit Lake area, destroying the lake and burying the site of the lodge under 150 feet of debris.

Authorities have never found Truman’s remains.

This is what the area looks like now.

Vancouver WA Photographer

There is a memorial to Harry in Castle Rock, WA.

“I think I can see a smile on his face. For he lived and died in his special place. And all he would ask of the Lord for his sake, in a place in eternity like Spirit Lake”.

Loowit has some great history, next week we’ll focus on two brothers who fell in love with her.



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