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Episode 100 What Lies Beneath the Surface of Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier is one of the deadliest lakes in America. Some swear it’s haunted by the spirits of those whose lives tragically ended in the lake. Others believe it was cursed from the start because of the dark history associated with the land and people who lived in the area before the lake was created

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Lake Lanier was named for Georgia native Sidney Lanier, a poet and Confederate army veteran. The lake is known for its beauty with aqua blue colored water and stunning scenery that draws millions of people to visit recreational areas, marinas and campgrounds each year.

Its nearly 700 miles of shoreline is spread over 38,000 acres operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Since the Corps opened this man-made reservoir in 1957 its estimated at least 657 people have died in the lake. From boating collisions to car accidents that ended with vehicles in the lake…to many a soul entering the water for a swim, but never resurfacing.

Why have so many people died at this Lake?

Officials generally associate the high number of deaths with the number of visitors. Lake Altoona, Georgia’s second most popular lake, has a comparable number of visitors each year but Lake Lanier remains twice as deadly.

Which has left many people wondering if this lake is haunted…perhaps cursed because of the complicated history of its existence.

From the removal of Cherokee in the 1830s to the racial cleansing of Forsyth County following the murder of a young white women in 1912, what lies beneath the surface of Lake Lanier is land that represents tragedy and shattered lives.

Hear the story of what lies beneath Lake Lanier in the new episode.

Episode Photos

Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River in northern Georgia, USA. The dam impounds Lake Lanier. Photo Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual Library
Mae Crow, pictured in 1912, the year she was murdered.
Atlanta Constitution photo printed on October 4th, 1912 picturing prisoners arrested in Oscarville and accused of attack on Mae Crow. (L-R) Jane Daniel, Oscar Daniel, Toney Howell, Ed Collins, Isaiah Pirkle, and Ernest Knox.
Sheriff Bill Reid (l) and Deputy Mitchell Gay Lummus (r), c. 1912. Photo by C. W. Motes, Atlanta, Georgia.

“Blood at the Root” by Patrick Phillips is a highly recommended read if you’d like to dive deeper into the history of Oscarville and Forsyth County. The book is based on archival research, as well as his interviews with town’s residents and descendants of the black people who fled Oscarville in 1912. Phillips grew up in Forsyth County when it was still all-white and his parents were among the 1980s civil rights protesters who protested against the county’s ongoing segregation.

Episode Resources

Phillips, P. (2016). Blood at the root: a racial cleansing in America (First edition.). W.W. Norton & Company.

Rivers Held a Spiritual Place in the Lives of the Cherokee. Humanities by National Endowment for Humanities. Summer 2019. 

Deadliest day at Lake Lanier | 1964 Christmas tragedy. 11 Alive News. December 10, 2019.

Cemeteries of Lake Lanier. North Gwinnett Voice. March 9, 2020.

Quick Facts Forsyth County, Georgia. US Census. 

The mysteries beneath the waters. Tallahassee Tribune. September 2, 2020.

Below the surface: How Lake Lanier came to be. Forsyth County News. September 8, 2020.

One of Georgia’s most well known lakes has a murky history. The Signal. April 6, 2021.Mooney, J., & Mooney, J. (1982). Myths of the Cherokee ; and, Sacred formulas of the Cherokees. Nashville, Tenn: Charles and Randy Elder-Booksellers.

Episode Music

Ambient and Drone in D by Kevin MacLeod. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Source:

No. 8 Requiem and No 6 In My Dreams by Esther Abrami Licensed under Creative Commons

Argonne by Zachariah Hickman Licensed under Creative Commons

Spirit of Fire by Jesse Gallager Licensed under Creative Commons

Theme Song “Dark & Troubled” by Pantherburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use.