David & Marianne Book have been volunteers, supporters & contributors on many levels for Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. His children's books are a popular item at the Nature Store, and his history book on the Refuge was a particularly challenging puzzle to pull together. I look forward to his blog for bits and pieces to be brought to life among other topics regarding the habitat and conservation efforts of Laguna Atascosa.

Grey Ghost of Laguna

Wed, October 25, 2023 11:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Author:David Book

I would seldom call the refuge a spooky place. But when you stop and think about it, there does exist a certain creepiness about it, especially when the rattlesnakes and tarantulas are out and about. And, certainly, one should be wary of those alligators. But there is more. What about the "Grey Ghost of Laguna?" At least that is what one newspaper reporter called him.

It appears that in 1940 an old hermit was wandering around way under the radar on the northern end of what is now called Horse Island. According to the news article, the census taker, Bill King, was bound and determined to find him. He described the encounter after searching for several days "at the beginning of nowhere" having spotted the "local legend" squatting by "a lean-to made of the skins of goat, coyote, and bobcat, surrounded by 20-25 lean, scraggly goats." The elderly man approached the census official with a 10 gauge shotgun cocked under his right arm. He did not threaten King, but was obviously not happy to see him. He did not know his birth date or birthplace, but appeared to be in his 80's. King described him as being "about six feet tall, heavy set with a tangled mass of graying hair, and a snarled growth of hair that forms a beard about eight inches long that looks like steel wool." His one room hovel had no running water or electricity. He spoke in broken Spanish, and King wasted no time in heading back across the extensive salt flats when he had successfully added the hermit to his census list. A somewhat spooky tale, but that is not all.

At the northern end of the Mesquite Trail, which begins at the Visitors Center, is a cemetery containing five grave markers used by the old Granjeno Ranch in the late 19th century. Only two of the stones have discernible engravings. One of the two was a twelve year-old boy who accidentally shot himself with a rifle in 1913 while hunting rabbits. The cemetery is maintained by the refuge staff during the daylight hours. If you happen to be there at night, especially during the full moon, you may hear a hair-raising screech. Is it someone calling from the grave or the barn owl that nests nearby? You can be the judge.


  • Wed, October 25, 2023 1:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Great segway into our NEW Hiking Series that starts with a sunset walk down mesquite trail on Saturday! See Events
    IF you go, PLEASE share some pictures! Seems I could only find this one in our repository. I want some of the markers!
    Link  •  Reply

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