Aug 012013

In yesterday’s blog I promised to tell you a couple of stories about beautiful Lake Crescent, on the Olympic Peninsula. While the lake is popular with fishermen and boaters, its beauty can also be deadly.

Crescent Lake 3

Way back on July 3, 1929, a local couple named Russell and Blanch Warren disappeared while driving near the lake. Blanch Warren had just been released from the hospital in Port Angeles, and on their way home to a logging camp on the Bogachiel River near Forks they purchased a new washing machine and loaded it into their 1927 Chevrolet.

They never arrived, and speculation at the time was that the Warrens had missed a curve on the winding road around the lake and drowned. The only clues searchers could find was a cap identified as Russell’s and a visor from a Chevrolet.

They left behind two sons, Charles, who was 11 at the time, and Frank, who was 13. Both have since died. Ironically, Charles Warren drowned in 1964 in a fishing accident off the California coast and his body was never recovered. In another eerie twist, Blanch Warren’s father, John Francis "Frank" Rhone, had also vanished in the summer of 1905 at the age of 34, never to be seen or heard from again.

Years after the Warrens disappeared, local historian Bob Caso brought the long forgotten mystery to light, and in 2002 a team of volunteers using high tech underwater search equipment located the Warrens car at a depth of over 170 feet below the surface of the lake, about four miles west of Barnes Point, near Milepost 223 on U.S. Highway 101. They reported that the car was resting on its left side and tilting downward on a steep slope, and was remarkably intact.

No human remains were recovered, but family members said that they were comforted just knowing the young couple’s fate. "Blanch and Russell Warren have been resting here comfortably in the lake for the last 72 years and I almost feel like we’re disturbing them by going down there. This is a gravesite, a special place," Park Ranger Dan Pontbriand told a Seattle television station. You can learn more about the mystery of the Warren’s disappearance at this link.

Another deadly story associated with Lake Crescent started in 1940 when the body of a woman named Hallie Latham Illingworth, of nearby Port Angeles, popped to the surface. Mrs. Illingworth had gone missing shortly before Christmas in 1937. Suspicion had immediately fallen on her husband Monty, a known womanizer who was reported to have abused his wife in the past. Police had responded to the couple’s home in the past for domestic violence complaints, and coworkers recalled that Hallie Illingworth sometimes showed up for work with noticeable bruises and black eyes. Monty told everyone his wife had left him and moved away, and with no body or other evidence to back up their suspicions, police could do nothing.

Hallie’s body had been hog tied and wrapped in blankets, and an autopsy revealed that she had been strangled. To add an even more bizarre twist to the story, newspapers reported that instead of decomposing in the lakes cold, highly mineralized deep water, the woman’s body had undergone a strange chemical transformation known as saponification, and turned into a soap-like substance. She was identified through a dental plate, and the police immediately began searching for her husband.

He was located in Long Beach, California and tried for Hallie’s murder. It took a jury just four hours to convict him and he was sentenced to life in prison. After just nine years, Monty Illingworth was paroled in 1951. He returned to southern California, where he died in Los Alamitos in 1974. You can read more about this strange tale in this article on HistoryLink.

If you like stories like this, you might enjoy my two books of oddball tales of history and mystery, Highway History And Back Road Mystery and Highway History And Back Road Mystery II.

And if you’re interested in writing and publishing, check out my latest self-publishing blog post, Do Your Research.

Thought For The Day – If what does not kill you makes you stronger, I should be able to bench press a Buick by now.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  10 Responses to “Mysteries Of Crescent Lake”

  1. I don’t like todays blog. Its depressing and doesn’t have anything to do with RV’ing.

  2. I kind of have to agree. Really not what I come to your blog to read. Sorry.

  3. I recently attended Nick’s seminar at Escapade on his Backroad Mysteries. He had standing room only and folks were getting plenty of offbeat ideas on where to travel while in their RVs. His topic today may not be as cheery as others, but if you travel near that lake you will have something to talk about now. He would be happy to sell you his book. LOL

  4. Actually Lake Crescent (it’s Lake Crescent not Crescent Lake) is one of the most beautiful lakes anywhere. We visited often when I was growing up. The area around it is definitely deserted and eerie. The lake is dark and deep and gives way to much suspicious activity. There were always stories surrounding the lake. Isn’t it more fun to visit a place with a little mystery than go where everyone else goes? There’s even a few places to pull in with your RV and camp around the lake or fishing or kayaking. I think a blog can be about whatever you want it to be. This one was just about another place to visit … or not to.

  5. During all of Nick’s RV travels, he has researched the areas that he is in to find the unusual and interesting stories that make an area interesting to someone who is not familiar with the area. He has many interesting stories gleaned from graveyards and old buildings. This is one of the best reasons to buy his books and the Gypsy Journal. It brings another dimension to an area and I for one say keep it up Nick. I love it.

  6. I tend to enjoy pretty much whatever you write, Nick–even today. Just thought I’d mention that.

    I guess my 2 cents is worth just about the same as anyone else’s, huh?!

  7. When I was a kid you could drink the water out of Lake Crescent, it was that clean. That water was cold!

  8. You didn’t stop at Sol Duc hotsprings? I enjoy the water whenever I get to that side of this state..When you drive the road around the lake it’s easy to see how a vehicle could end up in it.
    Have Fun!

  9. We were volunteer camp hosts at the fairholme campground on Lake Crescent in the summer of 2009. Really enjoyed the time there, but never believe everything the volunteer coordinator tells you. We have a 40′ motorhome, and she said it would fit. It did but barely after scraping the sides on the trees. Cell phone service-she said it had it, we had to stand on the dock by the store for one occasional bar. No satellite TV, but then again it is a rain forest. We would go to the Crescent Lake Lodge, and use their wifi after purchasing a libation. We used the public library for movie rentals. The worst part was the drive along the lake to get to the stores. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat. We adapted.

    Linda & John Huber

  10. Loved today’s blog. Facts found in our travels are not always happy ones, but they are interesting.

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