Whihala the Witch: The Origin Story

Engineer Herbert Whiting, or Pop as he was known,  had ridden this track from Chicago many times in his 50 years, and Lake Michigan looked different every time.  Along this particular piece of track, though, he usually got a strange feeling.  The story told by other engineers was that of a strange, haunting woman appearing out of nowhere right before disaster would strike.  Although Pop had never seen her, he knew her description well: Tall and graceful with flowing grey hair that framed her sad face as she huddled into her heavy black coat for warmth.  Her striking blue eyes were like the lake on a sunny summer day, but reflected none of the warmth that they should.  Pops of blue also appeared on her clothing as if she carried the water with her wherever she went, never able to truly leave it behind.  

Many had spent countless hours trying to discover who she was.  It is believed that she is a woman who lived along the lake for so long that she grew to know the nuances of what it foretold of the weather.  One calm fall day, while families frolicked along the beach, she proceeded to tell them all to take cover as something disturbing was happening in the lake.  A great and dangerous change.  She urged them all to run as fast as they could.  They laughed at her and called her an old witch but stayed where they were.  She begged them to save themselves and their children and she stood between them and the lake as if to protect them.  Suddenly a great seich appeared and the water rose several feet as it roared toward the shore.  Only then did the people start to run, except for one young child who was frozen at the sight of the giant wall of water coming towards her.  The old woman grabbed the child and threw her to her father.  The child was saved but the old woman had disappeared into the waves, not to be seen again.  

Since that time Whihala the Witch, as she was now called by the locals, had reappeared to give other warnings.  Pop was always grateful he had never seen her.  Suddenly, above the smell of the locomotive,  he could smell the lake – it was overpowering.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw a woman in a long black coat with long grey hair.  Her striking blue eyes pierced his soul as she pointed her bony finger at him and said a single word, “Beware!”

At that moment, Pop saw the passenger train on the same track.  In a split second, he realized their only hope was if he could get his own train off the track or every passenger on the oncoming train would perish.  Whihala looked at him with an evil smile and disappeared.  Pop’s train flew off the track with Pop still inside.  Passengers would say later they saw a tall woman with grey hair standing over the place where Pop’s body was found.  Whihala the Witch’s black coat blended into the night to seem as if she was hovering over the lake.  With her head thrown back, her hair flowed in the wind as she howled at the moon.  They say Whihala’s evil laugh sent chills down their spines and haunts them to this day.

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