Cameron Park has developed its own lore, a stable of tales ranging from grieving ghosts to the death pact of star-crossed lovers.
With its acres of tangled trees, twisting paths and sheer, high cliffs, is it any wonder that the park is the setting to a colorful yarn or two?
The Legend of Lovers Leap may be the most well-known tall tale to come out of Cameron Park.
It’s probably because the romantic story is such an ideal accessory to one of the most scenic spots in the park — the limestone precipice called Lovers Leap.
Forbidden lovers from opposing tribes are cornered on the cliff by the young woman’s father and tribe.
The Native American Romeo and Juliet embrace before leaping to their deaths together, rather than live apart.
As Decca Lamar West wrote in the 1912 story, “Legend of Lover’s Leap”:
“It is said that sometimes when the spring rains presage a flood, and the moon shines bright; when the mockingbirds make vocal the still night air, one may see on the cliff the flitting figures of a youth and maid.
“Perhaps it is only vouchsafed to those whose hearts are ever young!”
Another version of the legend said that when the Bosque River reaches far above its banks, one can hear the whispers of the young lovers.
The Legend of Lindsey Hollow was captured by author Virginia Ming in “The Handbook of Waco and McLennan County.”
As legend has it, settlers on the Brazos River formed a posse one day to find the cattle rustlers who had been stealing from them.
The group came upon the Lindsey brothers as they were trying to hide the stolen cattle. One brother was shot on the spot and the other was taken back to town.
A posse member, already angry, became enraged along the way and shot the other Lindsey brother in the back.
The killing scared the settlers and they abandoned the body where it lay — a hollow on the edge of town.
The residents returned the next day to bury him in a shallow grave. But the grave was dug too narrow and to this day, the Lindsey brother walks the hollow.
Other versions of the legend attribute the bright red wildflowers in the hollow to the Lindsey blood spilled long ago.
Witch’s Castle may be one of the most elusive of the Cameron Park legends, which is probably why it continues to intrigue visitors.
According to various ghost lore websites, Witch’s Castle is supposed to consist of the remains of a house and is a full-sensory fright, reeking of corpses and broadcasting all sorts of screams, gasps and banging.
Some intrepid Tribune-Herald reporters sought out the site in 2004, rumored to be in a scrubby area far west of Cameron Park Drive.
They found a crumbling stone archway and a wide foundation. After being scared by what they decided was the gasps of a ghost, the young crew bolted.
According to some neighbors, the house or “castle” that had been destroyed by a fire has been the topic of ghost stories for decades.
Would-be castle hunters may want to let the Witch’s Castle just live on in lore.
Neighbors in the area told the Tribune-Herald reporters that they do not take kindly to ghost hunting troublemakers.
Plenty of lesser-known park lore exists, such as the ghost of the motorcycle pits.
According to the Waco Parks and Recreation Department, one theory is that the ghost is a mother of a young man who died in an accident riding his motorcycle in pits, which were trails downhill from Lovers Leap popular with motorcyclists during the 1970s.
The grieving mother visited the pits to mourn her son and continued to do so after her own death.
It’s also rumored that an unexplainable light can be seen as you come down to the bottom of the Seven Sisters trail.
The light appears to be coming from the other direction in the distance, about where the motorcycle pits were.
According to a 1998 Baylor University study of the history of Cameron Park, there also have been tales of buried treasure.
Alva Stem, former parks director, told an interviewer that when he was a child, he heard rumors of buried treasure in the park.
Later, as an adult, a man came to Stem’s office talking about buried treasure that lies somewhere between Lovers Leap and Emmons Cliff.
The man was later found dead on the slopes of Lovers Leap.