By Katie Hudson-Martinez/feature editor
(Second in a three-part series on haunted places in Tarrant County.)
Inverness castle looms over the shore of Lake Worth on Heron Drive in west Fort Worth.
When the first rooms of the castle were built in 1860, the site was virtually in the wilderness, centered in a vast forest of trees and by a lake.
The home’s exterior is built entirely of stone and has two round, three-story towers.
The main house is almost 6,000 square feet and has a smaller guesthouse built of the same rock.
The property has changed hands numerous times and has fallen into disrepair.
Almost all of the windows have been boarded up, and a tall razor wire fence has been put up around the house to keep curiosity seekers out.
Signs posted on the gates warn the property is monitored by video surveillance.
LEGEND OF THE HOUSE
The legend surrounding the haunting of Inverness, or Lake Worth, castle goes back to the original owners of the property.
According to the most popular version of the story, a young man built the original wing of the house in 1860 as a gift for his future bride.
The two had planned to marry inside the house upon its completion, but the day of the wedding, the young woman was found floating face down just off the shore of Lake Worth.
Officials never determined whether the woman’s death was murder or accident, but the groom married the woman’s sister a month later and moved into the house.
Not long after that, the sightings began.
Witnesses reported seeing an apparition of a woman in a white dress, running from the house toward the lake before vanishing at the water’s edge.
The property changed hands several times, and was acquired by the Whiting family in 1920 after being staked and lost in a poker game.
The Whiting family lived in the house for many years but suffered multiple tragedies there.
First, a young son committed suicide inside the castle. Soon after, the estate was gutted by fire.
After that, the property’s tax records show many owners of the property, but they scarcely stayed for more than a year or two.
Dozens of ghost sightings have been reported there, from the woman in white to a handsome young man, believed to be the Whitings’ young son.
The property was eventually sold to the City of Fort Worth, and much of the land was used in the Lake Worth Project.
In recent past, the city auctioned off the property, purchased by Houston developers for $270,000.
No word yet on new plans for the property, but it has been renamed “The Castle at Heron Bay,” according to a Web site at www.castleofheronbay.com.
Carmen Montoya, who lives in the area, thought she saw something there last year.
After she and her family moved into the neighborhood, their new neighbors passed on the story of the castle.
Intrigued, they decided see it for themselves.
“ We were parked outside of the house, and my husband was messing with the radio,” she said. “I thought I saw a young man in one of the windows so I turned to my husband and said, ‘Oh my God, look!’
“ When I turned back, there was nothing there. It could have just been my nerves; I don’t know. But I won’t go down there anymore.”
The home is clearly visible from the road, but trespassing past the front gates is prohibited.
RIVER LEGACY PARK
River Legacy Park, an expansive recreation center in Arlington, covers some 1,300 acres. Much of the acreage remains heavily wooded, just as it was hundreds of years ago.
On any given day, hundreds of people enjoy the peaceful surroundings, but few of them have heard the legends surrounding various areas of the park.
One such story says the forested areas were killing fields during the Civil War.
Three different areas of the park are reported to be haunted.
The screaming bridge is supposedly where several young girls died in a car accident.
It is said that on some dark nights one can hear the girls’ screams trailing off under the bridge.
Another area of the park, frequented by couples, is known to some as a make-out point.
It is in this area that a homeless man answered a woman’s screams for help and found a man beating her severely.
The homeless man tried to intervene but was stabbed repeatedly and left to die.
People have reported seeing a “hobo” wandering around only to have him suddenly vanish.
The most widely reported haunting of the park is around an area deeply embedded in the forested area of the park.
Hell’s Gate, as it has been known for hundreds of years, was the location of an outpost during the Civil War.
Supposedly, hundreds of men and a few women were hung from the enormous tree just inside “the gate.”
Many people have reported seeing apparitions of Confederate soldiers, and even more have sworn they have heard whispering or crying along the trail, even though the area is completely desolate.
The area is difficult to find.
FOLLOWING THE TRAIL
The narrow, two-mile trail goes through an area where trees have grown together to make a tunnel with a swamp on both sides.
Upon exiting the tunnel, one enters a vast clearing and can see a towering, old tree.
This is where so many people died violent deaths.
The old gate is long gone, but two antique wooden fence posts remain at the end of the trail.
A maintenance employee of the park said he has heard the rumors but remains unfazed.
“ I just do my job. I don’t worry about all that,” he said.
“ I’ve never seen or heard anything, and I probably wouldn’t believe it if I did see it.”
The River Legacy Park main entrance is on Green Oaks Boulevard near Cooper Street in Arlington.
The park is open 7 days a week 5 a.m.-10 p.m. Admission is always free.