The lady of the lake is a tale almost as old as time. However, Washington’s lady of the lake did not give Arthur the magical sword Excalibur, rather she gave us soap. And to make matters more unique, she actually became soap. If this sounds too unreal to be true, buckle your seatbelts because this tale of Washington’s Lake Crescent is quite true.
Before we dive in, we have to warn you that this story is sad, and entails violence. It’s not for the faint of heart but if you like true crime and Washington state history, this will be right up your alley. Without further adieu, here is the story of Lake Crescent’s lady of the lake.
In 1940, a mysterious blanketed bundle floated to the top of Lake Crescent’s surface. Upon opening the bundle, authorities found a woman’s body. The woman had been strangled and her face was unrecognizable yet she had not decomposed. Rather her skin had turned into a soap-like substance in a process known as saponification and her skin could be “scooped away like putty”.
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The public was understandably captivated by the grisly discovery especially considering that Lake Crescent is over 600 feet deep in parts and notorious for never giving up its dead. Due to the publicity that the discovery garnered, the pressure was on to find the identity of the woman and her killer. After lots of examining, a medical student found an upper dental plate and was able to connect it to Hallie Latham Illingworth, a local woman missing since 1937.
Illingworth’s identity was confirmed after a South Dakota dentist was able to confirm that he made the plate for her. From there, all eyes were on Illingworth’s husband, Montgomery “Monty” J. Illingworth. Monty was a beer truck driver and notorious ladies man who had conveniently left the state with another woman years earlier. He said that Hallie had run off with another man years prior but her family and friends had heard absolutely zip from her. You can see where this is going.
In the end, Monty was convicted of second-degree murder. He had brutally murdered Hallie during an argument and wrapped her body in blankets, weighing it down, hoping that the lake would keep her forever. Obviously, karma had its kiss for him and he served 9 years in prison until 1951 when he was paroled.
Today the lake is still known for its lady but also for being a pristine, cold, and very blue lake. It’s a beloved part of Olympic National Park and definitely worth checking out if you’re planning a trip to the area. You can learn more about the lady of the lake at HistoryLink’s website.