Pyramid Lake – Reno, Nevada - Atlas Obscura

Reno, Nevada

Pyramid Lake

This Nevada lake holds not only its titular natural pyramid but if the legends are true, a number of baby ghosts as well. 

The enclosed waters of Nevada’s Pyramid Lake get their name from the irregular rocky pyramid formations jutting above the waterline, but it’s what lies beneath that has fueled the majority of local legends.

From the shore of the lake, which most people might recognize as one of the default iPad background photos, conical stone formations can be seen rising out of the still waters. The limestone tufa formations were exposed when a larger ancient lake receded and today they are not only scenic but some of them are also home to a rare breed of pelican. However, according to local legend, these majestic stones are nothing compared to what lies under the water.

As one version of the story goes it was once a tradition among the local American Indian Paiute tribe to throw the bodies of malformed or otherwise undesirable babies into the waters of Pyramid Lake. Supposedly this was done in order to maintain only the strong among the tribe. However the Paiute have a similar, although much less soaked in “savagery,” version of the tale that tells of a tribesman who fell in love with a serpent/mermaid, and when he brought her back to the tribe they rejected the beast, who in turn placed a curse on the lake. After this a serpent took the form of a baby and attacked the mother that tried to feed it, only agreeing to let go of its prey once it was allowed to continue to inhabit the waters of Pyramid Lake, where it remains to this day.

No matter the version of the “water baby” myth one subscribes too, supposedly each year a few fishermen are lost on the waters of the 350-foot deep lake. 

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