White Lady of Rio Frio: A Ghostly Tale of Love and Murder

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Tony Maples Photography


The Frio River Canyon, with its cool and refreshing temperatures, hides some unique Texas mysteries, not the least of which is the appearance of what’s said to be the White Lady of Rio Frio. She’s said to be visible in a translucent fog, hazy enough to make you blink and think twice about what it is you actually saw. Rumor has it, she haunts the banks of the river as a result of her tragic love story.

The story goes that Maria Juarez and her sister lived in the canyon with Gregorio, who was a handsome vaquero married to Maria’s sister. Although Maria was far younger than her sister, they were very close, and Maria helped raise her nieces and nephews, longing for the time when she too could marry and have a family of her own. As she grew up, her brother-in-law noticed how beautiful she was becoming. Although he was married to her sister, he developed a forbidden passion for her. However, that love was unrequited. Maria fell in love with another vaquero by the name of Anselmo Tobar. He courted her, and she knew he would soon propose. When Gregorio told Maria of his love, she scoffed and told him she loved another. He flew into a rage that scared her, causing her to run home and await a visit from Anselmo, at which she would tell him of the incident.

White Lady of Rio Frio: A Ghostly Tale of Love and Murder

Photo: Pixabay

That night, Maria heard a noise outside, which she thought was Anselmo. She went out to meet him but instead was met by Gregorio. He drew a pistol, fatally shooting her directly in the heart. If he couldn’t have Maria, he wasn’t going to allow Anselmo to have her either. As curious locals came out at the sound of the gunfire, Gregorio ran to hide in the hay of a nearby barn. He spent the night there as a search party and dogs were gathered to find her killer. At that point, no one suspected Gregorio. The women of the canyon prepared Maria for burial, dressing her in the white wedding dress of her sister (hence the belief that her spirit is the White Lady of Rio Frio), and braiding her hair with white ribbons and wildflowers.

White Lady of Rio Frio: A Ghostly Tale of Love and Murder

Photo: Flickr/Poor Ole Rich

Finally, the dogs picked up Gregorio’s scent and led the search party to the barn. To everyone’s shock, he confessed to the murder, swearing his love for Maria. He was arrested and sent to trial at which he was found guilty. He was sentenced to a long prison term. Anselmo Tobar married another, years later, and went on to have a family. Maria was buried at the Rio Frio Cemetery in an unmarked grave. The story continues that because her soul wasn’t fulfilled on Earth, nor was she at rest, she roams the canyon as a spirit, comforting young children in need. On a cold night, the story says that the White Lady of Rio Frio will cover a child, or simply sit at the foot of their bed, watching over them. Children believe they have witnessed the spirit which they say is kindly and dressed all in white.