When I begin the tale of "The White Lady", many readers may be rightfully confused, for there are many apparitions all around the world known as "the white lady". Any church or graveyard of sufficient age, or any grand house whose family has fallen from wealth and left their manor to ruin, may have a "white lady" who mournfully treads its grounds. In this story, though, we will cast the hundreds or thousands of these specters aside and focus solely on The White Lady of Bawden's Mill. In the rolling, limestone hills of Eastern Missouri, which are laid thick with forest and cut through by rocky creeks, lies the town of Bawden's Mill. It is as ancient as a city of the region can be: about 200 years. Somewhere in those trees lie the foundations of homesteader's cabins, where they risked everything to raise their families in the harsh frontier. For years, they huddled around their hearths trying to keep warm while keeping a weary eye on their food stocks. Somewhere in those hills are their moss covered chimney stones, their rusted tools, and their crumbled graves. The current residents number no more than two thousand. They live there, not because of the easy access to the Muddy River, which was the lifeblood of the pioneers, but to be near Highway 20. They are not there to carve a dream out of the wilderness, but because the city strikes the right balance of proximity to work and affordability. That is not to say, however, that the citizens of Bawden's Mill are completely divorced from the history of their town. They, like many people all over the world, maintain a connection with their past by way of ghost stories. In fact, Bawden's Mill is home to more ghouls and goblins than most towns of its size. For instance, there is the old school house. Constructed of stately red brick in 1910, it is now the home of a failing bed and breakfast, as well as the spirit of an old woman who walks past the windows of the second floor. Nearby, just a few minutes walk into the woods, is a very large oak tree. Its large branches reach for twenty or forty (depending on who you ask) yards in all directions. It is from these bows that three bandits were hung after robbing a stage coach. If you are there alone, and the branches are bobbing and creaking in the wind, you may see the men hanging there still. Then, there is Bawden's Mill itself. Once, it was a thriving business where the local farmers took their grains to be ground into flour. Now, it is an empty foundation along the Muddy, because, on a dark, rainy day, a stranger in a long, black coat came to the mill. He slew the miller's wife and burned the building to the ground. Teenagers looking for a place to smoke, who linger too long after sunset, will hear the piteous moans of the miller's wife or the sinister laughter of the man in black. However, no story is more told that of the White Lady. This is perhaps owing to the fact that the origin of this story is much more recent. Her first appearance dates to the summer of 1986. It was early that summer when Jane Doe (name never determined) was found face down on the bank of Muddy River. Who she was, why she was there, and who killed her has been, and will likely ever be, a mystery. The local news crews crowded the gravel road that provided the nearest access. They showed the body being carried away under a blue tarp. An artist's drawing was shown on every channel, as her real face was in no condition to be shown on air. However, there was soon nothing more to talk about. There were no witnesses, or suspects, or family, or friends. So, Jane Doe dropped out of the news cycle, as there was simply no more information to report. That was when The White Lady of Bawden's Mill was born. Later that summer, some local residents who found themselves on the river late in the evening saw a woman in a flowing white gown walking along the banks. She was later seen walking along the gravel road, until, finally, she ended up at an abandoned, clapboard church at the end of that road. It is said that the lady walks, or glides, around the overgrown grounds of the church at night. This is what Jane Doe became when she passed from this world. She was not the broken body thrown down the river bank like trash. She wears a flowing, white gown; not old and ratty clothes that were violently ripped and stained. Her hair flows over her shoulders like liquid silver; it is not the short brown hair matted with blood and tangled with leaves and twigs. Her skin is so pale and flawless that it glows in the moonlight; it is not the brown, leathery skin that told of rough living with old cigarette burns. Her eyes are either pure black or deep and sorrowful; they are not the milky lifeless eyes with burst blood vessels that told of how she met her end. The mythologized version of Jane Doe still walks the lonely churchyard to this very day. Perhaps this is how she would like to be remembered? Or would she rather be remembered as she truly was? Maybe we've redeemed her by transforming her into an ephemeral beauty. Or, maybe, we've shamed her by deeming her true attributes not fitting for our romantic ghost stories. Either way, right or wrong, the locals will continue to tell the tale of The White Lady of Bawden's Mill.