When you first hear the words “Lake Elsinore” you imagine a quiet community with majestic mountains and expensive lake front homes. The kind of a place where the rich and famous might go to get away from it all. But faced with hot, almost rain less summers and some mild, wetter winter it is a place you could often dream about. But today’s lake Elsinore is a far cry from a sleepily resort town in your dreams.
Established as a city in 1888 a natural freshwater lake about 3,000 acres depending on how much rainfall there is to fill it. It was the same year The National Geographic Society is founded in Washington, D.C. The same year of the famous White chapel murders: The mutilated body of London prostitute Mary Ann Nichols is found. She is considered the first victim of famous Jack the Ripper. But how could this relate to Lake Elsinore?
During WWII it was an important place for the sky blue lake was used to test seaplanes, and a Douglas Aircraft plant, long gone was making wing assemblies for Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers was located in the city. The lake also hosted teams for Olympic training and high-speed boat racing in the 1920’s.
By 1950 the lake was in danger of going dry, but by 1960 it was back to its former glory. The level of the water is depended on how much rain falls. You would suppose with the lake level going down, some people might have been nervous that submerged objects might be seen. Of course I suppose no one will ever know what objects the crisp blue water is hiding. As a result of the “Great Flood of 1862”, the level of the lake was very high, so the Union Army created a post at the lake to graze and water their horses. But in just a few years 1862–65 drought, most of the cattle in Southern California died and the lake level fell in 1867, when practically no rain fell to nourish the thirsty earth.
Many of the famous homes still stand on the hills surrounding the lake, including Aimee’s Castle, a unique Moorish-style house built by Aimee Semple McPherson. Famous actor Bela Lugosi, known for his lead role in Universal Pictures’ film, Dracula, built a home that might still exist in the city’s Country Club Heights district.
But with all of the famous people who called Lake Elsinore home, you have many who were just a first name in the serial killings of 1991. The count was 17 in all, with some found in Lake Elsinore. Others were found in Riverside County if you need a name.
Of course a sleepy resort town does not need this publicity. People in the Chamber of Commerce are not happy and were very vocal. The merchants in the quaint 1920 style Main Street were not happy either. While it was bad for business, it removed some of the luster the resort town was trying to become known for.
History books tell of a leaked internal Riverside police memo, with a sketch of a man seen with a victim and wanted for questioning, got posted in the window of a print shop before sheriff’s investigators had even seen it.
But one of the facts that many of them were prostitutes strolling the short blocks of Main Street here had been grounds for complaints long before they were to become a number on some paper with the dry ink never to be changed.
The city likes to call itself the “playground of the Inland Empire.” More recently it has been changed to “Dream Extreme” which I suppose sounds a lot better. Two signs on a freeway overpass only cost $250,000 with half paid by the Outlets. The new words hope to make Lake Elsinore have reputation as a destination for adventurous outdoor sports such as high-speed boating and water-skiing, off-road racing, hang gliding and skydiving to name a few.
But with a nice blue lake to help promote water sports on a lake that is unpredictable might be a problem. The city is stabilizing the lake and building plenty of parks. The designer outlet mall is in place for another shopping experience. Brick-fronted Main Street has being reworked to 1920s quaintness which is supposed to attract new customers. Then a 1992 tax vote to double the number of sheriff’s deputies to cope with complaints about response time.
Some bodies were found within a couple of miles of the First Southern Baptist church, whose congregation is mostly made up of the new families who might come here for cheaper houses and clean air and, perhaps, a safer haven to live in.
But we will never know if more than the 17 women killed by the serial killer might be hiding in the cool blue water of the lake. No one will ever know if any evidence is submerged in the deep water where only the fish go, who will never tell a secret.