Friday, September 21, 2012

Long Island's Legends and Myths - Part II - Lady of the Lake

There have been many tales surrounding Lake Ronkonkoma in Long Island’s Suffolk County. Because it is a story that has been passed down through the ages, I have come across several versions. As we know in our own lives, stories can often take on a life of their own, getting wilder or more exaggerated each time they’re  told. What once may have been a simple tale becomes something much more complex and possibly even farfetched. In this blog, I’ll recount all the versions I have come across. There are some common threads in these legends, as you will see, which may actually reveal to us the “true” story of the Lady of the Lake.

Lake Ronkonkoma is Long Island’s largest freshwater lake, and a beautiful one at that. For years it has been rumored that this lake has no bottom; it goes on and on into the depths of the earth. Some have said that there is a series of underwater tunnels that lead out to Long Island Sound, or to a river in Connecticut. Others say the water mysteriously rises and lowers, and yet another story says there are reports of whirlpools. How these myths came about no one knows. They set the stage, however, for our Indian legend.

The most popular story tells of an Indian princess who was deeply in love with a member of her tribe. On the night of the wedding, her husband-to-be was attacked and murdered by a settler. The princess, totally swept away by grief, decided to take her own life by tying rocks to her ankles and walking out to the middle of the lake, where she ultimately drowned. Her body was never found, but her spirit remains and haunts the lake. The legend says the princess was so distraught that, seeking revenge, she vowed to return each year and claim the body of a young virgin male. Supposedly, one male a year has drowned in the lake, although this has never been confirmed by the Suffolk County Police. The ghostly princess dressed in a long flowing gown is said to sadly roam the perimeter of the lake, where she seeks young men to lure into its waters. Noises and strange unexplainable lights have been heard and seen coming from the lake. It is said that these are the cries of the princess’s unending grief.

Another version of the story states that the princess committed suicide for  unknown reasons, and that her lover dived in after her but could not save her. The woman’s body was found, but mysteriously in a river in Connecticut.

Then there is a version where the beautiful princess fell in love with a pale- faced settler, and was not permitted to marry him. She was so distraught that she went off on her own and canoed into the middle of the lake. When the settler went after her, he found her dead in the canoe He then got into the canoe, and as the story goes, he was swept away and was never seen again. The drownings that are mentioned every year are supposedly caused by a curse that was placed on the lake.

The last of the Indian princess legends simply states that the Native American woman was sacrificed at the lake to appease a god. No other information is given.  

There does exist one story involving a Setauket Indian male. It is similar to the princess story, in that he was not permitted to marry his love. But in this case, it was he who paddled his canoe out onto the lake and committed suicide by plunging a knife into his heart. Supposedly it was his body, rather than that of the Indian princess, that was found in a Connecticut river. 

Did any of these events really happen? Interestingly enough, there are many similarities in the stories. To this day no one knows the truth, but neither can anyone explain the strange sounds they hear coming off the waters of mysterious Lake Ronkonkoma.


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