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.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Long Island's Legends and Myths - Mary's Grave

Legends and myths abound on Long Island, and I'm sure many of you are familiar with several of them. Probably the most well known legend is that of Mary's Grave. How many of you have searched for the infamous grave of the lady in white?  

For generations, people have been looking for its location. Some claim it is located in the woods off Mount Misery Road in the West Hills area of Huntington. Other stories place her grave in Stony Brook, Head of the Harbor and Mt. Sinai. Who is Mary though? 

The legend of Mary herself, who doesn’t seem to have a last name, has changed several times over the years. One story claims that Mary murdered her two children and her husband, and because of doing this dreadful deed, she cannot rest peacefully in her grave. It is said that her tombstone has her birth date but no death date, and the location of her gravesite is a center for strange happenings. Supposedly, if the tombstone is found and you shine a flashlight on it at night, the face of Mary appears. 

Another story claims that Mary became possessed by an evil spirit. She was a lonely girl who was the daughter of a wealthy landowner. She didn’t have any friends because the family lived some distance from town, so she kept herself occupied with her animal friends. Her father built her a stone clubhouse on their property, where she played with the animals. As the story goes, it was at the clubhouse where she became possessed. She started mutilating the animals she had loved, and then set out to kill her brother and father with an ax. As time went on, the townsfolk wondered where the landowner was. When people came to the house to check on him, they found Mary sleeping in bed next to her dead father, who was covered in blood. Mary was hung by the townspeople in a nearby tree. This tree is said to still exist, although no one seems to know where. Burn marks from the rope supposedly can be seen on the tree branch, and the tree itself appears to be dead all year long. It is rumored that her stone clubhouse exists somewhere in Stony Brook on private property.  

In the 1960’s and 1970’s there was another story surrounding the Stony Brook location where the grave was said to be located. Young men were considered brave if they went up to the haunted gravesite and urinated on it. However,  rumor has it that whoever did so would get into a car crash on his way home, trying to avoid hitting a ghostly girl wearing a white dress.

There is also said to be a stone clubhouse located somewhere in Head of the Harbor. This particular story states that the father was abusive, and would abuse Mary at the site of the stone clubhouse he made for her. Not being able to bear it any longer, Mary took her own life by hanging herself in a tree. Her body was buried somewhere nearby, and her gravesite contains an angelic statue. The statue appears to be crying, and some believe it is Mary crying for other abused girls that she cannot protect.

Finally, there is the story of Mary’s grave being on the old Chandler estate in Mt. Sinai. When Mrs. Chandler converted her house to a boarding house, a girl named Mary came to stay. Supposedly, she had been a patient at Kings Park Psychiatric Center. Whether Mrs. Chandler was aware of this or not is unknown, but as the story goes, Mary disappeared suddenly and Mrs. Chandler was concerned about her whereabouts. The rent had not been paid, yet her room looked still lived in. At night, the lights were said to go on in her room when nobody was there, and strange noises could be heard. Mrs. Chandler was quite worried, but never did she see Mary again.  

Have you searched for Mary's grave?