Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Long Island's Legends and Myths - Part III - Sweet Hollow Road

It's been a while since I've written my blog, for obvious reasons. Even now I am sitting here at my desk, watching the snow and the nor'easter come through. I am amazed at what Mother Nature has thrown our way. I am still haunted by the stories and images of what has been happening in people's lives due to Hurricane Sandy. I was fortunate to have gotten my power back three days after the storm. I still have family members living with me, who still have no power at home. It is absolutely incredible that any of this has happened. 

Before the hurricane, I was just coming off my book launch at the Book Revue, in Huntington for my new novel The Medal. Thank you to all those who attended. It was a standing room only event, with over 200 in attendance! I have been overwhelmed by the responses I've been getting from readers, especially now in light of our recent devastation. To hear people say they were reading my book by candlelight, and that it gave them hope and faith to get through these difficult times, makes what I do worthwhile. To learn more about my book, be sure to check out my last blog from October 5, "From Ghosts to a Mystical Saint Who Bore the Stigmata." 

So I debated when I should post this blog. My original intention was right before Halloween, and then all hell broke loose. Part of me feels like I shouldn't post it all, in light of everything that has happened. Reading a blog about Long Island's legends and myths seems so trivial compared to what is going on here, but then I thought that many of us might just need the diversion, even if it comes in just a simple blog. For those of you who have power, I hope in some small way this helps get your mind off things. For those of you still struggling, I continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers. 

Sweet Hollow Road. How many of us have driven there as teenagers at the stroke of midnight waiting to see if our cars would mysteriously turn off? It's ludicrous, I know, but people have told me countless stories of doing this very thing! I have to admit to taking my midnight blue, 1979 Camaro (with power windows, I may add) up there to see if the car would in fact, turn off. I went with my best friend, and we were terrified. Luckily nothing happened at all. Ahh...youth. 

Yet all these years later, people still bring up Sweet Hollow Road to me at my lectures. Are they true ghost stories? No. Instead, the stories that surround this road and the neighboring woods are legends and myths; stories which have become part of our culture on Long Island.  

This long and meandering road is located in the West Hills/Melville area of Huntington, and it is probably the most talked-about road on Long Island. In the early 1800’s, the area that stretched from today’s Jericho Turnpike at West Hills through Broad Hollow Road in Melville was known as Sweet Hollow. At the time, the area supposedly had an abundance of wild honey. Another story claims that a farmer was traveling there with a barrel of honey when it fell and broke, “sweetening the hollow.” In either case, it was the talk of honey that caused the locals to name the place Sweet Hollow.

By 1854, the town was beginning to develop and the name, for reasons unknown, was changed to Melville. The long stretch of trails through the woods, which eventually became a road, kept the name Sweet Hollow, as it remains today. Houses can be seen through the trees and are set away from the road. The surrounding area is comprised of a public riding stable, a state park and county parkland with trails, and a cemetery. There are places along the road where one can pull over and venture into the park, where all sorts of strange things have been said to occur. Just when and where these hideous tales originated is unknown.

One of the most well-known tales in the area is the story of the Lady in White. It is said that sometime between 1840 and 1851 a hospital was located near the crossing at Mount Misery Road. It mysteriously burned down, and many patients and staff were trapped inside. It was rebuilt fifteen years later. Only five months after the rebuilding, it supposedly was torched by an insane woman and burned to the ground again. The Lady in White, also known as Mary, was said to have been a patient at the hospital. It is rumored that moans, screams and cries for help can be heard, and even today, small burning specters can be seen. Other stories claim that the “Lady” or Mary was pushed out of a car on Sweet Hollow Road by a jealous boyfriend. While her injured body lay in the street, she was hit and killed by another car. An even earlier story goes back to the late 1600’s, and talks about Mary being a witch who was hung and buried in the area.  

Then there is a tale that there was a school at the end of the road, and the teacher who taught there killed all the children. Another version is that the school burned down, killing all the children, and still another claims that a camp counselor killed a group of children there. 

In many of these cases, there have been reports of a “veiled lady in white” wandering about the road and in the woods, especially near the area of Mount Misery Road where the hospital was. The lady is said to appear and walk right out into passing cars, terrifying their drivers until she quickly disappears. Some say, if she was the woman who was hit by the car, that she roams the street looking for her killer.  

Another source I came across mentioned a lady in red who was actually a gypsy, and is said to occasionally roam the area, as well as a man in a checkered shirt who walks the woods at night, carrying an ax in his hand.  

The most hideous and terrifying ghost I heard about was that of a slain police officer. As the story goes, there is a police officer who stops cars parked on Sweet Hollow Road. The officer seems normal until he turns around and has blood on his uniform, and the back of his head is missing. An officer is said to have died in the area while on duty. When and if this ever happened, no one seems to know for sure. 

Non-human ghosts are also said to haunt Sweet Hollow Road and include a black Labrador, a horse and a mysterious dog-like creature. The “Black Dog of Misery,” as the Labrador is called, is “an evil creature rumored to be a harbinger of death.” It is quite rare for anyone to see the dog, but if you do, it’s supposed to mean that death is on the horizon.  

The ghostly horse has been seen and chased into the woods near the crossroads of Mount Misery Road and Sweet Hollow. Once it enters the woods, it simply vanishes. In addition, there have been sightings of a dog-like creature who digs along where the woods meet the road, then stands on its hind legs and walks back into the woods. 

One of the most recent ghost stories is about a teenager or several teenagers who hung themselves from the Northern State Parkway overpass in the 1970’s. If you honk your car’s horn three times right before going under the overpass, it is said you will see the kids. A different version states that two boys were killed when they were hit by a car on Sweet Hollow Road. According to the story, they were unaware of the car heading toward them because the driver didn’t beep the horn. They say that today, if you don’t beep your horn before going under the overpass, the ghostly boys will jump in front of your car.  

Finally, there is the story of a thirteen-year old girl who was beaten and strangled in 1976. Her murdered body was found along the road. Supposedly the killer was never found, and the case remains unsolved.

So beware as you travel along this haunted roadway. You'll never know who, or what, you may run into.