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Long Island's Legends & Myths, Part II: Lady of the Lake

Another popular legend is the story of the mysterious Indian princess who haunts Lake Ronkonkoma.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the legend of Mary's Grave, and I enjoyed reading all your comments about your own experiences in search of the infamous grave. One reader asks about the legend of the Lady of Lake Ronkonkoma, which is another popular story on Long Island. It happens to be one I included in Ghosts of Long Island: Stories of the Paranormal, so I would love to share it with you here.

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. 

Stay tuned for some exciting news in my October blog! 

Kerriann Flanagan Brosky is the author of Ghosts of Long Island; Stories of the Paranormal and Ghosts of Long Island II; More Stories of the Paranormal, both available on Amazon in hardcover and e-format. www.ghostsoflongisland.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Peter September 22, 2012 at 01:01 PM
I don't know about ghosts, but one thing that really freaked me out one time was when I was driving on the road across from the beach on a very hot summer day. Conspicuously absent were people, on the beach, boaters,fishers, or any form of water recreational activities, just the barren sullen lake. Why???
Re September 23, 2012 at 02:44 PM
The lake is a glacier kettle hole that is 90 feet deep. The beach is often closed due to a high bacterial count.The chief lifeguard who did many rescues spoke of the downward pull in the lake and how the drowning victims are always male. My father used to drive from Plainview to this lake to ice skate on the solid ice as did many others. There were never any winter incidents.
AC September 23, 2012 at 03:08 PM
It's a shame that the three townships can't get together and do something to clean up this beautiful lake. The fact that it's such a huge lake, should be such a great resource for the area, and it's so dirty you can't even swim in it is tragic.
Erin Schultz September 24, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Christine Giangreco said on North Fork Patch Facebook: "grew up on the lake and lost a classmate to the lady...very sad"
Dog daze... September 27, 2012 at 12:48 PM
I enjoyed this article as well as the one about Mary's grave. Looking forward to more like them in the future!
Kerriann Flanagan Brosky September 28, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Thanks for answering Peter's question. Interesting.
Kerriann Flanagan Brosky September 28, 2012 at 04:05 PM
It is a shame. It's a beautiful place.
Kerriann Flanagan Brosky September 28, 2012 at 04:05 PM
So sorry to hear that, Erin.
Kerriann Flanagan Brosky September 28, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Thanks, Debbie! Glad you're enjoying learning about Long Island's Legends and Myths. Later in October as it gets closer to Halloween, I'll write a blog about the Legends of Sweet Hollow Road. Stay tuned!
K. September 28, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Thanks for the article. The version I always heard was that "most popular" one. I also remember hearing that there is a railroad car at the bottom (if there IS a bottom) that fell in while being barged across.
Nick Metrowsky September 30, 2012 at 05:11 PM
One of the stories, I heard growing up on Long Island, was that an Indian Chief drowned in Lake Ronkonkoma. And the reason the lake is called "bottomless", is that his body was found floating in Long Island Sound a few days later. The scientific explanation, I heard for this, was that Lake Ronkonkoma is fed by the aquifer that is the source of Long Island's water supply and that the chief's body was carried through the aquifer to Long Island Sound. As for the lady of the lake, it almost sounds like the plot to the 1959 song "Running Bear" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Running_Bear).
Peter September 30, 2012 at 06:09 PM
I'm sure glad that the chief didn't come out of my water faucet! :-)
LI Mom September 30, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Might be dirtier now, but in the 70's we grew up swimming in it, skating on it in winter (a few times it actually froze completely over) and sledding down the Islip side! I've heard several of these versions growing up as well. Not to mention going with my parents to dinner at the Bavarian Inn as well as a going to a few weddings there as I got older, such a prety setting. In the late 70's, maybe early 80's there was some massive flooding and the lake crossed Smithtown Blvd and went well into the land north of it, people said it was reclaiming it's original size from people who overdeveloped the area.
Kerriann Flanagan Brosky December 04, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Thanks for all your stories and comments! Yes! The Bavarian Inn was there!

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