A supernatural legend has compelled Long Island locals for over forty years, and a resurgence in the popularity of paranormal phenomena amongst millennials has only increased the amount of discussion surrounding Lake Ronkonkoma. Let’s rewind for a moment and set the stage.
Lake Ronkonkoma is Long Island’s biggest freshwater body, known for its immense beauty and quiet tranquility. Located just outside of the hustle and bustle of the city, it provides a welcome escape for the creative, the dreamer, and the introvert who finds the concrete jungle overwhelming.
Many New Yorkers appreciate the peaceful atmosphere the lake provides, and it has remained a hidden gem beloved by locals for many decades.
At the turn of the century, a quaint lakeside resort was built, attracting wealthy tourists and catching the attention of William Vanderbilt, who eventually built his own private road leading from the heart of Manhattan right the shores of Ronkonkoma.
Another group of people are fond of the lake, for quite a different reason. In the 1970s, Suffolk County ghost hunters, intrigued by the whisperings of their community about a ghost upon the lake, began pilgrimaging to the shores of Lake Ronkonkoma in the hopes of catching a glimpse of what was said to be a female apparition with siren-like qualities.
There have always been strange rumors circulating about this lake. Though it is fairly normal in appearance, many believe without a shadow of a doubt that there are dangerous whirlpools in its depths. Others are convinced it is attached to a series of labyrinthian underwater tunnels leading to a river in the state of Connecticut.
None of these beliefs have much scientific bearing, as far as we know. They are likely nothing more than local folklore, passed along from parents to their children as warnings to stay away from the murky depths. Nevertheless, they have contributed to a much more terrifying legend that refuses to go away: the Lady of the Lake.
The story of the ghastly woman of the lake has a tremendously long history. Indeed, murmurs of a grief-stricken ghostly woman in a long dress circling the lake could possibly go back further than the Declaration of Independence itself.
It is said that in the 1600s, when the first settlers were beginning to colonize the Americas, a native princess fell in love with a European settler. Forbidden to see each other by the princess’ overprotective father, they rebelled against cultural norms and tense race relations, and ultimately drowned together in misery. Though his spirit moved on, hers continues to linger, centuries on, tormenting the souls of young male visitors to the lake.
Desperately and fiercely in love, the two lovers developed a plan. Unable to spend time together physically, they figured out that they could keep in touch by passing messages across the lake and occasionally speak to one another from the shores.
There are a variety of different endings to the story, and it seems that no one can agree on exactly what happened. Some say the princess, driven mad with the force of her obsessive love, attempted to cross the lake and drowned. Others believe her lover died first in his efforts to reach her, and the pain of this terrible loss compelled her to take her own love.
A decrepit rowboat is an eerie fixture in some of the tellings. In others, the mystery of the romance is centralized around the lover’s letters, cast across the slow-moving waters. Wails of mourning can be heard late at night, along with visions of the Lady pacing along the shore and unexplainable lights in the sky above the lake.
In any good old-fashioned ghost story, details matter. And this one is vivid.
If all of this sounds wildly familiar to you, you can be forgiven. It’s a tale almost as told as time, with remarkably similar tones to the classic Romeo and Juliet story of two star-crossed lovers. It’s also admittedly a beautiful and romantic story of a beautiful princess, said to be from the Setauket tribe of indigenous Americans, who refused to conform to societal expectations and as a result inevitably died for love.
It might be easy to dismiss this particular legend as a romantic fabrication derived from many similar lovelorn tales of woe, if not for the fact that a fairly persistent rumor remains to this day. Many say with absolutely certainty that one man a year drowns in the lake.
Though Suffolk County Police have never officially confirmed this, it is plausible. After all, unintentional drowning claims a startlingly high number of lives annually. Statistics indicate that drowning accidents claim about ten lives each day in the United States. Boating has been a popular activity since the lake’s heyday in the early 1900s.
There’s also another factor. The Lady’s victims of choice all fit a particularly narrow profile: young males. When you take into consideration the propensity of young men to engage in reckless, dangerous behavior, it doesn’t seem at all unreasonable that at least one man a year dies in this quiet, sleepy lake outside of New York City.
It’s a disturbing thought. The death of a young person is always tragic. But the Lady seems to take absurd, sadistic pleasure in her killings. Resentful of young men in the prime of their lives, living on in flesh and blood while she is doomed to remain in a purgatorial state for centuries, she calls to these young men. How, we can’t be certain—perhaps through black magic, perhaps through the power of suggestion, perhaps through persuasion.
In any case, the men fall under her hypnotic spell and wade into the water where they drown in the undertow.
While some might be understandably fearful of approaching a lake suspected to cause so many untimely deaths, Brooklyn Paranormal Society has decided to take up the challenge. We’ve set a date to make our own pilgrimage to Ronkonkoma: Saturday, May 19th, a day when the weather will reach a high of 66 degrees. If that isn’t a creepy numerological coincidence, we don’t know what is!
We’re not sure what we might find, but we’re prepared to take on the challenge—and we’re coming with a psychic and a shaman in tow. We’ll also be taking along a telescope in order to closely observe the skies. Over the years, there have been numerous reports of UFO sightings near the lake, along with strange lights and noises, making it a popular stakeout spot for those who believe we are not alone.
It’s possible that this suspicious activity is related to the Lady or to a different entity altogether—one that is more extraterrestrial than ectoplasmic, perhaps.
Of course, as always, we are heading out on this journey with a healthy amount of skepticism and acknowledging that we may not return with any significant findings. But we’ll keep you posted if anything interesting does happen.