The Brooklyn Paranormal Society was featured on Channel Surfing. No audio because I ripped it, since millennials don’t have cable.
The supernatural legend of the Lady of the Lake 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.
BKPS met to investigate whether BAM could home the spirit of Marian Anderson.
Born to blue-collar Philadelphians, Marian Anderson expressed talent in singing from a young age.
She began studying music independently in her teens and early twenties, after being turned away from the Philadelphia Music Academy. At the time, the institution upheld a whites-only policy.
Far from being deterred by racial prejudice and economic disadvantage, Marian gained notoriety as an opera singer and went on to tour Europe extensively in the 1920s.
Unlike their American counterparts, European audiences were seemingly more accepting of a black contralto, and Marian was beloved by her fans.
Back on American soil, Marian faced severe opposition from the white elite. She performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1938, but a year later, the tides turned.
During a historic turning point in the civil rights movement, Anderson was denied the opportunity to perform on Washington, DC’s prestigious Constitution Hall stage. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) who owned the hall and oversaw its performances were unwilling to offer non-segregated seating.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who served on the board, was unnerved by the blatant racism of her fellow Daughters and chose to resign out of respect for Marian. She went a step further and organized a special Easter Sunday performance for Marian at the Lincoln Memorial.
To a crowd of 75,000, Marian, raised a devout Baptist, performed a series of traditional hymns in her operatic style said to be full of “intrinsic beauty.” Later, she expressed gratitude to her audience, stating, “I am just so overwhelmed today that I cannot express myself properly. You don’t know what you have done for me.”
While stories like Ms. Anderson’s may sound antiquated, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
If perhaps she, like us, was disturbed by the racial divisions in modern-day America, and hoped to offer some positivity to the brokenhearted and the downcast. This was no small feat. I understood the gravity of what I was attempting.
With nothing but respect for the Anderson family, I decided to invite a small group of members to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where Marian performed over a dozen times in the late 1930s.
If she was, in fact, still lingering around Brooklyn, this seemed the most likely place to investigate.
Female psychics, and detectives set out to explore BAM for Marian Anderson’s spirit.
It was this knowledge that inspired my latest venture into the paranormal side of Brooklyn. I wondered if perhaps Marian Anderson’s spirit was still within reach.
The coven consisted of psychic-empath Cindy and psychic-medium Elaine, investigator Tina, and student-journalist Comice.
A Lead Points to Fort Greene
Passing twice daily when commuting, I often note a large “refugees welcome” sign. It’s always stood out to me, particularly in comparison to the other churches on the same stroll, which are authoritative and more traditional in appearance.
Acting on a tip, I set out from Bed Stuy on a brisk night; the temperature ebbing around the freezing mark. Each step against the wind pained me, as my thoughts slowed to a crawl inline with my pace.
Inching toward the church, I pondered my chances of finding evidence: Not high. Considering never before had I any inkling of this holy site hosting paranormal peeps, tonight probably wouldn’t be the night.
My source duteously informed me of unusual activity that could be paranormal. The report included extreme temperature fluctuations in the general vicinity of the “church sign”, and a sorrowful presence that affected the self-professed empathic reporter greatly.
Being midway through December, this tip that the sidewalk near the church was “physically a bit warmer” than other areas seemed especially curious. When investigating other instances* similar in nature, I found reasonable sources for abnormal events.
* Some ghost hunters say a cold spot is an area of localized coldness, or a sudden drop in ambient temperature. On investigations, they’ll use digital thermometers or heat sensing devices to measure temperature changes to record data.
Finding a cold spot seemed unlikely in the frigid temperatures, with my face unable to register temperatures below 40. After researching, I found a source which indicated “hot hot-spots” were significantly rarer than their cooler counterparts.
Numb to the cold, I stood firm documenting the temperatures of the concrete and church signage, hoping to hit the jackpot; an unexplainable warm-to-the-touch spot.
Turns out, Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church (located in Fort Greene) has a rich and fascinating history. Founded in the 1850s by abolitionists, today the church’s pastor, Rev. David F. Telfort, continues to dedicate much of his time to issues relating to social justice. The church is known to be a safe and welcoming space for immigrants, refugees, and minorities.
As I investigated the church and its surroundings, I maintained a reasonable level of skepticism. I will say with confidence that I personally didn’t encounter any unusual patches of warmth on the sidewalk or anywhere near the church. However, the morbid sense of longing and sadness did make itself known to me.
I don’t consider myself an overly intuitive person and have never claimed to possess any particular psychic abilities, but my work with Brooklyn Paranormal Society has enabled me to make use of some exciting and innovative new technologies that lift the veil to the other side, in a sense, and expose some of the mysterious happenings we might otherwise fail to notice.
As I gazed upon the architecture, my attention was diverted to my iPhone. The ghost hunting app M2 Ghost Hunter, revealed in rather uncharacteristic rapid succession – three words; supposed communications from the spirits. At first glance, this appeared to be a bleak and somewhat disturbing message.
Reflecting on Fort Greene
Recall the significance of the location. Do your best to visualize Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian in the mid-1800s, its congregation joining together in worship, its abolitionist theology wildly subversive. It’s plausible that tremendous despair and sorrow followed many of the members of this congregation from their former homes.
Such a place could certainly be a conduit for mournful spirits, perhaps those left in a liminal state, unable to safely cross over after an unjust or violent death. Then again, this church was also a place of freedom. It served as a safe haven for human beings deemed by the law to be unworthy of basic rights. It opened its doors to the oppressed, offered them a second chance, allowed them to join in the spirit of redemption.
People of all races broke bread together right here in Fort Greene. Doesn’t it seem just as likely that immense peace and healing also took place on this very spot? Perhaps the spirits left lingering were not trying to communicate their anger or sorrow through the M2, but their joyful liberation.
As I contemplated the strange words revealed to me on my phone screen I suddenly recalled an ancient term well known amongst the paranormal community. The concept of “egregore” originated in the occult, but was repurposed by Gaetan Delaforge in Gnosis Magazine in 1987. He defines it as “a kind of group mind that is created when people come together for a common purpose.’”
The contemporary meaning is less sinister than the original, which refers specifically to a collective psychic entity with the power to influence thoughts. Mind control conspiracies aside, I believe that both definitions could apply in this case.
Possibly, the souls of these parishioners are still crying out for change, attempting to reach the hearts of people still living in Fort Greene. The simple three words conveyed to me through the M2 could be viewed in either a negative or positive light. It all depends on how one chooses to interpret the message.
Anthony Long is the Chief Ectoplasm Officer for the Brooklyn Paranormal Society.