Lake Ronkonkoma: photo taken 6/24/15
Every year, someone drowns in Lake RonkonkomaCopyright Gaston Phillips
Local rumors from Long Island about a supposedly haunted lake. (With links.)
Lake Ronkonkoma, on Long Island, is a kettle lake, formed by glaciers.
There are legends about indian princesses drowning in it, told by teenagers.
I found this on a local teen's homepage. I'll include the link, but I warn
you: There's an amazingly annoying audio file that plays automatically.
"Now I'll tell you some about my town. Notice the weird name? There's a
reason for that. The lake that's in my town is named after a Native American princess named Ronkonkoma. There's also a legend that goes along with it.
A long time ago, before the settlers pushed all of the Natives onto
reservations, different tribes lived around the lake. Ronkonkoma's tribe was one of them. One day, she met a prince from the other side of the lake, and fell in love with him. But Ronkonkoma's parents soon found out that the prince was from another tribe, so she was forbidden to see him. But nothing would stop Ronkonkoma from seeing her prince. Late one night, her prince tried to swim across the lake to get to her. On the way over, he drowned in the middle of the lake. Ronkonkoma went out after him, but she, too, drowned. Neither of them were ever seen again. It is said that, each year, Ronkonkoma comes back and takes the live of one teenage boy, since she's still looking for her lost love . . . . . . . Isn't that sweet? So far, the legend has been true. Each year, one teenage boy does get drowned!
Or.... something like that, anyway.
Lake Ronkonkoma (the lake) is bottomless. They've never found the bottom to it! (I think) It was formed by the glaciers back in the last ice age. It's
fed by an underground stream."
The following site seems a bit more reputable:
"Legends swirl about Lake Ronkonoma. A pamphlet, "Nesaquake Tales," at the Smithtown Public Library, written by the late Huntington town historian
Rufus B. Langhans, tells the story of an Indian maiden who was sacrificed to appease the Great Spirit, Manitou. "Heather Flower and Other Indian Stories of Long Island" by Verne Dyson, contains another legend, "The Troubled Spirit of the Lake." In this version, a broken-hearted Indian princess tied weights around her ankles, rowed out to the middle of the lake, slipped over the side and was never seen again. Her remorseful lover dived into the lake and searched for her body. He failed but as the story goes, her body was found floating in a Connecticut river some weeks later. Her grieving parents brought her back to Long Island and she was buried with honors at Montauk Point. But Indians believed that her spirit haunted the lake and caused whirlpools, waves, moaning sounds and other mysterious events. "Three Waves: The Story of Lake Ronkonkoma" by Ann Farnum Curtis, also tells about legends surrounding the lake. "Heather Flower" and "Three Waves" are both available in many of our public libraries. " (http://www.lihistory.com/3/hs369a.htm)
And, from the same site,
"Q. There is an American Indian legend regarding a curse on Lake Ronkonkoma put there by one of two warring Indian tribes living on opposite sides of the lake, the curse being that a male child would drown in the lake every year until eternity. Do you have any information about this legend?
- Ginny Hedlund, Northport
A number of years ago, a Newsday investigative reporter, seeking to test this legend, spent hours looking at old clippings in the Newsday library.
Sure enough, for the several years that he studied, at least one young boy
had drowned in Lake Ronkonkoma every summer. This may make you want to believe the legend, but to me it means that the lake can be a dangerous place for young swimmers. The lake, the largest on Long Island, is called a kettle lake, having been formed millions of years ago by a glacier. It has been the subject of many legends, all of them seemingly told by American Indians. Another one is that of a young Indian chief who fell in love with a pretty maiden who failed to requite his love. Despondent, he paddled out to the middle of the lake, dove deeply and never surfaced, giving rise to a belief that the lake had no bottom. Later, the story goes, the chief's body was found in Great South Bay. We know, however, that the spring-fed lake has no outlets, so this story is a conundrum."
Haunted Lake Ronkonkoma
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 12:36 | Written by Cathy Nance |
One of the places I lived as a child was on Long Island in a place called Ronkonkoma, New York. I have wonderful memories of the town. I remember enjoying the things to do in the area and spending time with great friends. One activity we had was to go to the lake. This lake had many stories attached to it which I was fascinated by. The lake was haunted by the ghost of an Indian princess. When I was in the water I never went too far out because I wondered how I would react to her touching me. One day I spent the day ice skating on the lake and wondering if she would break the ice. I was not so worried about her hurting me because the stories all really involved her needing a man or a young couple. I remember laying on my stomach on the cold ice trying to hear her or see if I could see her. It was too cold to stay like that for long. While driving along the lake I have seen a fog hanging over the lake that looked eerie. I saw lights and could not figure out if they were boats or what they were. One day while riding along Lake Shore Road from out of nowhere a dog came running into a car next to us. I was very upset until the dog got up and ran away. When I went home and told some friends about it they all said it was the lady who did it. Everyone who lives there knows the stories. Let me give you some history of the lake.
Lake Ronkonkoma is known as a kettle hole lake that was carved out by a retreating glacier 20,000 years ago. It is the largest lake on Long Island..The lake was considered the most sacred lake by the Indians and it was the meeting point between different tribes. It was settled by Europeans in the 1600s. In the 1900s there was a population explosion due to the waters of the lake being known at that time as having healing qualities. The lake was considered a resort and a place for summer homes. Today you can see evidence of the early 1900s in remnants of old resorts which can still be seen around the lake's shore.
The lake has of a number of urban legends. There is a mysterious rise and fall of the lake that doesn't have a relationship to local rainfall totals. There is fresh water coming in from an unknown source. With this in mind it is said that there is a tunnel that leads to Connecticut and another one that leads to Sayville New York. One tunnel is said to lead to hell. The lake been rumored to be bottomless, however it is really approximately 100 ft deep at the southeastern side. The bottom is hard to find because of the loose particles at the bottom. Piranha are said to inhabit the lake. There have been stories of people being attacked by piranha most likely from people dumping live fish into the lake that they could no longer care for. Some say the bites have to come from pike which are well known to be moderately aggressive.
The most prevalent stories concerning the lake come from the legend of "The Lady of the Lake". In one story every year the lady calls a young man between 18 and 28 years old out to be her lover. She lures them to the middle of the lake and drowns them. The most popular story is that every year two lovers are killed by the vengeful spirit. They usually die in an automobile accident. Who is this "Lady of the Lake"?
The lady is a Native American princess who herself drowned in the lake. Her death story varies from it being an accident to a suicide. The Native American Princess Ronkonkoma fell in love with a European settler named Hugh Birdsall. She was forbidden to pursue the relationship and was forced into an arranged marriage. The forbidden relationship however persisted. One evening she tried to swim all the way across the lake to meet her lover. On the way she suffered fatigue and drowned. One variation is that she rowed to the middle of the lake in a canoe to await her lover and when he did not come she committed suicide by drowning herself. Another variation is that he was coming to join her and drowned so she decided to join him in death because she was too overwhelmed by grief. There are several other variations to the story.
The fact is that locals and historians will claim that almost every year for 200 years someone has drowned in the lake and it is usually a male. From 1877 to 1977 there were at least 147 drownings. Another fact is 32 deaths by drowning in the lake have taken place since1963 and are all men.One lifeguard said that in 32 years of being at the lake there have been at least 30 drownings that he was aware of.
Sometimes I think about Lake Ronkonkoma. I would love to be able to go back and run the equipment that I have now to see what is there. I do believe legends are born from some truth. I know some of the facts about the lake help perpetuate the urban legend. Whether the legend is true or not the stories are fantastic to toss around a campfire! Would you go swimming in the lake now?