Lady of The Lake Legend

Spirit Dwells at The Bottom of Lake Ronkonkoma


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I wrote this article about 15 years ago for a geocities website I used to maintain. Geocities, as some of us old time web surfers are well aware, vanished into never never land many moons ago. The original article can still be found cached here and there but you have to look really hard. This is the updated version.


" On the frozen Lake Ronkonkoma a young woman breathed her last when the faithful ice had failed her and her fateful die was cast. She was grieving for the husband that was killed before they wed, who was murdered by a white man ere they shared their marriage bed.' It has said that every year , another male drowns in the waters of this Lake , and every year a family grieves and holds a wake from the wrath and vengeance of eons past of the Lady of the Lake" [Author Unknown]


As a youngster my interest was aroused in the legends and tales circulating that pertained to Lake Ronkonkoma . My family home at the time was on Maple Crest Drive in Ronkonkoma, and later on Fifth Street in the same town. Many summer days were spent gallivanting on the shores of the infamous Lake .

Tales of people drowning there and their bodies turning up in the Long Island Sound, the East River, or even Connecticut were common.. Most were just tall tales, and nothing more. But one legend persists and has proven to be a hard nut to Crack , that is the The Legend of The Lady of The Lake.

My personal Run in With The Lady of the Lake

I recall very clearly one incident, I couldn't have been more than seven years old, I was wading in the lake with some neighborhood children. I started swimming out much further than prudence dictated, at that age prudence evaded me and even kryptonite didn't scare me. As I got a short distance from the group I heard someone beckoning to me to come further out, in my mind I believed it was my elder sister , but I later came to the realization that she wasn't even at the Lake that day.

Mesmerized by the beckoning I started swimming out further and further from the group. I was brought to my senses when an older girl from the neighborhood swam to me, grabbed me by the arm harshly scolded me, and ordered me back to shore. Kryptonite didn't scare me, but teenage girls .. that was another matter altogether... This incident was quickly tucked away into a musty nook in the attic of my mind, only to be recollected years later as I began reading about the Legend of the Lady of the Lake.

Were Other boys beckoned out by this same voice, never to return ?

Twice more in perusing years I had second hand experiences with the wicked bitch at the bottom of the Lake. One was shortly after my personal experience . My family had moved away from Ronkonkoma to another town on Long Island, a few days before moving I had visited Some older neighborhood boys, at the time they were building a raft that they planned to float in the Lake.

Days later, in my new home I recall my Mom showing me a copy of the Long Island Press or Newsday. {At that time a drowning was newsworthy.} On the Front Page was one of the teenagers . Apparently they succeeded in building their raft and getting it to the Lake , two left on the raft, only one returned.

The raft was dragged out by an unusual current, one of the boys, who could swim jumped off and swam to shore, as I recall he supposedly told the other, who couldn't swim, to stay on the raft , he would get help.. for whatever reason the non swimmer did not comply.. why? ... no one will ever know.

The Legend of the Lady of Lake Ronkonkoma

There are a few varieties of the The Lady of the Lake Legend.

One Version tells of the Setauket Indian Princess Tongawanga who rowed out to the middle of the lake, and drowned herself by tying rocks to her ankles and jumping overboard. . She was distressed that her father did not approve of her romance with a white settler. The Princess was supposedly found in a river in Connecticut.

Historic Sign Lake Lady Legend

Some versions of the legend refer to a 'Princess Ronkonkoma' which is highly unlikely as the word Ronkonkoma originated in an Algonquian compilation of words meaning a boundary and a fishing lake, as the lake served as both for pre colombian natives. It was a boundary between tribal lands of the Nissequogues, Setaukets, Secatogues and Unkechaugs. It was also a source of fish.

In another version The Indian princess was in love with a young Brave of the tribe who was murdered by a white settler living in Ronkonkoma. She was so aggrieved by the brutal and unprovoked murder of her betrothed that she committed suicide by drowning herself in the lake.

While wading out to her death she vowed to onlookers, that she would avenge the tragic death of her lover and every year; she would take with her, someone a white man down with her. It is claimed that every year at least one male dies swimming in the Lake. I have made some attempts to document this but am still working on it [15 years later]. Dale Spencer, a Local historian says that from 1893 up till 2014, 166 men have died on the lake so that's 121 years with 166 deaths.

A Third version tells the story of an Indian maiden who was sacrificed to appease the Indian God "Caulkluntoowut" .

The broken-hearted maiden tied weights around her ankles, rowed to the middle of the lake, and slipped over the side. Her lover {Still alive in this version }dove in after her, her body was found in a Connecticut River weeks later. The Indians believed her spirit haunted the lake and caused "whirlpools, waves, moaning sounds, and other mysterious events".

The central theme of the legend remains the same , an Indian maiden "many moons ago" died in this lake and vowed revenge, her spirit remains within its water to this day and has lured many a young man to its murky bottom.

Another legend I've read is of an Indian Sachem who was not allowed to marry the maiden he was in love with. He paddled into the lake and stabbed himself in the heart, his body went over the side of his canoe and into the water, and was later found in a Connecticut lake.

How, a primitive people from Long Island would get news of a body turning up in a lake on the other side of the Long Island Sound is beyond me.

Ronkonkoma Mural memorializing the Lady of the Lake Legend

On the Northeast side of a small strip Mall on Rosevale avenue, about 1/4 mile from The Lake is a large mural that occupies the entire side of the building. It is a tribute to the legend of the Lady of the Lake. Every few years it is repainted. The images shown above chronicle the morphing of the mural over a period of about 7 years.

Bottomless Lake Ronkonkoma

The local Indians believed Ronkonkoma to be bottomless {A 1959 diving expedition measured it at 70 feet deep.}

To this day, strange sounds and lights occur around the lake, along with its record of drowning. Sounds of groaning, whirlpools, and bizarre lights are said to be the Lady in her endless grief. Diving instructor Bill Pfeiffer who mapped the entire bottom of the lake [2], says that it indeed does have a bottom. At one point its floor is more than 60 feet deep. Pfeiffer claims that the lake doesn't empty out into the Long Island Sound.

'Pfeiffer says that a few years ago, he was diving with a female marine biologist, who swears she descended into the black hole, saw a bright blue light and was embraced by long black hair for 20 to 30 seconds, before she was let go.' [1]


Mysterious Rise and Fall of Lake Ronkonkoma

The rise and fall of the lake is periodic and hard to explain because it does not follow a cycle. There is no apparent relationship between the rise and fall of the lake and the local rainfall. The mystery has remained throughout the years. The Indians believed "Caulkluntoowut" one of their Indigenous gods used the lake to express his anger through the continuous rise of it's waters. There is also some evidence that they may have , at times sacrificed a beautiful maiden in an attempt to appease the god/spirit Caulkluntoowut .

As accurate records were never kept until relatively Modern times, it is all but impossible to ascertain the periodic fluctuations in the lakes surface.

In the early and mid 1960s the Beach on the Brookhaven Side was approximately thrice it's current size, I recall as a child it was a long run across the hot sand barefooted to the Pavilion that mysteriously burnt down in the 70's and has never been rebuilt.

In 1969-1970 the lake water was said to be 'very low', and people worried that over development had permanently changed the level of the lake.

In 1973-1975 the lake water was said to be "steadily rising." , and beginning to swallow up Smithtown Blvd.

In the 1920s to 1940s there was a bit of a hullabaloo concerning Therapeutic qualities of the Lakes waters, this promotional hype was little more than area resorts attempting to drum up more business.

Piranha in the Lake ?

There have been rumors of Piranha being caught in Lake Ronkonkoma leading to phantasmagorical claims that schools of piranha are roaming the depths of Lake Ronkonkoma. This is highly improabble as Piranha could not survive a Long Island winter no matter how deep they dove. Specimens presented by people as having been caught in the Lake have been proven hoaxes or turned out to be Pacu, a harmless species of fish that resembles Piranha.

Footnotes

1. Legends of the Lake: Deadly and mysterious News 12 Long Island

2. Divers Seek Sunken Treasures in Lake Ronkonkoma Nesconset diving school surveys lake floor and pulls up lost artifacts.