The Lady of Lake Ronkonkoma

Lake Ronkonkoma is the largest lake on Long Island. It was once a resort town, until a population explosion in the mid 1900s. It continues to be a popular destination for Long Island residents, offering a variety of recreational activities. The most well known legends have retained popularity, although its exact iteration has changed many times, common with urban legends. The most popular legend is that a vengeful Native American spirit lives in the depths of the lake and drowns one man per year.

One legend tells of a Setauket Sachem Indian who was not permitted to wed his beloved, a member of a different tribe. In a fit of lovesickness, it is said he paddled his canoe out to the middle of the lake and took his own life by plunging a knife into his heart. 

Another version surrounds a young and beautiful Indigenous Princess who was in love with a white man. When forbidden to marry her lover she was consumed by despair, and canoed out to the middle of the lake and, like the Setauket Sachem man above, killed herself. Personally, I would hope the beautiful Princess would never have fallen for a white savage’s lies. But I digress.

Yet another telling of the story claims that before the white man arrived, that there was a tribe of Secatogue’s living in what is now known as Sayville. There was a Princess in this tribe, who was in love with a Prince of another tribe, the Poospatuck. Being forbidden to pursue their affair, they stole away to a romantic spot on the lake after nightfall to make love. The Native spirits did not approve of this, and sunk their canoe, their bodies to to fall forever and ever down into the bottomless lake. 

A note: In reality, the lake is nearly 90 feet at its deepest, around 10 feet along the edges and at some point, features a dangerous sudden 45-foot drop.

The most popular story of “The Lady of the Lake,” was said to happen in the middle of the seventeenth century. A Native Princess fell deeply in love with a young man of her tribe. She eagerly awaited her upcoming wedding day, fashioning herself the most beautiful dress to wear. But one week before they were wed, her groom was murdered by a white settler from the nearby town of Ronkonkoma. The Princess was inconsolable, and on the night before her canceled wedding, she rose and dressed in the gown she had made for the wedding, and walked silently to the shores of the lake.  When she looked into the lake she thought she saw her groom dancing just below the water’s surface, and thought she heard her childhood name called from a ghostly spirit. She called back to what she presumed was her lover three times, swearing they would be together forever, and that united in the spirit world, they would get the justice they deserved. The princess then determinedly rowed herself out to the center of the lake, tied rocks to her ankles, and threw herself in.

The legend maintains that the lake still has a strange depression near the northeastern shore, and weird lights and sounds are experienced as evidence the princess is still grieving her murdered groom. Others say while her tormented soul was dying, she vowed to avenge the tragic death of her lover. Once a year, it is said she will appear, ethereal and lovely, still dressed for her wedding day, and she will choose a man to accompany her to the never-ending bottom of the lake to replace her lost love. 

According to this legend, every year at least one man drowns in Lake Ronkonkoma, never to be seen again.

Drowning statistics back up the legend, too.

There were at least 160 drownings at the lake between the mid- to late 1800s and late 1970s, averaging well over one a year — and only three victims were women, said former longtime Lake Ronkonkoma lifeguard David Igneri, 74, citing his own research.

Igneri, who has a doctorate in colonial American history, said that in the 34 years he helped guard the lake’s beaches starting in the 1960s, there were 30 drownings alone — all male victims.

What do you think, believers?

RK.

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