Urban Legends: The Lady of the Lake

Lake Ronkonkoma is the largest lake on Long Island, NY and is surrounded in mystery.  A long time ago, the lake served as a boundary between four Indian tribes: the Nissequogues, the Setaukets, the Secatogues and Unkechaugs.  The name ‘Ronkonkoma’ is an Algonquian word meaning “boundary lake”.

Once thought to be bottomless, it is now known that portions of its irregular basin are 65 feet deep or more.  Though it has no outlet and is not fed by streams, it seems to rise and fall with no relation to rainfall.  A study in the early 20th century reports that over a seven year period, rainfall was below average by 52 inches, but in that time the lake rose seven feet. 

But the most mysterious is the story of ‘The Lady of the Lake’.  Though there are many variations to the story, the one most prevalent to us natives is as follows:

In the 17th century, an Indian princess fell in love with an English settler by the name of Hugh Birdsall.  Living on opposite sides of the lake and the princess having been forbidden by her father from seeing Birdsall, the lovers would meet secretly.  Legend has it that one fateful night, the princess tried to swim across the lake to meet Birdsall, and drowned.  Overwhelmed by her lonliness in death, she returns once a year to claim the life of a young man to join her at the bottom of the lake.

Locals, historians and even county police claim that every year for almost 200 years, someone has drowned in Lake Ronkonkoma.  That’s not so unusual, really.  Where there is a large body of water, there will almost certainly be people who have drowned.  What is unusual though is, not only the consistency in which this occurs, but the victims themselves.  Almost every one of them was male.


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