DROWNING FROM TEARS
With such beauty surrounding Long Island, one would never purport tragedy’s exist. They do exist however, and in places you’d least expect. Houses are not the only things that can grow to be haunted. The moans of past lives can perhaps be heard under water as well.
Lakes mystify me. I am not only a horror author, but also an aspiring fisherman who likes nothing more than feeling that tug on the line. The mystery of what lies beneath the calm serenity of unforeseen things. Looking into Lake Ronkonkoma on a failing sunset not only invites memories to remain, but also let’s us all see our own reflections in the water. Perhaps in the indication we do not lose ourselves to troubled pasts. In Long Island, New York, troubled pasts are drowned. Here, a legend has surfaced.
While locals will confirm that drowning incidents are frequent at the lake, it is difficult to conclude whether or not deaths occur annually as the legend portends. Still, certain locals and historians will claim that almost every year for 200 years someone has drowned in Lake Ronkonkoma each year. The most disturbing certainty is that the police and locals alike can only recall a handful of women having drowned in the lake.
Many other locals continue to attribute drowning incidents to the ghost of an Indian princess as local articles have consistently quoted residents who believe in her cruel crusade for her thirst for life to be sated. The Indian Princess adores taking the lives of males. In claims of her search for a lost love, the ghost claims the lives of young men. It is easy to turn away as skeptics often do. It is equally as easy to reveal the truth.
After all, this lake is named after her.
Princess Ronkonkoma was an Indian princess whose unrequited love has dominated the myths of the lake since the 1600’s. Specific details of the legend vary, but all versions have served as a facilitator of a handful of additional stories regarding the lake, including its fabled and mysterious bottomless depths.
Perhaps it is not a lake at all.
The Sachems were one of the four Indian tribes governing the lake in the mid 1600’s, a time that witnessed the increased presence of settlers to Long Island.
Ronkonkoma supposedly fell in love with a settler named Hugh Birdsall. On moonlit nights, Ronkonkoma would steal away into the forest and make her way to Birdsall’s cabin, where she would watch him from the cover of trees.
As legend has it, Birdsall was unaware of her presence until one summer night when the moon was full, and he, unable to sleep, paced back and forth in front of his cabin. It was then, the princess, clad in colored glass beads, caught the light of the full moon and revealed her presence. Birdsall fell in love with Ronkonkoma immediately. Her father, however, forbade the marriage and refused his daughter to ever see her lover again.
For many years, the two lovers continued their affair, sustaining their love on the messages they were able to get to one another. Everyday, the princess would paddle her canoe to the middle of the lake and gently float a patch of birch bark, safely embedding a note of desire and longing. Everyday, for those years, Birdsall would await those notes.
In the last month of seven years, however, Ronkonkoma, bursting with pain of lost love and solitude, sent a cryptic message to her lover, saying only that she would join him in the morn. As dawn broke, Birdsall waited faithfully by the lakeside and witnessed a canoe come rushing towards him as if guided by magical hands. Inside, was his princess, nestled amidst boughs of pine, with a knife stabbed into her heart.
Birdsall’s tears fell into the lake. Without hesitation, he leaped into the canoe and cradled her lifeless body as both of them sank into the lake, and into the grave.
Perhaps, this is more than a lake…
Since then, the drowning of people has gone on with a haunted mystery. The lake has an unexplained tendency to rise and fall periodically with no apparent relationship to the local rainfall.
Perhaps, this lake is made of tears.
Many legends of Lake Ronkonkoma were based on the theory the lake was bottomless. There is a rumor of a fisherman who dropped a weighted fishing line into the hole in the lake and failed to reach bottom. There was also a wagon that disappeared into the lake by a later settler that ended up resurfacing in the Great South Bay.
Many natives of Long Island believe the lake is bottomless, over history; bodies would often drown and disappear into its depths. There were reports of people drowning and being found in distant waterways, furthering the beliefs of bottomless depths.
The bottomless theories were resurrected in the early 1900’s when a diving platform was constructed at the right edge of a deep hole discovered in the lake. An occasional drowning would occur when swimmers walked out from the beach and stepped into the hole, so ropes were later erected to warn swimmers of troubling waters. In the 1930’s, the rumors again reemerged when the body of a Connecticut boot legger, who was murdered with a carving knife and dumped into the Long Island Sound, surfaced along the banks of the lake with his hat, his wallet, and impossibly, his flask.
Some locals also spoke of other oddities at the lake, including a powerful whirlpool in the center of its depths. A scientist also discovered an oddity. One that isn’t normal to characteristics of lakes. The surface temperature is colder than the first twelve feet. And the divergence is by ten degrees.
It is unknown whether underground waterways are perhaps responsible to various myths surrounding the bottomless theory of Lake Ronkonkoma into unfathomable infinity. While scientists continue to ascertain this mystery regarding the depths of the lake, old legends serve us better. The water details account where bodies have been swallowed, and they continue to arouse bewilderment. Even today, mystery surrounds the water as local police have consistently reported drowning cases at the lake where the body does not appear for two months or more, and they have candidly admitted that this is unusual in a body of water so relatively small.
Perhaps an old rule should always be in effect. We should never venture into uncharted territory alone. In this case, we should frequent with a friend. And if you are brave enough to swim in the sorrow of lost tears, swim with a buddy. That way, when you feel a tug on your legs from somewhere underneath the murky madness of an unsolvable past, you’ll have someone to scream with-