Long Island myths and legends
Long Island's history is filled with unique and bizarre stories -- some based on fact, others not. From the "Amityville Horror" murders and the Indian princess of Lake Ronkonkoma to alleged mind control experiments and a mysterious object washed ashore, myths and legends abound.Here are 10 tales from our archives and the websites Weird New York and Long Island Oddities.
The "Amityville Horror" house(Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin)
Thrust into the spotlight in 1974, when Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered six family members, the "Amityville Horror" house on Ocean Avenue was subsequently purchased by George and Kathleen Lutz. They wrote a book in 1977 about living in the house for what they described as 28 horrifying days. The book's 1979 film adaptation is considered one of the scariest horror films of all time.
Fire Island Lighthouse
Legend has it when the Fire Island Lighthouse was being rebuilt, the lighthouse keeper, Nathaniel Smith, and his family were living nearby during the construction. When Smith's daughter became ill it purportedly took three days for medical attention to reach her. It was too late. Legend says that as you climb the 182 steps to the top of the lighthouse, you can hear a man moaning for his lost daughter, and that once you reach the top, you can hear footsteps on the stairs.
Kings Park Psychiatric Center(Credit: Newsday / Ken Sawchuk)
Kings Park Psychiatric Center, pictured in 2007, was once home to more than 9,000 mentally ill patients, according to a Newsday article in Long Island Our Story. Legend maintains that many of them still haunt the vacant buildings on the site. The buildings were shuttered in 1993, and some structures on the property have been demolished. Trespassing is not permitted.
Lady of Lake Ronkonkoma(Credit: Brittany Wait)
Lake Ronkonkoma has been a place of haunting mystery since the mid-1660s when, according to legend, a lovesick American Indian princess killed herself in the lake's waters after her chieftain father forbade her relationship with a white settler. Some believers say the lake has a high percentage of male drowning victims, which they attribute to the princess's ghost claiming lives in retaliation for her unfulfilled love. Other legends have depicted the mile-wide kettle lake as being bottomless or having underground connections to other local waterways, since some victims or objects disappearing into the waters were allegedly never found.
Montauk Monster(Credit: Newsday / Christina Pampalone)
The tale of the Montauk Monster gripped the East End as international attention seized upon the mysterious animal body that purportedly washed up on a local beach during the summer of 2008. As the tale goes, three Montauk friends found the corpse on Ditch Plains Beach and snapped a picture of it. A consensus was never reached on what the animal actually was, although experts believed it to be a raccoon. That didn't stop people thinking it was a rodent, pig, dog or even an alien and speculating about its origins. One theory was an experiment gone awry at the nearby Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Another was that a group of friends found a dead raccoon and gave it a "Viking funeral" by placing it on an inflatable pool toy, lighting it on fire and pushing it out to sea. Since then, similar carcasses have appeared under the Brooklyn Bridge and on a Rockaway beach, leading some to speculate that a monster plagues Long Island waters. But similar animals have also washed up in Ontario, Panama and Spain.
Mary's Grave(Credit: Henry Powderly)
The stories behind Mary's grave are ones of tragedy. The truth of the grave is unknown, sparking the birth of various legends. Some believe the grave is in Head of the Harbor, others think it's in St. James (pictured), Huntington, Port Jefferson, Amityville, Sayville and Stony Brook. One tale says Mary was convicted as a witch, hung outside her home and buried nearby. Legend has it that when children visit the grave at night, Mary appears and kills them. Another tale says Mary committed suicide after her husband, a sailor, died at sea. Legend says she used to light a candle in the upstairs window of her home to help guide her husband back, and to this day you can see a light in that window. A third tale says Mary roams the area after she disappeared following the murder of her abusive mother. Whatever the story, it is believed that Mary does not rest in peace.
The Montauk Project(Credit: Doug Kuntz)
Conspiracy theorists have said that "The Montauk Project," a series of top-secret experiments in mind control, time travel and psychotronics, took place at Camp Hero in Montauk, a coastal defense installation during World War II. Legend has it that young boys, some kidnapped, were brainwashed and taught to use their brain power in uncommon ways, using a specially designed chair to enhance their psychic abilities. None of these claims have ever been substantiated, but hard-core believers even maintain there are secret underground bases where experiments still go on today. Trespassing is not permitted.
Katie's of Smithtown(Credit: Ian J. Stark)
Making its debut on Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures," Katie's bar in Smithtown, shown on Sept. 1, 2013, purportedly has poltergeists living in the basement that occasionally come upstairs and take over the place. The building itself is on the site of a hotel that burned down on Dec. 5, 1909, and owner Brian Karppinen believes these ghosts are the reason why all owners before him only lasted a few years each before leaving. Karppinen says that although these ghosts can be playful, a "darker element manifests."
Mount Misery(Credit: Erin Geismar)
An area in West Hills that extends from the intersection of Route 110 and Sweet Hollow Road to Jericho Turnpike was dubbed "Mount Misery" because the steep hill and rocky terrain made it hard for settlers to pass over it in a wagon. According to legend, when early settlers bought the land from American Indians, they were warned to stay away from Mount Misery because evil spirits were known to haunt the hill. Long Island Paranormal Investigators, a group that investigates such claims, said they found enough evidence there to say it is definitely haunted -- one of the few places on Long Island the group has labeled so definitively. The most compelling evidence for the group is a photograph taken of investigator Dimitri Haritos with what the group calls an inexplicable illumination on his arm. The group says the photo was taken as Haritos asked that if a spirit were present, it touch his arm. He also reported his arm feeling cold at the time.
Raynham Hall(Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)
Now a museum that's open to the public, Raynham Hall in Oyster Bay (shown on Sept. 29, 2000) dates back to the Revolutionary War when it was home to Robert Townsend, a spy whose network supplied information to Gen. George Washington. Kerriann Flanagan Brosky, co-author of "Ghosts of Long Island," said that the main hallway of the house has produced great electrical readings and that unexplained voices have been captured on audio meters.