Welcome Everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.
In the spirit of the season, I decided to do some research into local hauntings. But the more I read, the more one fact became apparent: the funny thing about hauntings on Long Island is that they always seem to center around women. I don’t know if this is common to hauntings everywhere, but around here, if it’s incorporeal, it’s usually female. Hell, even my own personal ghost sighting was of a girl playing a flute in a cemetery.
The other, far more unsettling thing that I discovered is that two of Long Island’s most infamous dead chicks seem to be following me around. I speak of the Lady of the Lake in Ronkonkoma, and the nefarious Mary of Mary’s Grave.
Mary is all but ubiquitous on Long Island. She’s most commonly associated with Sweet Hollow Road in Huntington, and nearby Mount Misery. As the stories have it, people driving down the dark and heavily-wooded road see the apparition of a lady in white. Depending on who you hear the story from, she is variously an executed witch, the victim of a hit and run, or one half of a newlywed couple who bought it on their wedding night.
A plethora of paranormal phenomena have grown up around Sweet Hollow Road: spectral children, glowing embers, phantom cops—even Men in Black. But they all seem to have their genesis in Mary. But you don’t need to visit Huntington to find Mary. No matter where you go on Long Island, a Mary’s Grave is never far off.
We had our own version of the story when I was growing up in Smithtown. Our Mary’s Grave was (and I suppose still is) in Head of the Harbor, another area famous for its wooded and winding roads. As our legends go, Mary was a girl who hung herself in her backyard to get back at her parents for not letting her date the boy she loved; either that, or her father abused her. Her grave is near a little stone house in the same field where she took her life. Some stories even went so far as to say that Mary used the house to torture and kill small animals.
I’ve never run into Mary, but two girls I knew swore they did. They were driving down River Road one night when they saw a girl, apparently in a nightgown, walking ahead. When they pulled up alongside her to see if she needed help, the girl whirled around, her features painted by a horrific scowl and evil glowing eyes. She scratched the side of the car as they peeled away.
Other people vouched for the scratches, if not the apparition, though I never saw either. Of course, scratching your car on the wild foliage that lines River Road isn’t hard, especially in the dark. Still, the story has always given me pause, because these weren’t girls who would make up a story like this for attention. They were fairly popular honor students with a secure place in our high school’s social hierarchy. So I would bet that they saw something, or at least believed that they did. Perhaps Mary lurks there still…
Or maybe not. Here’s where it gets freaky. Mary has followed me into adulthood. Yet another Mary’s Grave is said to be in Sayville, which is the town right next to mine. Only this one is the real Mary’s Grave, the one that started it all, according to local tales—and some Newsday stories if the tales can be believed.
Mary was a Sayville high school student brutally murdered by her boyfriend/pimp and dumped into a local swamp. Every morning on my way to work I drive past the cemetery where she is supposedly buried, and frequently walk my dog in the evenings around the swamp where her body was found. And while I have yet to see an apparition of a girl with no eyes, I don’t think I’ll ever be quite as at ease as I used to be on my nightly strolls.
Now here’s where it gets even freakier. Oddly enough, Sayville is said to be the origin of another ghostly legend that was close to home when I was growing up: the Lady of the Lake in Ronkonkoma.
I lived in Nesconset, and my friends and I would ride our bikes to Lake Ronkonkoma to go fishing; one friend even tried to swim across it. The lake always held a mysterious aura because it was said to be bottomless, connected to underground currents that led to the Long Island Sound. And we all knew the story of the Lady: an Indian Princess, she was in love with a white man but the relationship was forbidden. In a fit of grief, she drowned herself in the lake. As legend had it, she would claim one male life a year. Which is why we all thought Tom was crazy for trying to swim across the thing. We had probably seen the ending of Friday the 13th one too many times, but that’s beside the point.
As it turns out, if there really was an Indian Princess who offed herself in Lake Ronkonkoma, she was probably a member of a tribe of Secatogue Indians living in what is now Sayville. According to the local Sayville legend, the princess was in love with a Poospatuck Indian prince from the other side of Brown’s River in what is now Bayport, the place where I currently happen to live. One day they snuck off to Lake Ronkonkoma to make love in a canoe. But this angered the spirits, since tribes from opposite sides of Brown’s river shouldn’t mix. So the boat sunk, and they were sucked down into the bottomless lake. Every year since, it is said, the angry princess kills two lovers and pulls their souls to the bottom of the lake, and at least one young couple dies.
So there you have it; I try to dig up some spooky and entertaining facts for my silly little radio show, and discover that two of Long Island’s most notoriously murderous haunts are stalking me. Really, what are the odds that these legends from my childhood would just happen to be so inexplicably connected to the place where I’ve chosen to live as an adult? Creep-eey. And if you say I’m over-reacting, you’re not the one walking your dog around a haunted swamp.
Or are you…?