Lake Ronkonkoma in History and Legend, the Princess Curse and Other Stories: A Lifeguard's View


The History and Legends of Lake Ronkonkoma, the Princess Curse and Other Stories; A Lifeguard's View, discusses the history and the folklore of Long Island's largest lake. It builds a strong case for the Princess legend.

The author consulted professional opinions, of paranormal experts, who generally believe curses are real, not superstition. He also consulted many sources on Lake Ronkonkoma, to focus in on the fact that a young male has drowned almost every year, and that few ...

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Lake Ronkonkoma in History and Legend, The Princess Curse and Other Stories: A Lifeguard's View

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The History and Legends of Lake Ronkonkoma, the Princess Curse and Other Stories; A Lifeguard's View, discusses the history and the folklore of Long Island's largest lake. It builds a strong case for the Princess legend.

The author consulted professional opinions, of paranormal experts, who generally believe curses are real, not superstition. He also consulted many sources on Lake Ronkonkoma, to focus in on the fact that a young male has drowned almost every year, and that few females have died in the Lake. In fact it remains, that possibly only one female lost her life. Her official cause of death was kidney failure, caused by secondary drowning.

The volume also chronicles the lifeguard career of the author, David S. Igneri. His lifeguards at the lake and his other beaches were, in general gifted athletes. However, to lifeguard Lake Ronkonkoma they needed specific training that was not covered in their regular lifeguard preparation. At first, Igneri himself, did not totally understand the task before him. However, he sought advice from older lifeguards, and read everything he could about Ronkonkoma, and formulated a program.

In his early years he did not believe in the Princess Curse at all, and believed it was only superstition. His experiences during that time, made him re-think his views. Gradually he realized that some force or entity was causing, or helped causing the many deaths.

David Igneri began to change his policies at Lake Ronkonkoma on July 5, 1965. He totally believes that the spirits told him what to do. His goal became to protect and save all of the people, all of the time, and stop the legend. After reading this volume, you will have to decide for yourself, how much success he had in this endeavor.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781481750738
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Publication date: 7/19/2013
  • Pages: 120
  • Sales rank: 804,353
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.28 (d)

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Copyright © 2013 Dr. David S. Igneri
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4817-5073-8



SINCE EARLIEST TIMES RONKONKOMA WAS a lake of mystery. The Native Americans considered its waters sacred. Four bands or extended families shared its shoreline, as a common fishing station, and as a meeting place for their sachems. These included the Setaukets, the Nissequoques, the Secatogs, and the Unkechaugs or Patchoags.

In the years before Europeans settled on Long Island, the natives used the waters of Ronkonkoma. Thirteen groups of Algonkian stock inhabited the Island. These bands numbered approximately five-hundred members each. Most early books call them tribes, but modern historians today do not believe tribes existed, before white settlement occurred.

Scholar Dr. John Strong, an expert on Algonkian natives, has stated; The Montauketts (under the leadership of Wyandanch), the Shinecocks (under the Sachems Mandush, Chice and Pongumo), and the Matinecocks (under the Sachems Suscaneman and Tachapousha), developed tribal systems as a result of their contact with English settlement.

The Dutch and the English were interested in purchasing Native American land. They had trouble doing this without tribalism, with distinct boundaries between their lands. Thus the myth of the thirteen tribes of Long Island was formed. In actuality the bands of natives or extended families had borders of their lands, that were loosely drawn, and overlapped their neighbors on all sides.

The Long Island natives lived off the land. Game was plentiful, as was seafood. The inhabitants were hunters, gatherers, fishermen and farmers. There was plenty of food for the six thousand, five hundred people, that lived on the island.

The most powerful native group of Long Island was probably the Montauks. Wyandanch, of the Montauks, was one of the strongest native leaders of Long Island. "Lion Gardiner promoted Wyandanch, enabling him to assert control over his people, and influence Native American affairs, in other parts of the island."

Legendary stories of Wyandanch visiting Lake Ronkonkoma have existed since the distant past. One of these will be told later in this volume. It will be one of the many examples of how Lake Ronkonkoma has been depicted as a mysterious mythical place, with historical characters taking part.

Long Island natives in general, and the four family groups, who lived near the lake, did not keep their lands long after white settlement began. The first English settlement on eastern Long Island was Gardiner's Island in 1639, many miles east of Ronkonkoma. Southold was the second English settlement in 1640. Daniel Denton's Brief Description of New York, in 1670, thirty-one years after the first English settlement stated;

To say something of the Indians, there is now but few upon the Island,and those few no way hurtful but rather serviceable to the English, and it is to be admired how strangely they have decreast by the Hand of God, since the English first settling of those parts.

It was the white man's influence and not the Hand of God, that decreased the numbers of natives on Long Island. The Indian way of life soon changed altogether. Tribal life of Long Island natives virtually ended by about 1732. This had begun years before 1655, when the Setaukets, who lived along Lake Ronkonkoma and the northern part of Long Island, sold their territory to the white man. By 1741 the number of Long Island natives had greatly decreased. In the middle and late nineteenth century few Long Island natives could be found.

The land of the natives living along Lake Ronkonkoma became part of three newly formed townships. The land of the Setaukets and Unkechaugs became part of Brookhaven in 1655. The land of the Nissequoques became part of Smithtown in 1663. The land of the Secatogs became part of Islip in 1683.

Many artifacts found within four miles of Lake Ronkonkoma, prove Native Americans once inhabited the area. A fine collection of arrowheads from the Lake Ronkonkoma area, donated to the Sachem Public Library by Bassford Hawkins, numbered over 2,000 specimens. This was a reminder of Native American inhabitation of the Ronkonkoma area. Even today, arrowheads are sometimes found near the lake.

The name Ronkonkoma had many meanings to the native bands of Long Island, and those natives that lived near the lake. It meant "White Sand", "Healing Waters", and "Fishing Place." Ronkonkoma was a special place.

Long Island natives, according to folklore, believed Lake Ronkonkoma was where the Algonkian God, Manitou lived. Manitou, an angry God, was supposedly vengeful toward his people, and threatened to make the waters of Lake Ronkonkoma rise, and drown all Long Island inhabitants. The lake's ability to rise and fall made this seem very likely.

The early white settlers of Long Island, settled mainly on the north and south shores. Many of these settled, on one of the many bays, thus having abundant seafood, as part of their diet. The interior of Long Island was not greatly populated until much later. Obviously living near the Long Island Sound, or Atlantic Ocean had advantages.

Settlement around the lake itself did not occur to any great extent, until the 1700's. Ronkonkoma had many spellings during this time.

1734 – Captain E. Smith sold property to Thomas Biggs on the north side of Rongconcoma Pond.

1749 – A survey mentions Joseph Gould's house on Parsnip Pond. A path or small road was kept so cattle could come and drink.

1795 – Five houses were operating north of Ronkonkomey Pond, none to the south. Only one house was actually on the Pond.



THE VILLAGE OF LAKE RONKONKOMA grew slowly in the late nineteenth century. In 1892 Samuel Hawkins opened a store on Hawkins Avenue and Moriches Road, in Lake Ronkonkoma. This was only the second store in what is now the village. The first store burned down a short time before this. Nearby was a small building, which served as the Lake Grove Post Office. On Moriches Road, not far away, was a blacksmith shop, and a wheelwright, and wagon repair business.

Willis Hallock opened a second store on Hawkins Avenue in 1899. This was taken over by Emmett Coleman, and became a general store. In 1914 James Agnew, and Ike Taylor bought Coleman's store. It became Agnew and Taylor, and is still in business today.

The lake itself was not that popular during very much of the nineteenth century. It was used for watering farm animals, for cutting ice in the winter, and for irrigation of farms in the spring and summer. However, the building of Portion Road by Brookhaven Town, in 1795, had made the lake accessible to people from New York City. At the time few used this road to visit the lake. It would take another one-hundred and thirteen years, and another road, for this to change.

In 1908 the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway was built from Queens to Lake Ronkonkoma. At this time, automobiles began to be used by Americans everywhere. People began to take summer trips from New York City, to Lake Ronkonkoma. "The lake", became a favorite picnic area, for these new travelers. The former secluded lake became known to nearly everyone.

The visitors to Lake Ronkonkoma, used it as a favorite picnic spot after 1900. After 1908 larger and larger numbers visited the lake, in the summer. The visitors loved the generally relative calmness, of the water. The white sand that surrounded the body of water, was very pleasing to the public. No regulations occurred at Lake Ronkonkoma, for about twenty years. Picnickers paid no fees and left the beaches full of garbage.


In 1921 D.J. O'Conor sold his property along the south side of Lake Ronkonkoma to George C. Raynor. The Raynor family had lived in the area, since the early nineteenth century. Raynor had not stopped picnickers from using his property when he first bought it. However, Mr. Raynor found he had a large cleanup to do, after each summer weekend. He decided to make money from the visitors. He opened Raynor's Beach in 1921. He had a pavilion and bathhouses constructed on the beach. Across the street and up the hill from the beach a restaurant was started. An extensive parking lot was added, to park cars for fifty cents each. Later a more extensive restaurant was opened, which served hot meals.

Raynor's Beach became very successful and well known. Thousands of beachgoers traveled there, to swim in the inland lake. Slides and diving boards were built in the water. The small pavilion George Raynor had built, was replaced with a much larger one. Raynor's Beach continued as a thriving business until the late 1960's.


One year after Raynor's Beach was started Raymond and Mary Duffield began Duffield's West Park Beach in 1922, on the present site of present Islip Town Beach. They constructed a restaurant, tennis courts, a picnic area, and bath houses on the beach. A dock, a diving platform, slides going into the water, and twenty rowboats for hire, were also available. Duffield's Beach was one of the most popular beaches, of Lake Ronkonkoma. It also was one of the safest beaches, because the lake bottom went down in a gradual manner, without deep holes.

Duffield's Beach was a very successful endeavor. It operated continuously, with the exception of one summer during World War II, from 1922 until after 1950. It was sold in 1953.


The property of Amzie Newton became Becker's Beach. It was located at the end of Portion Road on the north side of Lake Ronkonkoma. It had a picnic grove on the beach, and a large pavilion and bowling alley across the road. During the summer season, it was normal to park four hundred and fifty cars, on Sundays.


Paula Brown owned the property on either side of Rugen's Tavern, on the south side, of Lake Ronkonkoma. It was a very dangerous area. A steep ledge existed on the lake bottom, not far from shore. The depth went from approximately eleven feet, where the ledge began, to over forty-five feet deep, only a few yards further out.

Two rather large beaches were constructed from Paula Brown's property. They were Hollywood and Green Pavilion. These operated until 1961. In 1962 both beaches were sold to Brookhaven Town. The building of Green Pavilion Beach was used as the Brookhaven Town pavilion. Hollywood Pavilion was burned down purposely, and the remains removed. In June of 1963 Brookhaven Town opened their Lake Ronkonkoma Beach.


Jack Yerk had a beach on the west side of the lake. It was popular in the summer and also in the winter. Ice boat races and scooter races started at Yerk's Beach. Jack Yerk had a bowling alley at his beach. For a number of years the bowling alley, and the Yerk's Beach pavilion, was open all year long. Yerk's Beach stayed open as a thriving business generally, until the 1970's. It was one of the last pavilions on the lake. The site of Yerk's Beach was eventually made into a New York State boat ramp, so boaters and fishermen could enter the lake, on a year round basis, as long as it is not frozen. They do this at their own risk.


On the Smithtown side of Lake Ronkonkoma, Arthur Turner opened a honky-tonk area. A large tin dance pavilion and bath houses were constructed on the beach. Name bands came to Lake Ronkonkoma and played at Turner's Corner. Honey Potter's Band was one of the best known, and was very exciting. Turner's was a very popular summer spot, during the prohibition era. A carnival was part of Turner's Corner. It remained in business from the 1930's until the 1950's.

Night clubs were opened during the prohibition era, at Lake Ronkonkoma. Some of these were speakeasies, which did business in secluded areas around the lake. These businesses, as well as the great pavilions, made Lake Ronkonkoma a great resort town, from the 1920's to the 1960's. Most of them thrived only during the summers. After Labor Day or shortly later, they closed for the season, and Lake Ronkonkoma became a sleepy little village, waiting for the next season.

During its heyday Lake Ronkonkoma had over fifteen pavilions. These were large buildings that sometimes jetted out from the beachfront, onto the lake. The largest ones were over one hundred and fifty feet long and seventy or more feet wide. They included large dance floors, bathrooms, restaurants, and snack bars, on the top floor, and numerous bathhouses on the bottom. The main pavilions from the 1930's until the late 1950's, included the following businesses.

1. Hollywood

2. Rugen's Tavern

3. Green Pavilion

4. Raynor's

5. Olympia

6. Haugs

7. Sunset

8. Bush's

9. Becker's

10. Blue Beach

11. Beverly Beach

12. Turner's

13. Jack Yerk's

14. Duffield's

15. Lighthouse

Before leaving the Pavilion Era I must at least, to some extent, discuss the lifeguards of that era (1921-1960's). During much of the period the Lake Ronkonkoma Lifeguard Association set the standards for lake lifeguarding. Each prospective lifeguard had to take and pass, a Red Cross lifesaving, and First Aide course. They had to swim the length of Lake Ronkonkoma, a distance of one mile, in under thirty minutes.

One lifeguard, who notably guarded during the early Pavilion Era, was Ivar Carl Okvist. He made numerous rescues, risking his own life, to save others. He stood approximately six foot six inches tall, and was husky and strong. His height gave him a huge advantage, as a lifeguard. He could run further into the water, after victims, and stand sooner on the way in. He also had the advantage of saving people generally smaller than himself. Ivar was in many ways, the ideal guard.

After his lifesaving years ended, Ivar Okvist became a model citizen, in the Ronkonkoma community. He was a charter member of the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society. He was a volunteer Lake Ronkonkoma fireman, for over fifty years. He co-authored "Spanning the Years, 1904-1978, the Ronkonkoma Fire Department." His helpful personality and larger than life presence made him a local legend, in Lake Ronkonkoma's past. Ivar's apparition in recent years, according to local legend, has been seen at Five Corner's Cemetery in Ronkonkoma.

Many other very good lifeguards guarded the Pavilion beaches. William F. Wickers was one of these. Wickers was a strong swimmer, and a strong man. He was one of the most responsible men, I ever had the pleasure, of knowing. Wickers worked as a guard in the years after World War II. He was this author's fifth grade teacher, and told many stories, to our class, of his lifeguarding years. I am sure he had a number of rescues, to his credit, and did his best to keep Ronkonkoma beaches safe. Wickers guarded at Hollywood Beach, Raynor's Beach, and Yerk's Beach.

One rescue by William Wickers, Bill to his friends, stands out above the rest. I read about it years ago, and recently discussed it, with pavilion lifeguard James Browne. Wickers saved the life of Mrs. Pearl Quick, in July, 1951. She was brought to shallow water, by three teenage boys. Wickers took over, and gave her artificial respiration, for approximately thirty minutes, until she was revived. She was sent to Mather Hospital, Port Jefferson, for further treatment." This thirty-eight year old woman, would have surely died, without Wicker's help! However, as I will discuss later in this volume, females do not generally drown, in Lake Ronkonkoma.

Another very competent Pavilion lifeguard was Charles Davis, of Ronkonkoma. He was a schoolteacher, and a Principal, in later years, but saved lives during his younger days. Davis guarded Duffield's Beach, and Hollywood, during the 1950's. He was a very serious lifeguard. This author had many discussions with him, at the protected beach, at the south side of Lake Ronkonkoma, during the 1980's, and 1990's. One of his greatest strengths, as a lifeguard, was his ability to stay under water for a long time.

Other lifeguards of note, that guarded the Pavilion beaches, included the Browne brothers, James and Peter. James Browne, in an interview on October 27, 2011, told this author, that he rowed a boat for five summers, outside the Pavilion waters, checking if anyone was out there, in unprotected waters. He sometimes lifeguarded on the beach. He also stated, that during the rescue of Mrs. Pearl Quick, in July, 1951, he assisted William Wickers.

Excerpted from LAKE RONKONKOMA IN HISTORY AND LEGEND, THE PRINCESS CURSE AND OTHER STORIES: A LIFEGUARD'S VIEW by DAVID S. IGNERI. Copyright © 2013 Dr. David S. Igneri. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Introduction....................     v     

I A Lake of Mystery: Native American Times and Beyond....................     1     

II The Pavilion Era: A Resort of Note....................     7     

III The Legends of Lake Ronkonkoma....................     31     

IV The Princess Curse of Lake Ronkonkomai....................     37     

V Is the Princess of Lake Ronkonkoma Fact or Fiction?....................     43     

VI A Young Lifeguard Has a Dream, and Sees the Future!....................     51     

VII Becoming A Scientific Lifeguard!....................     63     

VIII The Princess Wanted Her Revenge, But the Ferry Was Late!.............     73     

Epilogue....................     89     

Bibliography....................     91     

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