Today we're taking a trip to my hometown, Rochester, NY, for our first Hometown Haunt: The White Lady of Durand-Eastman Park. This park, located north of the city proper along the shores of Lake Ontario, winds its way through protected woodlands, with small lakes, hills and valleys. It's beautiful, and a popular spot for swimming and picnics in the warmer months. It's also home to the most famous ghost in Rochester, the White Lady.
TRIGGER WARNING: today's episode has some dark themes, including suicide and sexual assault. Please be advised that you may find some aspects of this story disturbing.
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Hi again friends. Welcome back to shoot that scares me. I am Teresa and I'm so excited. For today's episode, we're going to be talking about my hometown, Rochester, New York, and our famous ghost, the lady in white. She also goes by the White Lady or the lady in the lake. I'm going to tell you about this legend and where it originated, and also debunk some of the oft repeated myths about her. I You know, these are serious things that affect so many people and never gonna make light of it. But it also can be really triggering for people. So if that's you stop listening right now. So a little bit of background about Rochester and about the area where the lady can be supposedly found. Rochester New York is in western New York State about 60 miles east of the city of Buffalo. And it's right If you've never heard of Lake Ontario, that's shame because it's great. One of the great lakes, haha, jokes. It's a relatively small city, but there are a bunch of colleges, some of the top rated schools in the country, like the University of Rochester is a big time medical school. There's also Rochester Institute of Technology, which is right up there with MIT as far as tech schools. I mean, it's not quite as good as MIT but it is definitely very highly rated, especially for their engineering Or at least there was before COVID we're not sure how that's gonna pan out after the pandemic. If life goes back to normal. Rochester is consistently ranked among the top places to live in the US. Like if you look at those quality of life. Rankings on like US News and World Report's Rochester is always really highly, highly ranked. So it's a great place to live. It's a it's also really highly Rochester has the pride celebration in July because the city is so close to New York City and also Toronto, and they don't want to compete with bigger pride celebrations. So they just moved there so July, brilliant. But you know, this is my home city and I may be biased but it's a great place. The White Lady haunts park in a small suburb of Rochester called a Rhonda Coit this park Durand Eastman Park is north of the actual city directly on the shores of Lake Ontario. And Randy Smith Park has a really interesting history to it's named after the two men who donated the land. Henry s. De Rand and George Eastman. Henry Astor Rand is was obviously a Harvard and Yale educated doctor who practiced in Rochester. He also cared for the wounded during the Mexican Revolution. And he spent the last years of his life recovering from an illness that he contracted while doing that. He was in California and out west for years, recovering from this disease. So while he spent the last years of his life in California and living abroad, he's buried in Rochester in mountain hope cemetery, which is another really fascinating part of Rochester. It's a Victorian Cemetery in like the classic Victorian cemetery style, and it was designed by Frederick Law Instead, who also designed Central Park. It's a beautiful cemetery. I'll do an episode about it eventually, but but this doctor, his biggest claim to fame is helping to write Yale's on official school song, bright college years. I have never heard this song and this is like news to me. But people who went to Yale or who know a lot about Yale apparently know who this guy is, and he's super famous in certain circles. And the other individual who donated this land is George Eastman. If you've never heard of George Eastman, you've most likely heard of his company. He founded Eastman Kodak. Eastman Kodak has been huge, all over the world for over a century. Obviously, they started out in photography, but they also they make film for movies. They have made cameras for a century. And actually, George Eastman developed the first Roll camera which brought photography to the masses. Until George Eastman invented his brownie camera that was super portable. And you know, people could take it on vacation and take it to parks and odd picnics and whatever. So without Giorgis men, we may not have cameras in our pockets, which is interesting to think of. He was also a philanthropist. And a eugenicist. Though that's a weird combination of things to be, but it is what it is at the he also struggled with depression for most of his life. And in his later years, he got really sick. Most likely, it was some kind of degenerative disc disease in his spine, but it's fairly limited his mobility, and his mental health declined rapidly after he got sick and was able to do last sell. He died from a self inflicted gunshot wound to the heart, in his home. And, like I said, I don't want to make light of it. But this man left what is ostensibly the most practical suicide note ever. It read to my friends, my work is done. Why wait? Now his home in Rochester is a rather large mansion with beautiful gardens and grounds. And it's now a museum. It's a movie museum. They like do restoration work on old films. There's a movie theater there where you can go and watch these old films that have been restored. But it's also a museum of Georgia's men's life. And they have a lot of events there. And one of my favorites is the Halloween event they've had for years. That's a masquerade. And, you know, you get dressed up in fancy clothes and you put on masks and you drink and wander around Georgie Smith's do like some old school photography tricks to create images of ghosts on walls, and it's really cool, but one of the things that they bring out for display for these events is the his suicide note and the chair where he died, you know, mccobb and grisly, but fitting with the theme of Halloween. So anyways, back to the park Tyrande and easemon both had what at the time were called summer camps in Western New York The weather is is miserable for about half a year. But during the summer it can get you know, up into the mid 90s Fahrenheit so it gets really hot. So that's what the point of these summer camps were. They weren't hanging out with a bunch of kids they were just hanging out in slightly smaller mansions. They these houses also had like sleeping porches and extra wind For breezes and whatever, but in the early part of the 20th century, Duran and Eastman decided that this area was so pretty, they wanted the public to be able to enjoy it as much as they did. So they began to buy up all the farms surrounding their camps. And in 1907, they donate visit to the city of Rochester, with the intention of creating a park. Before that could happen. The city had to do a bunch of work, because the a lot of Earth and plant trees and and create more functional spaces before this park could open. But it took I think, two years and the park was opened in 1909. So it's at this point that it gets a little bit more difficult to separate. What is fact and what is fiction fiction. There are many, many different versions of the white lady story. But much like other white ladies, in other cultures and other countries, they all involve, oh, sad woman. In one version of this story, in the early 1800s, there was a farmer and his wife living in this area, and the wife caught the farmer being unfaithful. And in a jealous rage, his wife murdered, both he and his lover. And, of I believe sentenced to death. And now her vengeful spirit haunts the area where this event took place. And she's looking to recreate the crime with new victims. And a different version of the story. The woman is a young wife, waiting for her husband to return from a war or some kind of military posting or like a general, like a general sailor thing. But he was a sailor, and she was waiting for him to come home. And every day, she would walk the shores of the lake, looking for his ship. But, you know, time went on, and he never came back. And she spent her entire life every single day, walking the beach looking for a ship that never came until she died of a broken heart. That story is less common. I didn't hear that until I was an adult. But that is also really common for this area because of the lake. Like Ontario leads to like the St. Louis C. Lawrence Seaway. And it was a big port. And like during the war of 1812, that was really important. And so shipping was a big deal. So this story makes sense to the most common versions of the story includes some combination of the sad woman and her daughter. In one. The woman lives alone with her teenage daughter, and she's super over protective and doesn't let her daughter go anywhere or see anyone or talk to anyone doesn't let her go to school just keeps her basically under lock and key all the time. But the daughter is allowed to go for walks down by the lake by herself. So one night, the daughter goes out for a walk and she never returns. The element of the missing daughter is common with the stories too. So in one version of the story, the daughter runs away with boy from town they're in love and they never are seen or heard from again. In a different version. A group of men sets upon the daughter sexually assaults her, kills her and tosses her body in the lake. In a different version, the daughter goes for a swim and is taken by the undertow and drowns. Like I said lots of different versions of the story. There's also versions of the story where the mother and daughter, like don't live alone aren't hermits, they're like, you know parts of the community. But ultimately, in every version, the daughter ends up disappearing after the daughter disappears or is killed. The mother is obviously heartbroken. And spends the rest of her time on this planet searching the beach, looking for any trace of her daughter. But they never find a body. no clues nothing, the daughter never comes home. Some say that the woman died of a broken heart. Some say she committed suicide. Some say that she had two giant black dogs that she took with her on these investigation trips. And that when she committed suicide, she also killed the dogs to make sure that she had them in the afterlife. These elements are are common through this story. But the bottom line is nobody no trace of the the girl ever was found and the woman eventually ultimately got. So where did this haunting come from? Well, nobody actually knows for sure when it started or when the stories even began. A common element of the haunting stories is that the lady in white does not like men, which makes sense given that, you know, a man or group of men took away her daughter. You know, I wouldn't like many there if that was my experience. It's said that the lady in white will target men if she comes upon them and and be particularly hostile and vicious towards them and chase them out of the park. Now this is a very large park. And it takes like it's very wet like the roads The park is very windy. So to chase somebody out of the park, you have to be chasing them for a while. Unless they you're chasing them to their car and making so as far as where she comes from where she materializes, people say that she rises out of the mist on the lake. Some people say that she comes out of nowhere, wandering down the road. Men who drive to the park at night, might see her in the middle of the road and will stop because they think they're going to hit her or they stop to offer help or see if she's okay. And at that point she turns on And we also know all about the white lady's castle. Now the castle is in a back part of the park but it looks like the ruins of a medieval castle. It's all stone and there are stairs going up to it from the road. And it's very easy to see how it got the nickname The white lady's castle. Teenagers for generations have gone to the castle in the summer to hang out and drink beer and just generally be idiots and you know wait for the white lady. This area has also been used as sort of like a Lover's Lane. Like if Rochester has any lovers lane it's Duran newsmen Park because it's it's dark, and it's generally deserted. And supposedly the white lady will put a stop to any illicit canoodling by making noise or wailing. Lowering the couple or even just the man out of the car, and then we'll chase them away or get them away from their partner. And this is where the big black dogs come back into the story. Because many people who have been parked at Granny's Minh Park have said that they're chased back to their cars or they're chased out of the park by huge black dogs. Now, I was not immune from this rite of made a movie about it it was released in 1988 and it's called the lady in white it starring lucas haas and katherine helmond you know two very 80 celebrities i was about i think six five or six when it came out and you know really inappropriate movie for a five or six year old because it does deal with like child abuse pedophilia but of course i saw it and loved it and it's still one of my favorite movies and it still mostly holds up but it is very 80s there are some special effects that look very weird because you know cg didn't exist back then and it was a low budget sort of indie movie so and a lot of it was filmed near rochester to i had a teacher in elementary school who was an extra so very low budge and it's funny that i decided to do this episode this week because we just reached the fourth anniversary of one of the biggest wind storms in rochester and a long time and for clarification last weekend actually but this particular particular wind storm in march 2017 hit rochester and a tree and rhonda coit made the news because the it had cracked in such a way that the like exposed white part of the tree looked like the white lady this was like front page news for all the local news stations and the local papers because people were convinced that it was like some kind of sign in a dress and you can sort of see a skeletal face but my instagram link is in the show notes go look at instagram tell me what you think of this tree if you can see a woman i really want to know what you think because i can kind of see it and like if i was on a dark road at night and drove by this it would scare the hell out of me but just like in the cold light of day i don't think that i would be that scared of it or that i would like call call new stations about it so what is the truth about the lady in white nobody really knows but there are historians in the town of around quite who get asked about this every halloween without fail and that again ends up in the local paper and all over the local news but there's actually no historical evidence to suggest that a farmer's wife in this area committed any violent acts or retaliated in any way for any kind of adultery there also isn't any evidence of a woman living in this area losing a daughter or even living alone with a daughter or losing a daughter in any of the ways that take place in these stories so as far as we know this woman never existed her daughter never existed her husband never existed but the town historians will also say that they don't want to come right out and say she never existed because they don't really want to be haunted is sort of a local joke so what about the white lady's castle this is a structure that very much exists and it's been there for as long as anybody can remember turns out it's actually the ruins of a refectory that was torn down during the depression and a refectory is like sort of like a cafeteria or like a cafe it was run by one of the local the local hotels because this was like a really big built up summer area back in the day and And it was frequented by 1000s of people from all over the state. And they needed places to eat. So one of the local hotels built this big refectory that was up off of the beach on one of these hills. And they would serve like ice cream and snacks. And you could go in there and hang out and get out of the sun for a bit and have a snack and, and whatever. And it was for the visitors at the beach, and members of the public. They didn't have to be guests at the hotel to be able to go in and eat it this refectory. It stood until the Great Depression, I think it was they tore down like the building structure, but they left all of the stonework, and the stairs and like the foundation, because that's all solid, it was not damaged by the fire. So that just kind of left it there. So these bits of this old building have been left there since 1930 or 31. And over time, it's just sort of become the location that's most closely associated with the white lady. So we hold this legend very close to our hearts. It's one of my favorite stories, if only because there are so many white lady stories. It's sort of like a genre of haunted story. And I kind of like that Rochester has our own. You know you you hear about stories like this all the time like law, your Rona is another take on the white lady story. So it's like a little bit of personal pride that we have our own white lady story. So that's it for me. Just a quick and dirty little story. Do you have your own white lady where you live? I would love to know you will find my all of my social media handles in the show notes and stop by see the random tree. I'm also gonna post some photos of what's left of the white lady's castle. So go check it out. And thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this little story, feel free to rate and review. I'm on Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify. Basically everywhere you listen to podcasts, send me an email. My email address will be in the show notes as well. I would love to hear from you and how great week