For this Halloween season I decided to visit destinations tied with the production of the movie Lady in White (1988) and the legend which inspired the movie. Despite having lived in the Rochester, New York area for most of my current life and having been a Lady in White fan since the late 1980s, I had never gone to the towns that were used in the making of the movie despite them being only an hour's drive away. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I finally visited Durand-Eastman Park, right here in my very own city, where the legend of the White Lady stems from. This October, I decided it was about time I finally took an in-depth look at these local dark destinations.
I decided to begin with the source of the legend, Durand-Eastman Park. The park was created in the early 20th Century on land donated by Kodak founder George Eastman and Doctor Henry Durand. The park borders Lake Ontario and contains a pair of smaller lakes. The spot where the three lakes come the closest to each other is generally the focal point for the legend of the White Lady ghost of Rochester. A picnic area known as the 3-Lakes Pavilion is claimed to be site of the former home of Eelissa, the Lady in White. The pavilion is a hill with a cobblestone wall built into the side that faces Lake Ontario.
The legend states that a vengeful feminine wraith cloaked entirely in white stalks the park in the vicinity, searching for male victims. The reasons for White Lady's wrath and where exactly in the park she manifests vary from story to story. Often, the legends have the ghost motivated by a tragedy involving her daughter and a pre-existing distrust/dislike for men on the part of Eelissa. In this semi-sympathetic version of the story, the ghost is searching for her long-lost daughter and may attack any mortal men who have the misfortune to interrupt her search.
In some tales the White Lady is a woman who was driven to madness and murder by the actions of an unfaithful husband. Still blinded by her jealous rage, she is said to stalk the roads of the park, mistaking unfortunate young lovers in cars for her husband and his mistress whom she seeks to slay again and again, doomed to re-enact her crime with fresh victims over the centuries.
My recent visit to the park was on an over-cast and gloomy afternoon, the next best thing to visiting the park at night. The stretch of beach along Lake Ontario was my first stop. The first stories I had heard of the White Lady had her prowling this rocky beach with a pair of spectral dogs that she would sic on any man unfortunate enough to choose the wrong evening for a nighttime stroll.
I then moved on to the 3-Lakes Pavilion and the two smaller lakes across the street from Lake Ontario. The cobblestone wall of what some legends refer to as the “White Lady's Castle” has long cracks running through a few spots, but has held up otherwise well over the nearly 100-years since it was built. The view from the pavilion was wonderful, though there was a disquieting silence in the area. The only sign of wildlife I spotted were some swans quietly skimming through the water of Durand Lake when I wandered deeper into the park and away from the pavilion. Some legends claim that the White Lady forms from the mists of that very lake.
Overall, it was a nice fall hike with a with a slightly spooky ambiance. It made me want to return again during evening hours and take a stroll... hopefully not on a night when Eelissa is on the hunt.
My next journey was to Lyons, New York and a number of locations used in the filming of Frank LaLoggia's nostalgic supernatural mystery Lady in White. I will write about this in a future second installment.