Durand-Eastman Park. So peaceful and picturesque. This time of year the autumn colors are brilliant. And the water is so calm and reflective; the landscape seems to gently float up into the sky. This could be heaven.
On the edge of one great Lake Ontario, two much smaller lakes, Durand and Eastman are named for the two men who donated the land for this beautiful park. In the early 1900’s Dr. Henry S. Durand owned a summer camp here. He and his friend George Eastman saw a need for a public park with access to the beach. So they bought a number of farms around the Durand property, and in 1907 they offered the land to the City of Rochester.
But to willingly give away this place, I have to believe Dr. Durand knew contained something that was not quite right. Maybe something terrifying…
As beautiful as it is today, the park looked very different before construction workers moved earth and water to transform it into the place it is today. In much the same way Frederick Law Olmsted engineered Highland, Genesee Valley, and Seneca Parks… Durand-Eastman was highly engineered.
The story tells of a woman, named Eelissa, who has been wandering this area since the early 1800’s in search of someone. As it’s been passed down through the generations, pieces of the story have been lost and there are now a few different versions.
In one version, Eelissa was the victim of an abusive husband who eventually left her for another woman. Blinded by jealousy, she kills them both. Her ghost 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.”
In other versions of the story, Eelissa is searching for her long-lost teenage daughter. The daughter either ran away with a boy, or she was abducted by another local farmer and later discovered to have been raped and murdered.
In both cases, Eelissa has a pre-existing mistrust of men (possibly due to her abusive husband). She discouraged her young daughter from socializing with boys. And her ghost is now said to attack “any man who has the misfortune of interrupting her search.”
Sometimes she appears as a thin, ugly old woman, who moves along the shores of Lake Ontario with a pair of dogs. By other accounts she is “a youthful spirit who coalesces from the mists of Durand Lake.”
Some versions of the story mention an old stone wall and claim this to be part of the White Lady’s former home. If any remnants of her old farm house do still exist in the park, I have not found them.
In 1988, local director Frank LaLoggia made a feature film that was loosely based on Rochester’s White Lady. The horror film was called Lady in White and stars Lukas Haas (Testament, Mars Attacks, The Tripper).
I spoke with Jenni Lynn, owner/operator of Rochester Candlelight Ghost Walks. A few years ago Jenni teamed up with
a local physic, Shelly Phillips to try and learn something about the White Lady. Using divining rods, EMF detectors, temperature readers, and white noise monitors they explored the vacinity. Jenni says Phillips was able to determine that Eelissa’s daughter “ran away to be with her love—a local farm boy—and they ran away together.” And she says they recorded electro voice phenomenons (EVPs). “We don’t know if it was the white lady, but definitely felt something in that area.”
Jenni also says when she researched this story in 2009/2010, the Irondequoit Police Dept. indicated to her that there have been numerous reported sightings of the White Lady – possibly even sightings by their own officers.
After making a trip down to the police station, IPD wouldn’t confirm or deny that claim for me. They said I would have to file a Freedom Of Information (FOIL) request. So I did. But it may be months before I hear anything back.
In the meantime, if you or anyone you know has any information on the White Lady of Durand-Eastman Park, please leave a comment below.
Tags: Durand Eastman Park, Durand Eastman Park refectory, Durand Lake, Eastman Lake, Eelissa, Frank LaLoggia, ghost, ghost story, Jenni Lynn, Lady In White, Lady of the Lake, Lake Ontario, Rochester, Rochester Candlelight Ghost Walks, Rochester NY, Three Lakes Pavilion
This entry was posted on Friday, October 25th, 2013 at 12:28 am and is filed under Art + Culture, Rochester Destinations, Rochester History, Rochester Images. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.