general
Legends
Narrative

The White Lady of Durand-Eastman Park

“I know a story from back in Rochester that everyone told about the white lady. Years and years ago, I guess in the 1800s some time, there was a woman who supposedly lived in the area where Durand-Eastman Park is now.  And she had a daughter and her daughter disappeared and she was convinced that somebody had murdered her daughter, a farmer that lived nearby. So she would search with her two German Shepards over and over and over again but she never found her daughter or any trace of her daughter. So, the story is that she jumped off a cliff and died and her dogs did the same because they missed her so much, and that her and her dogs roam Durand-Eastman Park to this day. And if you, because there was a road up there where when you were younger it was the make-out point, you would go up there and hang out in a car. If you hang out on the side of Durand-Eastman Park it’s been rumored to say that she will find you, she’ll be on top of your car, and she’ll try to get in and kill the guy cause she hates all men, because she believes her daughter was raped and murdered by a man.”

 

DL heard this story when she was growing up in Rochester, New York. She thinks she heard it from one of her friends in grade school. She said she does not necessarily believe in this story, but she does not deny all ghost belief. She said that she doesn’t know how she feels, but “something has to happen to our spirits when we die.”  This is an example of a legend because it occurs in the real world but its truth is unknown.

This story has many common motifs of ghost stories. One motif evident is the idea of a ghostly mother. Many times, ghosts are mothers who wander the living world searching for their children or trying to take care of them. In this story, the ghost is looking for her daughter. The motif of unfinished business is also present. The mother never found her daughter while she was alive, so she came back after her death to continue search for them. The most notable motif in this story is the motif of revenge. The woman believes the male farmer that lived near to them raped and murdered her daughter, so in the afterlife she seeks revenge on men. The story says that she gets inside of cars parked near Durand-Eastman Park where couples hang out to exact revenge on the men inside of them. She wants revenge against all living men for what one man did to her daughter while she was alive. The fact that her nickname is the white lady parallels Japanese ghost beliefs; Japanese ghosts, or Yurei, wear all-white clothing.

This story was probably used as a fun way to scare the teenagers in the area who would spend time in Durand-Eastman Park. It also serves as somewhat of a warning that teenagers trying to take advantage of “make-out point” should be careful of what they may find. In a more general sense, the story can be taken as a reminder to men that they need to respect women. A man disrespected the ghost’s daughter, and for that, all men must pay. The white lady is said to protect women in the park from men who try to harm them.

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