September 22, 2013

Places Named After the Devil in Southern New England

Last week I wrote about all the places in northern New England. I was surprised at how many there are, but when I compiled this week's devilish lists of southern New England locales I was totally flabbergasted. Here's the list; my comments are below.


Connecticut

Devil's Backbone, Bethlehem
Devil's Backbone, Bristol
Devil's Backbone, Cheshire
Devil's Backbone, Bristol
Devil's Belt, Long Island Sound
Devil's Den, Franklin
Devil's Den, Haddam
Devil's Den, Monroe
Devil's Den, Plainfield 
Devil's Den, Sterling
Devil's Den, Weston
Devil's Dripping Pan, Branch Brook
Devil's Footprint, Montville
Devil's Footprint, Branford
Devil's Gap, Brookfield
Devil's Glen Park, Weston
Devil's Gorge, Weston
Devil's Hopyard, East Haddam
Devil's Island, Danielson
Devil's Jump, Derby
Devil's Kitchen, Burligton
Devil's Kitchen, Thomaston
Devil's Meditation, Middlebury and Watertown
Devil's Mouth, Redding
Devil's Plunge, Morris
Devil's Pulpit, Hamden
Devil's Rock, Old Saybrook
Devil's Rock, Portland
Devil's Wharf, Deep River

  
Massachusetts

Devil's Back, Hull
Devil's Basin, Newbury
Devil's Bridge, Gay Head
Devil's Brook, Sharon
Devil's Brook, Stoughton
Devils Cavern, Amherst (see also Devil's Garden)
Devil's Coffin, Sutton
Devil's Corncrib, Sutton
Devil's Den, Andover (now often called Den Rock)
Devil's Den, Aquinnah
Devil's Den, Arlington (now Menotomy Rocks Park)
Devil's Den, Ashland
Devil's Den, Goshen
Devil's Den, Newbury
Devil's Den, Hemlock Gorge, Newton
Devil's Den, Oxford
Devil's Den, Rockport
Devil's Den, Weston
Devil's Dishfull Pond, Peabody
Devil's Foot Island, Woods Hole
Devil's Football, Hadley 
Devil's Footprint, Ipswich
Devil's Footprint, Norton
Devil's Garden, Amherst (see also Devil's Cavern)
Devil's Garden, Lynnfield
Devil's Hollow, Marshfield
Devil's Hopyard, Shelburne Falls
Devil's Kitchen, Lynnfield
Devil's Landslide, Wellesley
Devil's Lane, Warren
Devil's Oven, Sherborn
Devil's Oven, Westwood
Devil's Peak, Warren
Devil Pond, Westport (now called Devol Pond because it is more family friendly)
Devil's Pond, Rehoboth (sometimes called Sabin Pond)
Devil's Pool, Pelham
Devil's Pulpit, Great Barrington
Devil's Pulpit, Housatonic
Devil's Pulpit, Leominster
Devil's Pulpit, Nahant
Devil's Pulpit, Newbury (historic, may no longer exist)
Devil's Rock, Rochester
Devil's Rock, Sharon
Devil's Rock, Swansea

An old marker for Devil's Foot Rock in North Kingstown, RI.
 Rhode Island

Devil's Foot Cemetery, North Kingstown (an archeological site)
Devil's Foot Rock, North Kingstown
Devil's Foot Road, North Kingstown


Massachusetts is clearly the most devilish state, with 43 places named after the Prince of Darkness. Many people in New England do think Massachusetts is evil, and maybe this verifies that. Connecticut has 29 devilish locations, which is still pretty sinister, but Rhode Island only has three, and they're all related to the same rock. Rhode Island needs to step up its evil game!

All kidding aside, there's probably a historical reason for the preponderance of devil names in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Those two states were the Puritan heartland in New England, and the Puritans constantly saw the Devil's actions in the world around them. Rhode Island, however, was more liberal in its approach to religion and the people there didn't see the world in such stark good-and-evil terms. That's just my guess, mind you.

As in the northern states, the Devil has plenty of dens named after him. Tony and I have visited the one in Ashland, which unfortunately was damaged during construction of a new high school playing field. The den in Plainfield, Connecticut is famous for its large size, naturally occurring staircase, and freezing cold temperatures.

In the 1800s, boys in Newbury, Massachusetts had to be initiated by their friends before they entered the Devil's Den in that town. Climbing to the top of the nearby Devil's Pulpit boulder, they would repeat certain irreverent phrases that protected from the evil that dwelt within the cave. Even after initiation they could only enter in groups; a secret name was written on the floor of the cave that would kill anyone who entered alone. The cave was also known for interesting mineral deposits of serpentine and soft, gummy chrysotile, a naturally occurring form of asbestos. The boys would often chew the chrysotile, so I hope the irreverent phrases protected them from cancer.

All three states have footprints left by the Devil. In Ipswich, Massachusetts the footprint was left when George Whitefield, a cross-eyed Methodist evangelical preacher, threw Satan off the church steeple. In Norton, Massachusetts it was made when he absconded with the body of a man who sold his soul, while in North Kingstown, Rhode Island the Devil left his track as he carried off a Native American woman who killed her lover.

That's not the only connection these devilish places have to the local Indians. The Puritans incorrectly categorized all Indian deities as demons or devils, and this is reflected in the place names. For example, the Devil's Den at Aquinnah on Martha's Vineyard is where the giant Wampanoag hero Maushop (or Moshup) sleeps, and the Devil's Bridge is actually a rock formation the mighty giant created. The Devil's Hop Yard in Haddam, Connecticut was probably originally a gathering place for local Indian shamen, but the Puritans named it after the Devil.

The Devil's Hopyard was also the location of a malt house. Hops are used to make beer, so it's name may be appropriate. A local legend claims a man named Dibble owned the malt house, and the area was really called Dibble's Hop Yard. With time, the name devolved to Devil's Hop Yard. This story, which sounds so appealing to our rational minds, is not true. The area really was named after the Devil.

Other than searching the Web, I found lots of good information in David Phipps Legendary Connecticut and Jeff Belanger's Weird Massachusetts. The fascinating information about the Devil's Den in Newbury can be found here.

1 comment:

Miranda Goldstine said...

Do you know the exact location of Devil's Mouth in Redding? Because I would like to take photos of it.