February 28, 2016

Perry Boney, the Man Who Might Have Been A Fairy

Well, although this winter has been quite mild last night was still pretty chilly so I made Indian pudding and roasted buttercup squash for dinner. Pretty soon it will be too warm for roasting and I'll have to move on from wintry foods.

My last few posts have been about grim topics, so in anticipation of the slowly approaching spring here's a cheery yet weird legend from Connecticut. It's about a man named Perry Boney.

I had read about Perry Boney years ago in David Phillips's book Legendary Connecticut (1992), but then filed that information away deep inside my brain and basically forgot all about it. However, a few months ago a friend from the Fairy Investigation Society pointed me towards an online reference to Mr. Boney and suggested it might be something to research for the Society.

As you read this story, ask yourself this question: was Perry Boney human, or something else entirely?

Perry Boney lived during the early 20th century in a rural, mountainous area of Connecticut called the Great Basin. The area was populated mainly by lumbermen and a few farmers, although the ruins of old mills and industrial sites littered the landscape.

Neither a farmer nor a lumberjack, Boney made his living operating a very tiny general store near Green Pond Mountain. His store was really no more than a booth in the middle of the woods, and was so small that other than its proprietor it could only accommodate one adult or two children (and only if they were small). A painting of Custer's final battle (which was an ad for a whiskey company) hung on one wall.

Portulaca

A tiny path with a gate led to the store past petunias, candytuft, and portulaca, the latter growing in old iron stove. According to locals Boney planted the portulaca every year in honor of a female sweetheart who had died. No one knew who she was, though.

No one was really sure where Boney came from either. One day he and his tiny store were just suddenly there, almost magically. Small children were convinced he could talk with the fairies that lived near the mountain brooks, and some thought he was a fairy himself. He certainly looked the part. He was small and thin, with wild unruly hair, and large brown eyes that seemed to look right through whoever he talked to. His habit of playing the flute on moonlit nights added to his fairy mystique, but some skeptics said the music was really just the wind sighing in the trees.

The adults of the Great Basin may not have thought Boney was a fairy, but there was definitely something unusual about him. How, for example, did he actually make any money? Whenever he ran out of something at his store he would walk to a general store in nearby Sherman, where he purchased items at the same price he sold them in his store. If he bought candy for five cents in Sherman, he sold it for five cents at his tiny store. If he bought corn meal for fifty cents, he sold it for the same price. How did he manage to run a store if he never made a profit?

Boney also had a very friendly relationship with animals that was quite unusual. A large, tame raccoon lived in Sherman, and came running out to meet Boney whenever he came into town. Boney would speak to the racoon in strange, whistling language that no one else had ever heard, and the racoon would wait for him on the steps of the Sherman general store. When Boney was done with this shopping the racoon walked him home to his tiny store near Green Pond Mountain.

Locals knew to never buy shotgun shells from Boney's store. He didn't like hunting, and sold shotgun shells that had an almost explosive recoil, emitted huge clouds of black smoke, and echoed so loudly that they scared off any nearby game.

Boney's departure from the Great Basin was almost as mysterious as his arrival. A local man passed the store several days in a row and noticed that the door was swinging open in the wind. On the fourth day he decided to investigate. As he walked towards the store he saw Perry's body lying dead by the portulaca, holding one flower in his hand.

At least that's what he said. Other locals didn't believe it. No one else ever saw Boney's body, and the man who said he did later admitted that he had taken the Custer painting and sold it. Maybe he had said Boney was dead just so he could feel justified in taking the painting. And if Boney was dead, why could people still hear his flute music at night?

Candlewood Lake, from Pinterest.

Whether he was dead or not, he had abandoned his store. By the 1930s it had been torn down and a ski-chalet style house erected on the spot. The people who knew Perry Boney were scattered to the winds in the 1926 when a power company announced it was building a dam across the Rocky River. By 1927 the dam was complete. Water slowly filled the Great Basin, submerging the farms, lumber camps and old mills.

The Great Basin is now Candewood Lake, the deepest lake in Connecticut. Scuba divers sometimes report seeing old buildings, covered bridges, and even Model-T Fords at the bottom of it. No one has yet reported seeing a little man with wild hair playing a flute.

*****

The main sources for the Perry Boney legend are David Phillips's Legendary Connecticut (1992) and They Found A Way (1932) by Iveagh Hunt Sterry and William Garrigus. The 1938 book Connecticut: A Guide to Its Roads, Lore and People from the Works Project Administration has directions to the site of Perry Boney's store, but I don't know if they are still valid today.

The original online reference to Perry Boney that got this all started is here

3 comments:

bairdduvessa said...

sounds like he was just a loon in the woods, but a fun one

Peter Muise said...

Isn't that the best kind? :)

Ross said...

He sounds like a wise man, not a loon.