October 04, 2010

October Horror Mania: Rufus Goodrich's Funeral

The Beckley Tavern in Berlin, Connecticut. From Catherine North's History of Berlin Connecticut (1916).

Well it's October, and October means Halloween. And Halloween means scary stuff. Stuff even scarier than my usual posts about ghosts, phantom hitchhikers and Bigfoot hiding in the barn.

Last October I blogged about New England monsters, both well-known and obscure. This year I thought I'd start the month with one of the more gruesome tales I've read recently. Apparently it's true.

This story comes from Catherine North's 1916 book History of Berlin, Connecticut. It's an innocuous title for a book that a tale of such ... supernatural evil! (Insert your own maniacal laughter here if you choose.)


Back in the mid-nineteenth century, the hard-working men of Berlin, Connecticut liked to gather at the local cider mill. Why a cider mill? Because back then most cider was alcoholic!

One night while the men were imbibing and talking about work Rufus Goodrich came in. No one paid him any notice. Although he came from a prominent local family, Rufus was lazy and had never amounted to anything. He was a joke around town.

As the other men drank and talked, Rufus sat in the corner silently sipping his cider with a smirk on his face. But the more he drank the less silent he became. First he began to mutter. Then he started to giggle. The other men still ignored him. But when he started to cackle wildly, the conversation in the room stopped.

"What's your problem you lazy idiot?" a prominent farmer finally shouted.

He said, "No problems, not anymore. I'm just laughing because I'm going to be famous while you're all stuck in this miserable little hamlet."

"Famous? For what?! Being an idiot?" The men laughed drunkenly.

Rufus ignored them and continued talking. "This evening I was walking through the woods when I encountered a man dressed all in black. But he wasn't an ordinary man... he was the Dark Man himself. The Devil!"

Some men laughed, but a few remembered their grandmothers' old stories and grew quiet.

"He asked me how much it would cost to buy my soul. 'I don't want to be rich', I said, 'I want to be famous. How famous can you make me?'"

"The Devil said, 'What if I told you that thousands would attend your funeral? Would that be famous enough?' I said 'Thousands at my funeral? You bet! Where do I sign?'"

Rufus drained his glass and slammed it down. "So I sold him my soul. And now gentleman, good night. Fame awaits!"

The next day word spread quickly through Berlin that Rufus Goodrich had sold his soul. People assumed he had left town to find fame because no one had seen him since he left the cider mill.

A few days later a farmer noticed a loud buzzing sound coming from inside one of his barns. He also could smell something awful inside.

When he went into the barn he found the source of the terrible odor. There was Rufus Goodrich's body, wedged between two hayposts. It looked like he had fallen and broken his neck, and had been there a few days.

The buzzing was caused by the fat black flies that crawled over Rufus's bloating corpse and swarmed through barn. The farmer had never seen so many flies! At first he thought there must be hundreds of them.

But then he realized there were even more. The Devil had kept his word. Rufus's funeral was indeed attended by thousands... of flies.


Anonymous said...

I have been researching the history of Rainsford Island for several years. Although there were discussions, beginning in the 1920s, I cannot confirm that any bodies were removed to Long Island. The Boston Globe, May 31, 1885, Quadruple Sheet, page 3, notes that Robert A. Bell GAR Post 134, comprised of African American Civil War Veterans, decorated 75 graves at Rainsford. That number rose to 100 in the May 31, 1887, per that date's edition of the Boston Post, page 8. In the 1890s that number rose to over 100 and was noted as 150 in the Boston Globe, May 31, 1931, page A 31.
The Boston Globe, May 30, 1937, page B5, notes that the Sonsof the War of 1812, decorated a tablet that was recently placed on the grave of Lieutenant Horace Stockton White.
The Boston Globe, August 16, 1937, page 20, notes severe vandalism of “tombstones” at Rainsford Island.
The Boston Globe, June 27, 1943, page B 41, notes that the Sons Of Union Veterans of the Civil War will have an outing at Rainsford on July 4th and decorate Veterans’ graves.
The Boston Globe, July 5, 1943, page 23, notes 50 graves were decorated.
The Boston Globe, November 12, 1946, page 1, notes “Boston Assailed for Neglect of Veterans’ Graves”.. “The graves of 200 Civil War Veterans and 50 Spanish American War soldiers have been neglected and desecrated..” .. “almost all the gravestones have been pulled around and knocked apart like rock…….you can’t even tell where the graves were!” My note--- the last burial at Rainsford occurred before the beginning of the Spanish American War.
Finally, the Boston Globe, April 18, 1947, page 13 notes that “The remains of 350 persons, including 79 Civil War Veterans, will be moved from Rainsford Island to Long Island...”
I have identified 1,599 burials at Rainsford Island from 1854 to 1896. They are posted to Findagrave.com I am working on the burials prior to 1850, back to 1738. Those probably total 200. I find no evidence that anyone was removed to Long Island. Even if 350 bodies were removed in 1947, that would leave at least 1,300 behind. The bronze memorial to the 79 Civil War Veterans that are buried at Long Island, having been transferred from Rainsford, does not include many of the names of Veterans that I know were buried at Rainsford Island.
Bill McEvoy,
Newton, MA

Rich Clabaugh said...

Spooky story Peter! And like so many others, making a deal with the devil will always have a catch!

Peter Muise said...

Hi Rich! Thanks for the comment. I'd say making a deal with the Devil is generally not a good idea.