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.