It's kind of a morbid thought but I think it's a common one. And as I had this thought, I was reminded of a weird and grim little tale about a man named Rufus Goodrich. It appears in Catharine Melinda North's 1916 book History of Berlin Connecticut and it will make you think twice about wishing for a big funeral.
Many years ago, people used to gather at the cider mill in Berlin, Connecticut to enjoy hard cider and good gossip. One day a man named Rufus Goodrich, who lived in nearby Rocky Hill, came into the mill and ordered some cider. He had a big smile on his face and seemed almost giddy with excitement.
Someone said, "Why so happy Rufus?"
Rufus took a sip from his cider and explained he had just sold his soul to the Devil. Everyone in the cider mill fell silent.
Rufus went on to say that the Devil promised him he would be famous if he just signed away his soul. Rufus had asked the Devil exactly how famous he would be.
The Devil replied, "Well, let's just say there will be thousands at your funeral. Thousands." This sounded pretty good to Rufus, so he sold his soul to the Devil.
Once he finished telling his story, Rufus slammed down his now-empty cider mug and stood up. "See you folks later. I'm off to become famous," he said and strutted out the door.
No one saw Rufus around Berlin or Rocky Hill for a few days after that. People thought maybe he had gone to Boston or New York to become famous. But they soon learned the terrible truth when a local farmer complained that huge swarms of flies kept buzzing in and out of his barn. And a horrible smell was coming from the back of the barn too...
|Photo by Sanjay Acharya from Wikimedia|
A group of local men gathered their courage and made their way to the back of the barn. They had to cover their noses and mouths to keep out the flies and the stench. When they reached the back of the barn they found the body of Rufus Goodrich. It was covered with flies.
The men thought of the Devil's promise when they saw Rufus's corpse. There were thousands of flies crawling on him. Thousands.
I love these gruesome little New England folk stories. A lot of them are quite grim, but this is one of the grimmest. I haven't seen it anywhere except in North's book, and I wonder where she heard the story. I haven't been able to locate any records of a "Rufus Goodrich" but the Goodriches were a well-known Rocky Hill family, so perhaps it is based on an actual person. It might be quite old too. Earl Chapin May, in his book Century of Silver, 1847 - 1947, claims the story dates back to the 18th century.
To sum up: be careful what you wish for.