Wicked Weird & Wily Yankees: A Celebration of New England's Eccentrics and Misfits
By Stephen Gencarella
Incredible Stories of the Prophets, Vagabonds, Fortune-Tellers, Hermits, Lords, and Poets Who Shaped New England
New England has been a lot of things—an economic hub, a cultural center, a sports mecca—but it is also home to many of the strangest individuals in America. Wicked Weird & Wily Yankees explores and celebrates the eccentric personalities who have left their mark in a way no other book has before. Some folks are known, others not so much, but the motley cast of characters that emerges from these pages represents a fascinating cross-section of New England’s most peculiar denizens. Look inside to find:
- Tales of the Leather Man and the Old Darned Man, who both spent years crisscrossing the highways and byways of the northeast, their origins and motivation to remain forever unknown.
- The magnificent homes of William Gillette and Madame Sherri, famed socialites who constructed enormous castles in the New England countryside.
- William Sheldon’s apocalyptic prophecies and wild claims including that the American Revolution had hastened the end of the world and that he could—through his mastery of the “od-force”—prevent cholera across the eastern United States.
- The mysterious fortune-teller Moll Pitcher whose predictions, some say, were sought by European royalty and whose fame made her the subject of poems, plays, and novels long after her death.
Stretching back to the colonial era and covering the development and evolution of New England society through the beginning of the twenty-first century, this book captures the rebel spirit, prickly demeanors, and wily attitudes that have made the region the hotbed for oddity it is today.
Stephen Gencarella is the resident folklorist at the Connecticut River Museum and teaches folklore studies and humor studies at UMass Amherst, where his work focuses on the cultural traditions of the Connecticut River Valley.