05 October 2012

"The Leatherman" Local Legend & More Spooky Halloween Part Two

The Leatherman (not the popular tool!) was a character of legend who actually did exist in the area where I live. I don't recall how I initially found out about his wanderings and rather unusual life, I think perhaps it was my husband who had found out about him and told me, and then I became intrigued.

It's quite an interesting and fascinating story of a man who traveled a 365 mile circuit throughout Westchester and Connecticut, essentially a tramp who relied on the kindness of farmers and slept in caves to survive, especially during the harsh winters.

He was known as The Leatherman because of his clothing. They were completely cobbled together patchwork style of leather and weighed quite a bit, but would definitely keep out the elements in the worst of weather (aha! zombie proof too!) Only he wore it all the time! Because of his leather suit he made quite an imposing figure although he was not a large man.

Photo via Google Images. Hint: whilst googling images of the Leatherman, of course you get zillions of pics of the knife of the same name, but also pics of Rob Halford! (Major sweetheart so I don't mind if he's lumped in with the old Leatherman. just found that tidbit amusing!)
There isn't much solid proof of who the man was, aside from his circuitous route for over 30 years, his quiet demeanor (he rarely spoke), his handmade belongings, as well as accepting the kindness of those who would feed him when he was hungry.

He was believed to be French, from Lyons. When he did speak he spoke broken English, and some type of dialect of French. In his possession was also a French book of prayer. His original gravestone in Sparta cemetery (Scarborough/ Ossining, NY) stated a name "Jules Bourglay of Lyons, France". But this has never been verified, as his NY death certificate states his name as unknown.

In May of 2011, his body was exhumed and moved to a different part of Sparta Cemetery. When they exhumed the body all they found were coffin nails! The coffin nails and some graveyard dirt from the original grave were taken to the new gravesite and buried in a different area. The tombstone now simply reads "The Leatherman".

This is a documentary recording what could be found out about The Leatherman. Its a little long, but goes in parts so you can take breaks. Plus you get the added bonus of seeing Sparta cemetery which is quite old and near our home (there's an even better, possibly older cemetery closer... investigating soon! Hey I need graveyard dirt!)

Much of this information can be found in the book "The Old Leatherman: Historical Accounts of a Connecticut and New York Legend" by Dan W. DeLuca and available for purchase from the Ossining Historical Society (prob on Amazon, but I'd rather support the historical society.) Drat they don't have the book listed on their shop page, but they do indeed sell it as I saw it when I visited last, and when I said I was writing this, they said if you ask, they will sell it to you, so just ask.

Another grisly local site is Sing Sing prison, which occupies prime Hudson riverfront property and can also be seen if riding the Metro North Hudson line train. (No you're not getting any pics it scares the crap outta me!)

Located in Ossining, NY, Sing Sing was the original name of the town when it was purchased from the local Native American tribe who bore a similar name. The term "getting sent up the river" (as heard in the Tim Burton film "Sleepy Hollow") as a metaphor for going to prison was coined due to prisoners from NYC being sent "up the river" (the Hudson river) on prison barges to Sing Sing prison.

The scene in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" where Holly Golightly visits Tommy "The Tomato" for the "weather report" was actually filmed at Sing Sing. Its said that when Audrey Hepburn entered the room, every inmate went silent and the scene was filmed without a hitch.

Sing Sing is also famous as it had the electric chair which was used for death penalty executions. Some time in the early 70s the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional and NY no longer had use for the electric chair.

It is said that the prison is quite haunted, as I would imagine many are. I don't care to find out! There is a Sing Sing Prison Museum located in town that has a replica of the electric chair (:shiver:) Its located at the Caputo Community Center, 95 Broadway, Ossining, NY. (Count me out as a visitor.)

I've mentioned previously that perhaps we choose this area subconsciously because of the spooky landscape (usually in autumn and winter), as well as the creepy history. As I learn more about the history of the area I'm convinced -- we really are the Addams Family! (Hmm after part three you may also be convinced!)



  1. An Intriguing Story and perfect for Halloween! Empty exhumed Coffin with only the nails and dirt... gotta make for an Urban Legend!

    Dawn... The Bohemian

    1. The story is odd enough, but when my husband told me the part about exhuming the body I was suspect. But its on record with the village so I guess its true weird as it sounds! Now you got me thinking -- I wonder if there is some kind of folk magic thing where you would steal the bones, and leave coffin nails in return? Wouldn't be the weirdest folk magic tradition! Thanks for coming by! XXX

  2. That is a truly spooky story! Just the name 'The Leatherman' is enough to give kids nightmares but the bit about his remains not being in his grave is really really weird! I'm thinking the same as you, was his remains taken for some kind of occult related activity?! Rumours about his lifestyle and activity probably drew all sorts of weirdos to his grave!

    Prisons to me are just like lunatic asylums, they have that same air of spookiness about that! I love horror films set in asylums, there is just something far more scary about them, even the name asylum is creepy enough! Sing Sing prison sounds interesting, I just google image searched it and it came up with an image of an inmate being prepared for execution on 'Old Sparky' I have definitely heard the term 'old sparky' before, maybe in a film or something!

    I'm definitely going to have to get Ghosthunting Southern New England (America's Haunted Road Trip) next. I'm loving this series of books, they're a real treat for people like me who want to learn some history and stories about ghosts from all over America, and not just the most well known ghost stories too! I think I'll add that one and the Texas one to my Christmas list this year, last year I received Ghosthunting Maryland!

    I'm going to go make lunch and watch this video about The Leatherman! ~♥~

    1. Hi Sandy! Wasn't that a creepy story? When my husband first told me I honestly thought it was a local urban legend (there are loads) and I only half believed him until we found the book, an then I did more digging. Def, there are so many folk magic traditions (not necessarily occult) that reference using bones. Then again, it could've just been kids messing around too. I hope they get haunted by the poor man!

      Yes I agree, prisons have the same vibe as asylums. Both flip me out -- too any bad vibes! (Actually some old churches have that same vibe, making you wonder what the hell went on there!) "Old Sparky" is the nickname for the electric chair, and Sing Sing was infamous for having and using it. Creeps me out! I'm sure you've heard it in old movies, as the term was bandied about a lot.

      I should look into those books, then again, maybe I shouldn't! Theres enough weird stuff going on around me (still trying to figure out how to locate Captain Kidd's treasure and occupy his crew's ghosts so I'll be rich rich rich! heehee!) I don't need to go looking for it!

  3. Here from the zombie walk. Have a spooky day!

    I'd love to have your opinion on my zombie post + there are several cool things to win as well (Amazon Gift Card, Halloween board game and a screenplay). They forgot to put me on the linky, so I really hope you can stop by ;-)

    1. Hello Vanessa! I *just* got my Zombie Walk post up! Haven't started my "walk" yet, but will be sure to check yours our! Thanks for stopping by!


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