New England’s Answer to Bigfoot

Via New England Folklore:

Before there was Bigfoot, there was the Wild Man. Like Bigfoot, he was large, hairy and often naked, and he lurked in the woods and lonely meadows, emerging only to terrorize and amaze those who witnessed his emergence into the civilized world.

One particularly famous Wild Man has haunted part of Connecticut for nearly a century. His name? The Winsted Wild Man.

Here is a timeline of his appearances…

The folklore surrounding “wild men” intersects not only with Bigfoot but also with fauns, satyrs, and other uncivilized creatures of the untamed wilderness in folklore and mythology from around the world.

Did a Faery Once Run a General Store in Connecticut?

New England Folklore tells the story of Perry Boney, who lived in the 1920s in a Connecticut village now submerged beneath Candlewood Lake.

No one was really sure where Boney came from either. One day he and his tiny store were just suddenly there, almost magically. Small children were convinced he could talk with the fairies that lived near the mountain brooks, and some thought he was a fairy himself. He certainly looked the part. He was small and thin, with wild unruly hair, and large brown eyes that seemed to look right through whoever he talked to. His habit of playing the flute on moonlit nights added to his fairy mystique, but some skeptics said the music was really just the wind sighing in the trees….

Boney also had a very friendly relationship with animals that was quite unusual. A large, tame raccoon lived in Sherman, and came running out to meet Boney whenever he came into town. Boney would speak to the racoon in strange, whistling language that no one else had ever heard, and the racoon would wait for him on the steps of the Sherman general store. When Boney was done with this shopping the racoon walked him home to his tiny store near Green Pond Mountain.

New England’s Underwater Dwarves

New England Folklore shares this Penobscot legend:

It seems like Bigfoot is the monster most frequently sighted out in the woods these days. He’s been seen in every New England state, even Rhode Island. However, in the past a much greater variety of strange creatures could be seen lurking around New England, and many of them are documented in the region’s Native American lore.

One of the more interesting creatures was the water dwarf of Penobscot legend. I write in the past tense, implying that the water dwarfs are gone, but that may not be the case. Maybe they are just lying low and keeping out of sight. That might be OK, because seeing a water dwarf often brought trouble.

The Penobscot name for the dwarfs was alambegwinosis, which literally translates to “underwater dwarf man.” (That would be an awesome name for a superhero!) Sometimes singly and sometimes in villages, these creatures dwell in deep pools in rivers, or at the bottom of lakes. An alambegwinosis is quite distinctive looking. If you encounter a three-foot tall naked man with long straight hair down to his waist near an isolated deep body of fresh water you’ve probably stumbled on a water dwarf.

Little Folk and Zoning: Not Just in Iceland

From New England Folklore:

In September of 2012, a developer trying to build housing in Montville, Connecticut received some surprising news during a town hearing. They would need to alter their project because it threatened small stone structures that had been made by magical, dwarf-like creatures that lived underground.

Readers may be familiar with situations like this from Iceland, where construction projects are not allowed to harm the dwelling places of elves. But they are rare here in New England, where most people don’t believe in fairies, elves, and dwarves. (Bigfoot, ghosts, and UFOs are another story…)

However, magical little people are an ancient tradition among the Algonquian tribes that are native to this area, and the developer was planning to build 120 units of housing on Mohegan Hill, which is the historic and spiritual home of the sovereign Mohegan Tribe. Although the hill is not technically within the boundaries of the tribe’s reservation, it is still very important to them.

There follows an excellent introduction to the Makiawisug, the Fair Folk of the Algonquian traditions of New England.