The Old Leather Man: controversy over digging up a legend

Investigators in Connecticut are planning to uncover a local legend, but they’re facing a backlash of public sentiment.

An archaeological team will open the grave of The Old Leather Man, a mysterious wanderer who from 1883 to 1889 walked a 365 mile loop from the lower Hudson River Valley into Connecticut and back. It took him 34 days to make the journey and he was so punctual that well-wishers used to to have meals ready for him when he showed up. He spoke French but little English, slept only in caves and rock shelters, and never revealed information about himself. He got his name from his homemade, 60 lb. suit of leather.

His grave in Ossining’s Sparta Cemetery brings a regular flow of the curious, but local officials are afraid it’s too close to the street and is a safety hazard. They plan to dig up The Old Leather Man and move him to a different part of the cemetery. They also want to take a DNA sample. Legend claims he was a heartbroken Frenchman named Jules Bourglay, but Leather Man biographer Dan W. DeLuca says this is an invention of a newspaper of the time.

The DNA might prove a clue to who he really was and that’s where the controversy starts. History teacher Don Johnson has set up a website called Leave the Leatherman Alone, saying that his privacy should be respected. Judging from all the comments on his site, he seems to have a fair amount of backing.

As a former archaeologist I love unraveling a good mystery but I have to agree with Mr. Johnson on this one. The Old Leather Man obviously wanted his identity to remain unknown, and just because he was a homeless man why should his wishes be ignored? He never committed any crime besides vagrancy, he died of natural causes, and there are no known inheritance issues, so what’s the need?

As a teenager growing up in the Hudson Valley, I loved the mysteries of New England and the Mid-Atlantic states–the strange rock constructions, the Revolutionary War ghosts, Mystery Hill, and, of course, The Old Leather Man. Most of this is the stuff of imagination, but The Old Leather Man was real, living person.

And because of that, we should let his mystery remain buried.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Daily deals – $49 MP3 player, $30 Bluetooth stereo headphones and more

Here are the hottest gadget deals for today, Thursday June 11th 2009. Remember, these deals are often only valid for one day, so act fast before they are gone!

Looking to cut some wires from your commute? How about these Plantronics Pulsar 260 Bluetooth stereo headphones? They are on sale at for just $29.99 with free shipping. With the new iPhone and iPod touch software update coming next week, you’ll be able to add wireless stereo music to your player. Click here for this deal.

Today’s cheap MP3 player comes from 1dealaday who are selling the highly rated Sandisk Sansa e270 media player for $49.99. The player supports many music and video formats and comes complete with an FM radio and a voice recorder. Thanks to its MicroSD expansion slot, you can expand it way past its standard 6GB limit. Click here for this deal.

If you regularly run out of power on your mobile device, then this $20 Duracell universal USB charger may be just what you need. The device can be charged using your desktop or laptop PC, and it can add as much as 30 hours of additional playback to an iPod or other music player. Click here for this deal.

Finally in today’s lineup, is a multi-tool which is perfect for outdoors fans, or if you still need something for Fathers Day. This Leatherman Core tool and C33LX knife normally sells for $100, but is currently on sale for just $45.41, with free shipping. Click here for this deal.