In Episode 239, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger travel to South Kingstown, Rhode Island, to search for the Devil. Not Old Scratch’s first trip to the Ocean State, back in 1816, the Devil was drawn in by a prolific liar named Richard Corey, who tried to bargain his way out of damnation by offering the devil an even bigger liar.
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Produced and hosted by: Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger
Edited by: Ray Auger
Additional Voice Talent: Michael Legge
Theme Music by: John Judd
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*A note on the text: Please forgive punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Like us, the transcripts ain’t perfect.
JEFF: Ray, have you ever told a lie?
JEFF: Me neither.
RAY: Great, so we’re BOTH liars.
JEFF: Agreed. The following statement is true.
RAY: Jeff’s preceding statement was false.
JEFF: Geez, we could do this all day.
RAY: That doesn’t mean we should.
JEFF: Agreed. So we didn’t come to the Peace Dale section of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, just to tell some lies.
RAY: Good! That would feel like a wasted trip.
JEFF: We came here looking for the devil.
RAY: This isn’t our first time looking for the devil in New England. This isn’t even our first time looking for the devil in Rhode Island.
JEFF: No, there’s the devil’s footprints in North Kingstown—not too far from here.
RAY: Right. I guess the devil gets around the Ocean State.
JEFF: He does. We’re in South Kingstown because they say a local liar named Richard Corey once drew the ire of the devil.
JEFF: I’m Jeff Belanger, and welcome to Episode 239 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Thanks for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. We’re a community of legend seekers who love sharing the strange tales that make New England like no other place on earth. We love when you get involved! There are so many ways you can help. Reach out to us with your story leads, join our super-secret Facebook group, and help spread the word about our show. The more people listening, the more legends that come in from every corner of the northeast.
JEFF: Before we go looking for Richard Corey and Old Scratch, we want to take just a minute to tell you about our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals!
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RAY: Okay, Jeff, so we’re in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, looking for the devil and a liar?
JEFF: We’re actually looking for a pair of liars. Legendary liars, as a matter of fact. These guys couldn’t seem to tell the truth. And when people lie as much as these two, the devil is bound to take notice.
RAY: Then let’s head back to the year 1816, and meet these liars.
RAY: It’s the summer of 1816 here in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, though don’t let the name of the season confuse you. Because 1816 so far has been the year without a summer.
JEFF: This year has been devastating for everyone. So far this year it’s snowed every single month, including April, May, and June. Though there was no snow in July, there have been frosts, killing most of the crops, and making life difficult for everyone.
RAY: Though the weather has everyone down, you still need to keep your sense of humor. Without that, what have you got?
RAY: And that’s where Paris Gardner comes in. He’s a funny guy, folks like to have him around, but he’s known to tell whoppers. He lies all the time. It’s almost a compulsion.
JEFF: Still, he’s witty enough that he’s asked to join the Little Rest Club of Good Fellows, a fraternal organization. Before being allowed to join, the president of the club teases Paris about being such a confirmed liar that he couldn’t speak the truth even if he tried.
PARIS: What would you bet on that?
JEFF: Paris Gardner asked the club’s president. To which the president replied he was willing to bet a quarter.
JEFF: Gardner matches his quarter.
JEFF: And says…
PARIS: I can lie and I can speak the truth, but to tell the truth, I would rather lie than speak the truth!
RAY: The members of Little Rest Club of Good Fellows enjoy a good laugh, and unanimously agree that Paris Gardner just won the bet. The club president shakes his hand, and presents Gardner with his certificate of membership.
JEFF: The following day, and across town, a man named Richard Corey is walking home from work.
[WALKING THROUGH WOODS]
JEFF: He takes his usual route through Wilsons Woods, about a half mile north of old Benny Rodman’s mill.
RAY: Richard has walked this path many times. He told some of his friends that he once saw a black snake more than twenty feet long, with a carbuncle on his head as big as a tea kettle!… But no one believed him.
JEFF: What is with these guys telling these tall tales?! (BEAT) Richard’s path takes him right through the middle of a black circle that’s about 50 feet across. It’s likely this was a coal-burning pit, but in the light of dusk, it just looks creepy.
[WALKING IN WOODS]
RAY: A horned monster leaps out from the shadows! It looks almost like a black bull. This monster grabs Richard by the waist.
DEVIL: I am the devil! I have come to take you to hell because you are such an abominable liar!
RAY: Richard pleads with the beast to let him go. He promises if he’s released, he’ll never lie again. All he asks is for one more chance to prove it. But the devil won’t hear it. He drags Richard out to the Great Swamp just to the east of Wilson Woods. And just when Richard thinks he’s about to be sucked down to hell, the devil strikes a bargain.
DEVIL: If you can bring me a bigger liar than yourself to the Devil’s Ring tomorrow night, I will spare you. But if you fail to find a bigger liar, your punishment in hell will be all the worse! Can you even think of a bigger liar than yourself?
RAY: Richard says he can. There is one man who is a bigger liar than himself. And that would be old Paris Gardner who lives at the foot of Teft’s Hill.
JEFF: The devil let’s Richard go…
[RUNNING OFF IN WOODS]
JEFF: On the promise he’ll return tomorrow night with a bigger liar.
RAY: Richard has an idea on how to lure Paris Gardner to that black circle in the woods. The place they call the Devil’s Ring.
JEFF: Everyone around these parts knows there are plenty of stories of buried pirate treasure around the region. Captain Kidd buried his booty all over the eastern seaboard. They say he’d bury one of his men alive with the treasure, so his spirit could guard it. And while that may sound like a favorite legend, it wasn’t that long ago that Jim Wilson claimed a dream lead him to dig and find a heap of gold buried in the woods named after him.
RAY: Richard’s idea is to tell Paris that he was digging for treasure in Wilsons Woods, and found some bones on a chest. That a dream lead him to the spot where he should dig, but once he found the bones, he panicked. The following day, Richard tells Paris, if he’ll come to the woods tonight and move the bones for him, he’ll split the treasure 50/50.
PARIS: I will NOT go with you, Richard. You’re such a liar, I bet you’re making the whole thing up. Nobody can believe a word you say.
RAY: Richard walks away with his head down…
PARIS: [SNICKERING BEHIND HIS DOOR]
RAY: While Paris has a good laugh as he glances over at the bull hide he wore the night before when he put the fear of the devil into poor Richard Corey.
JEFF: When dusk falls the following evening, Richard does NOT return to the Devil’s Ring in Wilson’s woods. In fact, he takes a much longer route home. They say he never cut through Wilson’s woods again, and did his level best to speak the truth the rest of his days. And that brings us back to today.
RAY: Man, Paris Gardner sounds like quite the jerk!
JEFF: I know, right? Compulsive liar, prankster, but he left enough of a mark on South Kingstown that this story made it into the 1915 book: Reminiscences of Narragansett Schools of Former Days by Thomas Robinson Hazard. It’s a book we’ve turned to before.
RAY: It’s worth mentioning that the year 1816 was called the year without a summer. Temperatures were in the 40s in July and August as far south as Connecticut.
JEFF: Crops failed, some farmers gave up and headed west for greener pastures and an easier life. And when crops fail, there’s a domino effect of plight. People go hungry, politicians are voted out of office, because we need to blame SOMEBODY, and maybe the folks of Rhode Island turn to something they can count on: stories.
RAY: Mark Twain one wrote: A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots.
JEFF: Twain also wrote: If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
RAY: Why is it so hard for some people to tell the truth?
JEFF: I used to work with a guy who lied all the time. Even when he didn’t have to, about stuff that didn’t matter. I could drive by a burger place, see him eating his lunch outside, and later that day say, “Hey, I saw you at that new burger place when I drove by. How was it?” And he’d say it wasn’t me. But I saw you, saw your car. He’d say it wasn’t him. I didn’t get it. I mean, who cares? Except some people have a compulsion to lie. Like our friend Paris Gardner.
RAY: And when you tell enough lies, people understand you have to pay a consequence for that. Either in this life or the afterlife… enter the devil.
JEFF: Right. Even if you think you got away with a lie, the devil knows. Which must be why Paris Gardner went after poor Richard Corey. I guess in the end, the devil hates competition.
RAY: And when you bring up the devil, everyone gets nervous by default.
JEFF: So true. We’re sometimes known by the company we keep. And the company we keep is our patreon patrons! For just $3 bucks per month this group of insiders get early access to new episodes, plus bonus episodes and content that no one else gets to hear. We’d appreciate your help. Just head over to patreon.com/newenglandlegends to sign up.
RAY: Please do us a favor and post a review for us on Apple Podcasts. It takes just a second to do, and it really helps others discover our show.
JEFF: We’d like to thank our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals, thank you to Michael Legge for lending his voice acting talent this week, and our theme music is by John Judd.
Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.