New England has been a lot of things—a literary bastion, an economic stronghold, a cultural center—but it has also been home to some of the strangest, wildest individuals in America. From ambitious castle-builders like William Gillette and Madame Sherri to mysterious vagabonds like the Leatherman or the Old Darned Man, Wicked Weird & Wily Yankees explores and celebrates the eccentric personalities who have left their mark on the region in a way no other book has before. Stretching back to the colonial era and covering the development and evolution of New England society through the beginning of the twentieth century, this book captures the maverick spirit that’s made the area the distinctive place that it is. Some folks are known, others not so much, but the motley cast of characters that emerges from the pages represents a fascinating cross-section of New England’s most peculiar denizens.
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.