Catskills, Then and Now: Devil’s Tombstone

April 17, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

The Devil’s Tombstone in the town of Hunter, Greene County is an extremely large sandstone boulder that legend states is the burial site of the Devil. The boulder is located in the heart of Stony Clove at the popular Devil’s Tombstone Campground, one of the oldest campgrounds in the Catskills and New York State. The enormous boulder has also historically been known as Pulpit Rock, the Devil’s Stool, the Devil’s Seat and Picnic Rock.

 

Alf Evers in his 1972 classic The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock described the Devil’s Tombstone:

 

“The Tombstone is a slab of sandstone almost six feet wide and perhaps seven feet high with a rudely rounded top. It was set on end many thousands of years ago by water and ice power and has much the look of a conventional tombstone of gigantic size. It stands within what is known officially as the Devil’s Tombstone Camping Site of the New York State Department of Conservation. As far back as the 1860s the Tombstone was photographed for viewing in a parlor stereoscope. This earliest known photograph shows the stone with a mountain wagon and team beside it and some roughly dressed men cooking nearby. The men were probably fisherman – for the trout streams in the neighborhood were once famous, and Charles Lanman reported that he and his party caught seven hundred during their overnight stay.

 

There is unfortunately no inscription on the Tombstone giving the Devil’s dates of birth and death and other pertinent information. But campers at the site are sometimes brought to rapt attention as they see a slanting beam of late afternoon sunlight illuminating the face of the Tombstone. Then for a few moments the rough surface of the stone seems to pulse with meaning as ancient scratched and eroded pits appear to arrange themselves into the symbols of a forgotten language which might very well, could they be translated, give the world the details of the Devil’s death amid the scenic splendor of the Catskill Mountains. But until a translator comes along, it will be necessary to take the Tombstone and the great event it commemorates on faith.” (Evers, Alf. The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock. Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press, 1972. p. 233-234.)

 

For more information on the folklore of the Devil in the Catskills, look no further than The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock by Alf Evers, where an entire chapter details the Devil’s mischievous doings.

 

The plaque on Devil’s Tombstone reads: “This tablet commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of New York State’s Forest Preserve. The surrounding mountains, streams and woodlands remain a legacy from the past. Protected by the Constitution of New York State they represent a heritage for future generations. Erected by the Environmental Conservation Department, State of New York.” The Catskills Forest Preserve was created in 1985, and required the land to be “forever kept as wild forest lands”.

 

The stereoview titled “Picnic Rock, Stony Clove” was published by John Jacob Loeffler, one of the greatest Catskills photographers in history. It was published circa the 1870s-1880s and is one of the earliest known photographs of the Devil’s Tombstone. The vintage postcard was published in the early 1900s by the Souvenir Post Card Company of New York. The rock inscriptions seen in the photograph include the years 1898 and 1906. The postcard was never mailed. My photograph was taken in the summer of 2017 over 140 years after Loeffler’s stereoview.

 

Picnic Rock, Stony ClovePicnic Rock, Stony Clove

The Devil’s Tombstone in the town of Hunter, Greene County is an extremely large sandstone boulder that legend states is the burial site of the Devil.Devil's Tombstone, Stony Clove Notch, Catskill Mts., N.Y.The Devil’s Tombstone in the town of Hunter, Greene County is an extremely large sandstone boulder that legend states is the burial site of the Devil. The boulder is located at the popular Devil’s Tombstone Campground, one of the oldest campgrounds in the Catskills and New York State. Alf Evers in his 1972 classic The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock describes the Tombstone:

“The Tombstone is a slab of sandstone almost six feet wide and perhaps seven feet high with a rudely rounded top. It was set on end many thousands of years ago by water and ice power and has much the look of a conventional tombstone of gigantic size. It stands within what is known officially as the Devil’s Tombstone Camping Site of the New York State Department of Conservation. As far back as the 1860s the Tombstone was photographed for viewing in a parlor stereoscope. This earliest known photograph shows the stone with a mountain wagon and team beside it and some roughly dressed men cooking nearby. The men were probably fisherman – for the trout streams in the neighborhood were once famous, and Charles Lanman reported that he and his party caught seven hundred during their overnight stay.

There is unfortunately no inscription on the Tombstone giving the Devil’s dates of birth and death and other pertinent information. But campers at the site are sometimes brought to rapt attention as they see a slanting beam of late afternoon sunlight illuminating the face of the Tombstone. Then for a few moments the rough surface of the stone seems to pulse with meaning as ancient scratched and eroded pits appear to arrange themselves into the symbols of a forgotten language which might very well, could they be translated, give the world the details of the Devil’s death amid the scenic splendor of the Catskill Mountains. But until a translator comes along, it will be necessary to take the Tombstone and the great event it commemorates on faith.” (Evers, Alf. The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock. Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press, 1972. p. 233-234.)

For more information on the folklore of the Devil in the Catskills, look no further than The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock by Alf Evers, where an entire chapter details the Devil’s mischievous doings.

The plaque on Devil’s Tombstone reads: “This tablet commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of New York State’s Forest Preserve. The surrounding mountains, streams and woodlands remain a legacy from the past. Protected by the Constitution of New York State they represent a heritage for future generations. Erected by the Environmental Conservation Department, State of New York.” The Catskills Forest Preserve was created in 1985, and required the land to be “forever kept as wild forest lands”.

The Devil’s Tombstone in the town of Hunter, Greene County is an extremely large sandstone boulder that legend states is the burial site of the Devil.Devil's TombstoneHunter, Greene County

The Devil’s Tombstone in the town of Hunter, Greene County is an extremely large sandstone boulder that legend states is the burial site of the Devil. The boulder is located at the popular Devil’s Tombstone Campground, one of the oldest campgrounds in the Catskills and New York State. Alf Evers in his 1972 classic The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock describes the Tombstone:

“The Tombstone is a slab of sandstone almost six feet wide and perhaps seven feet high with a rudely rounded top. It was set on end many thousands of years ago by water and ice power and has much the look of a conventional tombstone of gigantic size. It stands within what is known officially as the Devil’s Tombstone Camping Site of the New York State Department of Conservation. As far back as the 1860s the Tombstone was photographed for viewing in a parlor stereoscope. This earliest known photograph shows the stone with a mountain wagon and team beside it and some roughly dressed men cooking nearby. The men were probably fisherman – for the trout streams in the neighborhood were once famous, and Charles Lanman reported that he and his party caught seven hundred during their overnight stay.

There is unfortunately no inscription on the Tombstone giving the Devil’s dates of birth and death and other pertinent information. But campers at the site are sometimes brought to rapt attention as they see a slanting beam of late afternoon sunlight illuminating the face of the Tombstone. Then for a few moments the rough surface of the stone seems to pulse with meaning as ancient scratched and eroded pits appear to arrange themselves into the symbols of a forgotten language which might very well, could they be translated, give the world the details of the Devil’s death amid the scenic splendor of the Catskill Mountains. But until a translator comes along, it will be necessary to take the Tombstone and the great event it commemorates on faith.” (Evers, Alf. The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock. Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press, 1972. p. 233-234.)

For more information on the folklore of the Devil in the Catskills, look no further than The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock by Alf Evers, where an entire chapter details the Devil’s mischievous doings.

The plaque on Devil’s Tombstone reads: “This tablet commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of New York State’s Forest Preserve. The surrounding mountains, streams and woodlands remain a legacy from the past. Protected by the Constitution of New York State they represent a heritage for future generations. Erected by the Environmental Conservation Department, State of New York.” The Catskills Forest Preserve was created in 1985, and required the land to be “forever kept as wild forest lands”.


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