Louis Timothy Stone (1875-1933), more popularly known as Lou Stone, or the Winsted Liar, was a journalist famous for the hundreds of fanciful articles he wrote about the strange flora and fauna surrounding his hometown of Winsted, Connecticut. It was said he had a "faculty for seeing the unusual in stories."
He lived his entire life in Winsted, refusing offers from other papers to relocate. He started out at the age of thirteen as a printer's devil at the Winsted Evening Citizen
and a few years later was made a reporter there.
In 1895, at the age of twenty, he created his first and most famous tale when he sent out a wire report claiming a "wild man"
had been spotted in the woods outside of Winsted. The big city papers sent reporters to investigate, but all they ever found was a stray jackass.
After this, Stone continued to send out weekly reports about bizarre animals and plants around Winsted. These reports were run by many newspapers, making him one of the most widely read writers in America. In fact, it was often said that he "placed Winsted on the map." A billboard at the edge of the town stated exactly this:
Winsted, founded in 1779, has been put on the map by the ingenious and queer stories that emanate from this town and which are printed all over the country, thanks to L.T. Stone.
Stone eventually became general manager of the Winsted Citizen. He died on March 13, 1933 after a long illness. After his death, the residents of Winsted named a bridge after him. The bridge spanned Sucker Creek.
Stone's Tall Tales
Some of the tall tales that made Lou Stone famous include:
- A chicken that lay red, white, and blue eggs every fourth of July.
- A tree that grew baked apples.
- A bashful cow raised on a farm owned by two spinsters whom no men ever visited. When the cow was sold, she refused to allow herself to be milked by a man unless she was dressed in women's clothes.
- A man who caught a fish with his red nose as bait.
- The farmer who plucked his chickens with a vacuum cleaner.
- A river that ran uphill.
- A cow that was locked in an ice house and produced ice cream for two weeks after her release.
- Winsted resident, Otis Gillette, who, because he was bothered by flies, had a spider and cobweb painted on his bald head. When his wife complained that it made him look ridiculous, he replied, "Comfort before pride."
- A cow that was so shaken by a garage explosion that she produced butter.
- A cow that ate radishes and produced burning milk.
- A maternal bulldog that sat for three weeks on eggs abandoned by a hen.
- A windstorm that blew a sheet of paper into a typewriter and typed the alphabet backward.
- A tame squirrel that used his tail to shine his owner's boots each morning.
- A Maltese cat with a harelip that whistled Yankee Doodle.
- A thirsty frog who knocked over a jug of applejack, removed its cork, drank its contents, and started to sing "Sweet Adeline." When an editor asked Stone how a frog could remove a cork from a jug, he replied: "Thirsty frogs are very sure-toed. Their desire for strong drink inspires them with great strength and amazing agility, and also makes them musical."
- A farmer who lost his watch and found it seven years later in the stomach of one of his cows, after he had killed it. The watch was still running because the cow's stomach muscles had kept it wound, though it was a minute-and-a-half slow.
Links and References
- "Where Nature Yarns Come From." (May 21, 1916). The Washington Post.
- "Lew Stone of Winsted, Tall-Tale Teller, Dies." (Mar 14, 1933). Los Angeles Times.
- "The Never-Never Yarns that made Winsted Famous." (April 16, 1933.) Portsmouth Times.
- MacDougall, Curtis. (1958). Hoaxes. Dover Publications. pgs. 3-4.