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The Pratt Rocks of Prattsville

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, another tidbit of weirdness springs forth and grabs you. While hiking in the nearby Catskill Mountains of New York State recently, I came across a mini Mt. Rushmore—well, kind of. Located about a half-mile up a steep hillside beside exceedingly rural Route 23a, relief carvings in the cliffs snared my "weird" eye and prompted my closer inspection.

Here’s what I found out: Pratt Rocks was a lifelong work in progress for one Zadock Pratt––founder of the largest tannery in the world back in the 1830s. It

was so large, in fact, that it spawned the town of Prattsville to house its workers. Nearly every achievement and major landmark in Pratt’s life was recorded in stone here, carved into the rock by a local sculptor under his employ.

 

What’s there, you ask? Well, there is a family coat of arms; Pratt’s own bust; various pivotal dates and events; sculpted horses; an arm and hammer, a shrine to his son (killed by Confederate fire in the Civil War); and inscriptions of all sorts. But I found the coolest thing to be the carved out "tomb" that was intended to house Pratt’s carcass for eternity. Word has it that it was found to leak, so Pratt ultimately abandoned the idea. Of course this begs the obvious question: "Why should a few drips matter to a rotting carcass?" But remember, this was a very wealthy man who, by virtue of constructing this stone monument to vanity, had already proved to some (not I!) that his thought processes were—shall we say––just a tad offbeat?

Presumably, locals have since painted the rock sculptures white; that, or they used damn good paint back in the 1800s! It’s a short hike up to the cliffs, and the trail is easy to find from the road. When last there my biker pal Dave claimed to hear ominous sounds coming from the tomb area; but then, Dave is at least as weird as the place itself, so I took his comment with a grain of salt. But haunted or not, this spot deserves a visit and certainly ranks high on the weirdness scale. Hmm…It’s as if some of these other states are tired of being upstaged by New Jersey. Could vanity-minded Zadock Pratt have prophesized that Weird NJ would one day feature Fringe tours and done his best to be included?  One visit there and I’m sure you’ll agree that this explanation is as plausible as any… Enjoy, foot soldiers… –Jeff Bahr

Weird New York

 

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