Search For Clues Only Deepens 'Old Leatherman' Mystery In the 1800s, a man wearing a head-to-toe leather suit walked a 365-mile circuit between the Connecticut and Hudson rivers, sleeping in cave shelters and completing the journey precisely every 34 days. The legend of the Old Leatherman is still a mystery that fascinates people.
NPR logo

Search For Clues Only Deepens 'Leatherman' Mystery

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/136649653/136669837" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Search For Clues Only Deepens 'Leatherman' Mystery

Search For Clues Only Deepens 'Leatherman' Mystery

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/136649653/136669837" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

As Craig LeMoult from member station WSHU reports, the effort has only added to the mystery surrounding him.

CRAIG LEMOULT: Off an old dirt road in Ossining, New York is a large rock face with some smaller, jagged boulders at its base.

DAN DELUCA: Here we are. This is actually where the Leather Man stayed.

LEMOULT: Dan DeLuca climbs down into what looks more like a crevice than a cave. More than 120 years ago, this spot was one of the homes of The Old Leather Man.

DELUCA: He was all dressed in leather, made from old boot tops that he sewed together with leather lace.

LEMOULT: Oh, and that boot suit? It weighed 60 pounds, and he wore it even in the hottest days of summer. In 1883, he started walking clockwise in a 365-mile circle between the Connecticut and Hudson Rivers. And he completed that circle every 34 days. DeLuca says The Old Leather Man was so punctual that people could tell the time by his schedule.

DELUCA: If normally, he would stop at your house at 10:00, he would be there around 10:00, give or take five, 10 minutes.

LEMOULT: It's a mystery DeLuca's been researching for more than 20 years. He started his research after a heart transplant forced him to retire.

DELUCA: A lot of people, when they get a heart transplant, don't make it. They pass away. And I think The Old Leather Man has kept me alive.

LEMOULT: DeLuca's not the only one inspired by the legend. The band Pearl Jam recorded a song about him. There's a race in Pound Ridge, New York named after him. And his caves are visited by Leather Man enthusiasts, and so is his grave here in Ossining, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAFFIC)

LEMOULT: The plan to take the DNA became a bit of a controversy. Don Johnson is a middle school history teacher in North Haven, Connecticut, who teaches his students about the Leather Man. He's also the creator of the website LeaveTheLeatherManAlone.com. He says the Leather Man was intensely private.

DON JOHNSON: Thirty years, 100,000 miles, never telling anybody who he was. That legacy, to me, should speak to us today as, do we want to respect him and memorialize him properly? Then leave him alone. Leave his bones alone.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

LEMOULT: In a way, actually, the whole thing of the mystery of the Leather Man has been, you know, we didn't know who he was. Now we might not even know where he is.

NICK BELLANTONI: Yeah. No, he's, you know, he's having a good laugh.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LEMOULT: For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.