Date: August 1809

(As told in Knickerbocker’s History of New York, by Washington Irving, 1809.)

It was a dark and stormy night when the good Antony arrived at the creek (sagely denominated Haerlem river) which separates the island of Manna-hata from the mainland. The wind was high, the elements were in an uproar, and no Charon could be found to ferry the adventurous sounder of brass across the water. For a short time he vapored like an impatient ghost upon the brink, and then, bethinking himself of the urgency of his errand, took a hearty embrace of his stone bottle, swore most valorously that he would swim across in spite of the devil (spyt den duyvel), and daringly plunged into the stream. Luckless Antony! scarce had he buffeted half-way over when he was observed to struggle violently, as if battling with the spirit of the waters. Instinctively he put his trumpet to his mouth, and giving a vehement blast sank for ever to the bottom.

The clangor of his trumpet, like that of the ivory horn of the renowned Paladin Orlando, when expiring in the glorious field of Roncesvalles, rang far and wide through the country, alarming the neighbors round, who hurried in amazement to the spot. Here an old Dutch burgher, famed for his veracity, and who had been a witness of the fact, related to them the melancholy affair; with the fearful addition (to which I am slow of giving belief) that he saw the duyvel, in the shape of a huge mossbonker, seize the sturdy Antony by the leg and drag him beneath the waves. Certain it is, the place, with the adjoining promontory, which projects into the Hudson, has been called Spyt den Duyvel ever since; the ghost of the unfortunate Antony still haunts the surrounding solitudes, and his trumpet has often been heard by the neighbors of a stormy night, mingling with the howling of the blast.

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Not far from the plaque that commemorates the sale of Manhattan Island to the Dutch, there is an underground watershed that has been coming to the surface and “irrigating” the flatland beneath the hills for as long as anyone can remember. Could this be what local folk called the Spitting or Squirting Devil (Old Dutch=Spuyten Duyvil).
Anthony van Corlear’s Crossing of the Spuyten Duyvil

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