Local artist Nick Sherman, of Nick Sherman Creative, has recently used his talents and love of local stories to author a fictional history of the famed Boneyfiddler, the skeleton who has become the mascot of the Boneyfiddle Historic District.
“How the Boneyfiddler Got its Bones” is the title of the book, which brands itself as a historical fiction.
Through the storytelling, historical documents, and creative illustrations within the book, Sherman says he hopes to “reawaken a connection to Portsmouth’s story in a stylish, immersive, and meaningful way.”
In the book, a man named Ben Goodman has a disturbing psychic break in which he hears the constant sound of a fiddle he can’t identify. Night and day, the sound of the fiddle never stops.
According to Sherman, “This threatens his job, marriage and sanity. With the help of a creepy hypnotherapist, Ben’s search to identify and stop the torturous fiddle screech leads him to Portsmouth, Ohio in the year 1910 AD.”
The inspiration for the story came from a discussion with friend J.D. Bentley.
“One day, we said, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we made some Portsmouth-specific mythology?’” Sherman recalled. “’Like, formalized in written narrative those lingering Portsmouth folklores?’ The Boneyfiddler was obvious.”
Sherman did a lot of research while planning the Portsmouth mythos he penned. A lot of true history inspired the direction of the book.
“There are so many stories about the Boneyfiddler. Stories of bone fields, bean fields, plays on the lingo of ‘bona fide’— good and true” Sherman said. “Dr. Feight has more to say on this, but, also, aristocratic French women, boney French vagrant men, frustrated typesetters seeking linguistic revenge, butchers covering the sound of animal death with fiddles, fiddles as a symbol of Satan, etc. It’s been fun lore to sort through and discuss and imagine.”
Dr. Feight authored the preface in the book. Feight is a professor of history at Shawnee State University, where he also manages the app and website Scioto Historical, a history and tour program that highlights historical narratives through stories and photographs by also utilizing walking and driving tour features. 20 percent of proceeds from the book will benefit Feight’s Center for Public History program at Shawnee State University.
“He is the perfect partner in crime—I mean history. I meant to say history. Dr. Feight is an exceptional collaborator,” Sherman said. “He read the story, gave genuine feedback, and reinforced my narrative world with rare historic newspaper archive research and illustrations. Do yourself a favor and download his mobile history app at sciotohistorical.org.”
Feight says that he is appreciative of the opportunity to work on the project, as well as the donation pledge.
“The combination of Nick’s illustrations, his incorporation of historical newspaper advertisements, and his fictionalized telling of the Boneyfiddle story makes for a truly original work of mythological folklore,” Feight said. “In my role as the Director of the Center for Public History, and the editor of the Scioto Historical mobile app and website, I collaborated with Nick on the newspaper and historical map research, which helped situate the story on a Portsmouth timeline. The blending of history and fiction, which Nick does so well, is key to his account of ‘how the Boneyfiddler got its bones.’”
Throughout the book, the artist truly shines through his creative thrash-doodle illustrations.
“The fun of the doodles, to me, is not only what is being drawn, but who is drawing them and why,” explained Sherman.
This collaboration between Nick Sherman and Dr. Drew Feight of Scioto Historical is an origin story about the Portsmouth Boneyfiddler. The 100-page volume is full of real Portsmouth history, legend, and horrible rumors that people only dare whisper in grim river-side saloons. It is available on Amazon.com
Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved