A Saluda Mystery - Major Perry
Skrivet av The Manning Times   
2014-04-10 15:52


An Illiterate Mulatto Preaches Admirably While He Is Sleep.


By Leading Citizens of the County and the Proof is Conclusive That It Is No Fake.

A Dispatch from Saluda to The News and Courier says the "Sleeping Preacher" was here Thursday night, a large crowd went out to hear this strange man. "Major Perry," for that is the preacher's name, was in the charge Messrs of H. P. Bouknight and  J. P. Bodie, two of this county's most reliable citizens. Perry has been living with Mr. Bouknight, a few miles below this place, for twelve or fourteen years and, with the exception of a few nights, he has never failed to preach a sermon on going to sleep during this long period.

Perry is 54 years of age of medium size, copper colored and wears a flowing beard. He was raised in Fairfield County, but not by a Baptist preacher, as has been said in explanation of this strange phenomenon.

Mr. Bouknight has been in the community where Perry was born and raised and lived until 16 years ago, and emphatically states that Perry did not belong to a preacher. The place of his birth was near the present town of Ridgeway.

One of the peculiar things about Perry's sermonizing lies in the fact that his preaching dates from the time of his being paralyzed on the left side in 1888. He was never known to preach before then and he has never failed to preach a sermon every night since then save occasionally on Friday night.

A test made by your correspondent revealed that Perry is very illiterate, being scarcely able to spell out the simplest words, even with book in hand. He is extremely reticent on the subject of his nightly preaching, and if pressed will resent too close questioning. Another peculiarity notice able is that Perry can go to sleep surrounded by a curious crowd as quickly as a babe in its mother's arms.

Thursday evening Perry's wife arranged a bed in the school building here and at 9.40 the strange man undressed and "turned in" apparently for the night. In fifteen minutes, amidst the gaze and habub of the crowd, he was sound asleep. Four minutes later he commenced to sing in low and measured tones an old-hymn, beginning "Come, ye that love the Lord."

After "lining out" and singing two verses lie slowly turned on his right side and reverently repeated the Lord's Prayer,  making but one change in it, viz, inserting the word "all" before the words "our trespasses." He followed the Lord's Prayer with an extemporaneous petition, the logic and language of it being as good as that of the average white preacher. At the conclusion Perry turned on his back and, after a moment's pause, stated that his text would be found in the 12th chapter of Matthew and 28th verse. This he quoted and a comparison of the quotation with the original shows that he repeated the words verbatim. His discourse lasted forty-five minutes and the reading of a stenographic report made by Mr. Tadlock shows a closely reasoned (with some exceptions) Gospel sermon, instead of being a senseless negro harangue. Few grammatical errors were made and many of his citations from the Bible were substantially correct. At times he was really eloquent.

For the most part he spoke in a smooth, conversational tone, but occasionally he became impassioned and made the welkin ring.

Twice during the sermon he had something like convulsions, and when ever seized by one of these, he immediately left off speaking, his heart and pulse ceased to beat and, except for the strange movement of his muscles, one would suppose life extinct. These convulsions lasted but a minute and as soon as over he would commence his sermon just where he left off and in the same tone.

An examination of the eyes while preaching showed the pupils motion less and a bright light placed close to his face while the lids were pushed back did not cause him to move or flinch.

During his preaching period it has always been found impossible to wake him. Pins have been stuck into his flesh, burning acids have been put about his eyes, but all to no effect, save that he suffered from there experiments on awaking.

Perry is particularly severe in his criticisms of the present-day preachers, he stated that "we are told there were twelve disciples or teachers, and one of these was a devil. But today I think about eleven and a half out of twelve are devils." In elaboration of this statement he referred to the "man-sent preacher" and "the self-sent preacher" and "the money-making preacher."

Perry made no gestures at all, but when under the impression that he was reading from some book in the Bible would run the fingers of his right hand across the bed covering as if following the lines.

He closed his sermon with an earnest exhortation and when the end was reached lay perfectly still and slept quietly until awakened by a physician, who closely watched him throughout.

On being awakened he appeared frightened for the moment. Although he had greatly exerted himself several times during his sermon, he stated that he did not feel tired or at all exhausted; yet his pulse beat rapidly and his breath came quickly.

Whatever else may be said of the strange "sleeping precher." the performance is no fake. Time after time various citizens in this county have gone to Perry's home after night and secreted themselves to detect the fake as they supposed, but invariably after watching him through the cracks in his house go to bed, and giving him time to go to sleep, he would sing a hymn, offer a prayer, announce his text and preach a sermon. He never uses the same text and the body of his discourse is always different.

He rarely ever fails, however, to give the preachers "Hail Columbia."

The effect of this strange phenomenon on a spectator cannot be imagined. Perry's father is said to be a white man and he has Indian blood in him also. This he shows unmistakably, as does his wife, who of late years always accompanies him to prevent the cruel experiments which were at first practiced by some in trying to awaken her husband while in the midst of a sermon. Men of a scientific turn of mind have an interesting subject in "sleeping preacher." and Saluda County in his person possesses one of the mysteries of the new century.


From “The Manning Times”, Manning, Clarendon County, S.C., USA
No 42, May 21, 1902, pg.1

Edited by Elof Granholm April 10, 2014


Senast uppdaterad 2014-04-10 16:00
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