The Bizarre Origin Of Massachusetts' Statue Of A Boy ... Uh, 'Riding' A Turtle

The Bizarre Origin Of Massachusetts' Statue Of A Boy ... Uh, 'Riding' A Turtle

We don't know if there's a contest for the weirdest statues in America, but we would immediately know the winner if there happened to be one. It's "Boy With A Turtle" atop the Burnside Fountain in Worcester, Massachusetts, known affectionately by the locals as "Turtle Boy," and nothing else comes close. Why is Turtle boy so strange? Well, take one look at it:

It's a kid banging a turtle. And don't try and act like you can't see it. I know I have a history of reading too deeply into the sexual misadventures of turtles, but the entire city of Worcester sees it too. "Turtle Boy" has become the unofficial mascot of the city, with microbreweries and music festivals named in its honor, and you don't become the mascot of a city in Massachusetts for doing anything innocent. (Of course, there's a website for merch.) Case in point, Wally the Green Monster:

But amazingly, the story behind "Turtle Boy's" conception is just as bizarre as the statue itself. The Burnside Fountain was commissioned in 1904 after the death of Harriet Burnside, who bequeathed upon the city $5,000 from her will to build a fountain that could also serve as a drinking trough for horses and dogs. The design of the basin was left to Henry Bacon, who would later help architect the Lincoln Memorial, and the sculpture itself, our beloved "Turtle Boy," was assigned to Charles Y. Harvey. Burnside made no mention of turtles in her request, so the design's blame most likely lies with Harvey, who perhaps heard "a drinking trough for dogs" and thought that must be coded language for doggy-styling a reptile.

Harvey intended for "Boy Riding A Turtle" to be his masterpiece, but about a week after beginning the sculpture, Harvey started hearing voices telling him to kill himself with some accounts claiming that he believed the voices to be coming from the unfinished sculpture of "Turtle Boy" itself. Sadly, Harvey ultimately took his own life, slitting his throat along the west bank of the Bronx River. Sherry Fry finished the statue but had Charles Harvey lived to fully realize his creation, perhaps Turtle Boy would look much different. At the very least, maybe it would have included a sign that said, "this is not meant to be a boy banging a turtle. It just looks that way," but with the original artist having passed before the completion of the work, we'll never know his true intent.

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Top Image: Rafaelgarcia/Wiki Commons

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