The Man Who Tried to Cheat the Devil


BY: Michael Perry

Richard Slyhoff was very sad. He was restless and nervous as he stood close to the window, and the cold rain beat a mournful dirge on the dingy pane.

Rainy days were never happy days for Slyhoff.

They kept him confined within his home, forced him to reflect with terror on the future. Although he was forty-three, he realized his failing health would soon bring him to his grave.

The past failed to disturb him.

He is said to have been an ungodly man who had lived far from the strait and narrow way, but that did not worry him.

It was the future, in the life hereafter that worried Richard Slyhoff.

He feared the devil would get him after his death.

For weeks he had racked his brain for some scheme by which he could cheat the devil. His insufferable pride made him believe that he could actually contrive such a scheme, and it irritated
him to think that he could not find the solution.

As the rain beat down in ever increasing monotony, its mournful rhythm echoed mockingly in Richard Slyhoff’s ears.

Despite the threat of the weather to his frail health he felt that he must get out into the open, away from his confining walls.

He snatched his coat and cap off the hook, stepped out into the rain and walked away from the house as swiftly as his feeble legs would permit.

As soon as he was out of hearing of the ceaseless dripping of the rain, his head seemed to clear.

He sloshed on with little regard for puddles or mud. Now and then he gazed mechanically at sights that had become familiar to him.

Here an excited brook, there a fallen tree and the leaning rock.

The leaning rock! Slyhoff stopped suddenly and stared at the stone.

It leaned at an angle of approximately 45 degrees and looked as if the slightest tremor of the earth would cause it to fall.

A smile crept over Slyhoff’s face. He tilted back his head until the rain pelted on it, shook his fist at the lowering clouds, and laughed derisively. Then he turned and returned to his home.

His mind was at peace, for at last he had found the way to cheat the devil. He conceived the idea that if he were buried beneath the leaning rock, he would be safe from the devil. For he reasoned
that on Judgement Day, when the earth trembled and the dead came forth from their graves, the leaning rock would shudder and fall, completely burying him from the devil for all time.

The next day, Slyhoff brought the village undertaker to the rock and instructed him on how he wanted to be buried.

When he died he was laid to rest, according to his wish, beneath the rock. So far did the rock lean that the men hired to dig his grave experienced great inconvenience. They had to get on their
knees under the rock in order to scoop out the earth, and even then, they were constantly bumping their heads on the heavy stone.

But finally the arduous task was performed, and the coffin was placed into the grave. In order the get the coffin into the grave, the men were forced to slide it under the rock, and let it down with ropes held by others a short distance away from the rock.

When the grave-markers were placed it was necessary to put a small footstone under the rock, presumably at Slyhoff’s feet. The head-stone was placed at the outer edge of the grave, with the
inscription carved on the side away from the strange grave.

Strange as it seems, this is a true story. Slyhoff was a real person, not a figment of a fiction writer’s imagination. He lived the last years of his life, from 1850 until his death January 2, 1867, in the territory surrounding Sigel, near Brookville, Pennsylvania, gateway to Cook Forest and the laurel country.

The remarkable part of the story, and one that is familiar to those who have visited the grave near Brookville, is this:

As the years have passed since Slyhoff’s burial THE ROCK HAS MOVED! The huge stone that Slyhoff had hoped would save him from the devil, has been drawing steadily away from the grave by some unaccountable force. Today the rock that in 1876 leaned toward the grave at a forty-five degree angle, now stands perpendicular.

Some say it is even beginning to lean a little away from the grave.


For ages men have sought a hiding place from the devil and hell, but all in vain. There is no rock or even mountain on this earth that can hide us from the wrath of God. Salvation is only found in
the “Rock of Ages,” Jesus Christ. He will be a ROCK to protect all who put their trust in Him; but WOE be unto those who look to any other source for protection.

“And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?'” Revelation 6:15-17.

“Because you have said, ‘We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us; for we made lies our
refuge and under falsehood have we hid ourselves'” Isaiah 28:15.

“Christ died for our sins… and … rose again…” I Corinthians 15:3,4.

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Romans 6:23.

(The above material was published by Pilgrim Tract Society, Inc.,
Randleman, N.C.)