‘Oniontown’ Can’t Beat the Internet Mob Alone – An Open Letter
Oniontown is located in Dutchess County, NY just south of Dover Plains and is the subject of a lot of rumor.
If you opened this, you already know some of the nastier rumors but at minimum, the folks there could be described as reclusive. It's said that you should not go there because the residents will do what they can to scare you off. They say don't go there at night, people say the cops won't even go in and there are even rumors about inbreeding.
Naturally, this makes Oniontown a destination for thrill-seeking teenagers looking to impress their friends and there are countless social media videos of young people, doing just that.
It's hard to separate the stories from truth but here is what I know for sure, the folks there don't like the way they are categorized, I learned this firsthand some years back. Years ago, we made Oniontown a topic on my radio show. We took phone calls on Oniontown, and people shared what they "knew" or "heard." I became the emcee of a mean-spirited speculation session where the truth be damned.
The tale of Oniontown has become a public domain ghost story, like the people there did not deserve the same benefit of the doubt that we'd afford to our neighbors. I was hosting this and the people of Oniontown took offense, understandably.
That same day, I was contacted by an adult male who said he grew up there, he expressed to me, that he and the community felt "betrayed." He told me that many of the residents of Oniontown were lifelong listeners and they viewed this as a slap in the face. I apologized to the man and asked him to relay my message to anyone who would listen.
To this day, I regret that show. We (Ethan & I) have a reputation for having fun, pushing the envelope, we take jokes to the edge and make a mockery of all sorts of people, places and things. But making fun of our listeners in massive groups is the opposite of our job. I can pick on politicians, folks in Hollywood, social media stars but not members of our audience for where they live.
What is the truth about what goes on in Oniontown? I honestly don't know, and there is not a lot to go on. That being the case, how can I, or anyone else attempt to categorize the people who live there?
There are social media posts, countless Youtube videos and opinions everywhere but not many facts. One of the few media outlets who has ever been given access to Oniontown was Vice. In 2012, they published a piece called "Peeling Oniontown" written by Aaron Lake Smith.
Smith requested an opportunity to learn about the community and it was granted. He went to Oniontown and spoke to some of their residents including a man named Dick Smith. Vice's article was intense, they asked Smith what it was like for him in school and he replied:
“The kids pick on you. You grow up watching your back. They come up behind you and punch you in the head. A lot of people hide the fact that they’re from here. The stigma has always been there. My dad remembered it. My grand-kids deal with it.”
It's a lot harder to laugh at these people when you look at their situation through the eyes of a child. I don't find it funny now and I'm ashamed of what I did back then, it's bothered me ever since we did the segment.
Why did I write this? Because I want there to be another opinion available when people Google Oniontown. It's the mob versus one Vice article and one Youtube video. Now there is my article, three against the world.
Am I interested in what is up there? What people do? Sure, but just repeating what I've heard isn't the way. I'll continue to make my jokes about people, places and things but I don't want to pile on to an unfair fight. Oniontown can't beat the internet, no one can because the mob is undefeated but it doesn't mean we have to grab a pitchfork and join.