The story goes that, after Moody accidentally killed a young friend, his father "compelled his son to sit up all night with the body of his friend as an atonement." Moody was so overcome with guilt that he wore a handkerchief over his face for the rest of his life—even while in the pulpit. He was the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne's story, "The Minister's Black Veil":
"Why do you tremble at me alone?" cried he, turning his veiled face round the circle of pale spectators. "Tremble also at each other! Have men avoided me, and women shown no pity, and children screamed and fled, only for my black veil? What, but the mystery which it obscurely typifies, has made this piece of crape so awful? When the friend shows his inmost heart to his friend; the lover to his best beloved; when man does not vainly shrink from the eye of his Creator, loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin; then deem me a monster, for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and die! I look around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil!"The Hawthorne story was, in turn, the inspiration for Rick Moody's 2002 book The Black Veil: A Memoir with Digressions. His Author Photo Gallery has some neat items, including a picture of a guy dressed up like Handkerchief Moody for a festival at York's First Congregational Church, and a "bad photo of a fake portrait of 'Handkerchief' Moody painted by a friend of my father's."