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Danish sailors have a legend 1 of a spectral ship, often seen in the Baltic, and believe it is a sign of disaster to meet with it.
A Schleswig-Holstein tale is told of a maiden who was carried off by her lover in a spectral ship, as she was sitting on the shore bewailing his absence. Fishermen aver they see in Katzeburg lake spectral boats and nets, which suddenly disappear when approached.
The old Frisians thought the world a great ship 2 (“Mannigfual"), the mountains its masts. The captain went about on horseback giving his orders. Sailors going aloft when boys came down gray-headed men, and in blocks about the rigging were dining-halls, where they meanwhile sustained life. This ship was afterward lessened, but still remained gigantic. She stuck in the Straits of Dover, but her ingenious captain smeared the port side (she was bound north) with soap, and she scraped through, but left the "white cliffs of Albion" as a reminder. Getting into the Baltic, that sea proved too narrow, and the huge ship was lightened. The island of Bornholm 8 was formed by metal ballast then thrown overboard, and Christiansö from ashes and rubbish. This ship was known in England but a century ago as the Merry Dun of Dover.
North Frisian mariners still tell of her wonders. She scraped off a regiment of soldiers with her head-booms, at Dover, while, at the same time, her spanker-boom projected over Calais' forts, as she tacked in the Channel.
She is not unknown to the French mariner, as we are 1 Thorpe.—Northern Mythology, Vol. II, p. 275. 2 Thorpe.-Northern Mythology, III, 28. 8 Muellenhoff.-Sagen aus Schleswig, 235. + Brewer.-Reader's Hand-Book. Folk-lore Journal, 1884, p. 23. 3 Jal.-Scènes de la Vie Maritime, 1832, II, p. 89, etc.
told of the grand "Chasse Foudre," or lightning-chaser," so large that she is a hundred years in tacking. When she rolls, whales and other large animals are found high and dry in the channels. The nails of her hull are a pivot for the moon. Her signal-halyards are larger than our greatest hempen cables. It took more than thirty years to dig the iron for her hull, and many enormous forges, blown by Arctic tempests, to fabricate her plates and frames. Her cables are the circumference of St. Peter's dome, and would extend around the globe. Her lower masts are so high that a boy becomes a whiteheaded man before he reaches the futtock-shrouds. Her mizzen-royal is larger than the whole of Europe; twentyfive thousand men can manæuvre on her main-cap, and the rainbow serves as a streamer. There is a tavern in each block, the pipe of the smallest boy is as large as a frigate; the quid of a tar would supply the crew of a frigate eighteen months in tobacco. Her cabin is a true paradise. In one corner is a large patch of ground planted with trees and greensward, and elephants, tigers, and other huge beasts, abound in it. She is the opposite of the spectral ship proper, as her crew are the good and deserving men, and their tasks are light and fare superb. She has ports, but no guns, for want of material. Gargantua 1 made a ship like this, which it took a whole forest to build.
The Normans believed that if their offerings for souls in purgatory were not acceptable, a spectral bark would sail in to the wharf, with crews of the souls of those who had perished years before at sea. Friends on shore recognized lost ones, but at midnight the bell would strike, and lights and ship disappear as suddenly as they came. 1 Sébillot.-Gargantua dans Les Traditions Populaires, 18.
Chapus 1 says it is believed that this boat comes on All Saints' day. “The watchman of the wharf sees a boat come within hail at midnight, and hastens to cast it a line; but, at this same moment, the boat disappears, and frightful cries are heard, that make the hearer shudder, for they are recognized as the voices of sailors shipwrecked that year.” Hood describes this event in "The Phantom Boat of All Souls' Night.”
There are various German traditions of phantom ships. Falkenburg ? still cruises in the northern ocean, and plays at dice with the devil for his soul. Murder on the high seas is said to have been the cause of his punishment.
Schmidt: relates two legends, current among German sailors fifty years ago, of spectral barks.
One of these is of the Death ship, out of whose ports grin death's-heads, along with similar forms delineated on the sails. On the gallery stands a skeleton with an hourglass in his hand. The crew are the ghosts of condemned sinners, who serve one hundred years in each grade, until each has a short tour as captain. It is an omen of disaster to meet this ghostly bark at sea. A German poet thus sings of her:
+ "For the ship was black, her masts were black,
And her sails coal-black as death,
And mocked at their failing breath."
Another account calls this ship the Navire Libera nos, which is shrouded in black, and carries a black flag, spangled with silver fames and death's-heads, and having inscribed on it "Libera Nos." The skeleton crew is commanded by Captain Requiem (dirge). They will cruise until a Christian crew shall board the vessel and say a mass for their souls.
1 "Dieppe et ses Environs” (1873). 2 Thorpe.—Northern Mythology, 2-275. 3 Seeman's Sagen und Schiffer Mährchen. * Oscar L. B. Wolff.-—"The Phantom Ship." 6 A. Balleydier.- Veilles du Presbytère, in Mélusine, September, 1884.
A middle-age author 1 says the soul of Ebrouin was borne by the devil to hell, down the river Rhone, in a ship, whose descent was accompanied with a great noise.
“In many localities in Lower Brittany,stories are current of a huge ship manned by giant human forms and dogs. The men are reprobates guilty of horrible crimes; the dogs, demons set to guard them, and inflict on them a thousand tortures. These condemned vessels wander ceaselessly from sea to sea, without entering port or casting anchor, and will do so to the end of the world. No vessel should allow them to fall aboard, for its crew would suddenly disappear. The orders, in this strange craft, are given through huge conch-shells, and, the noise being heard several miles, it is easy to avoid her. Besides, there is nothing to fear, if the 'Ave Maria' is repeated, and the saints appealed to, especially St. Anne D'Auray."
Another tale is of a spectral bark often seen at sea, but which, on a nearer approach, proves to be a rock. This was believed to have been a slave ship, among whose unfortunate crew was a magician, who killed all the negroes and jumped overboard, transforming the vessel into a stone.
1 Liebrect.-Gervasius von Tilbury, 150. 2 L. F. Sauvé, in Mélusine, September, 1884. 3 Schmidt.-Seeman's Sagen und Schiffer Mährchen.
There is an account of a phantom ship given in a letter in a German periodical. A lookout sees and reports a vessel. When interrogated, he says he saw a frigate in a faint cloud of light, with a black captain and a skeleton form with a spear in its hand, standing on the poop. Skeleton shapes handled the cobweb sails, and the gossamer ropes moved noiselessly. The only word he heard, as the mysterious bark glided away, was "water.” The history of this vessel, as recounted by sailors on board, was as follows: A wealthy Peruvian Spaniard, Don Lopez D'Aranda, dreamed he saw his son, Don Sandovalle, who had sailed with his bride for Spain, on board his ship, with a ghastly wound in his head, and pointing to his own form, bound to the mainmast of the vessel. Near him was water, just beyond his reach, and the fiendish crew were mocking him and refusing him drink. The crew had murdered the young couple for their gold, and the curse of the wandering Dutchman had come upon them. They are still seen in the neighborhood of the La Plata.
Among Swedish sailors, the phantom ship 2 is the Refanu. She is so large that it takes three weeks to go from poop to prow, and orders are transmitted on horseback. Each top is as great as a kingdom, and there is an inn in every block.
The same tales are told of her tacking in the North Sea that were recounted above, of the Merry Dun. A Dutch brig once sailed into her hawse-holes, and was tossed for three days by the waves in the soup.coppers, until it was skimmed out one day, and cast with the scum
1 Morgenblätter, for 1824. 2 E. Wigstroem, in Germania, XXVIII, p. 109.