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always coming near a ship that is doomed to wreck, and guided by a fiend. It is the ghostly bark of a bridal party, who were maliciously wrecked,—“the shallop which always sails by the side of the ship which the sea is bound to swallow."
There is a Highland legend ? of a great ship (the Rotterdam) that went down with all on board, and that appears from time to time, with her ghostly crew, a sure omen of disaster.
A Scotch tale, related in many books of folk-lore, is of “Meggie of the Shore," a kind of witch, who saw and showed to others a spectral boat with lights in the harbor, and that night a boat was lost there.
There are also tales of spectral ships on this side of the water.
In an Ojibway tale, a maiden is about to be sacrificed to the spirit of the falls, by drifting her over them in a
But at the last moment, a spectral canoe, with a fairy being in it, takes her place and serves as a sacrifice.
Whittier, “The Cruise of the Jessie," describes a spectral canoe,
“While perchance a phantom crew,
There is a legend of a spectre-ship near Orr's Island, in Maine, embodied in verse by Whittier, in "The Deadship of Harpswell,” where
"The ghost of what was once a ship
1 Cunningham, p. 288.
The conclusion to the narrator of this tale by the Bookman
"Your flying Yankee beats the Dutch"
is good. Whittier gives us another American legend in the "Palatine,"—the spectre of a ship wrecked on Montauk Point, which is said to appear on the anniversary of its destruction, when
"Behold! again with shimmer and shine,
It is a warning to sailors, too,
"And the wise sound-skippers, though skies be fine,
The Palatine was a Dutch trader wrecked on Block Island, about 1752. Wreckers are said to have burned her as she drifted to sea, with one woman on board, who had refused to leave her.1 Livermore 2 gives the testimony of several persons who had heard the story from their ancestors, and stoutly maintains that the wreck was not plundered. Whittier gives as his authority a Mr. Hazard. It was long supposed that Dana's "Buccaneer" also described this deed, but the author says
it is a work of the imagination. Another authority says the Palatine was not wrecked then, but afterward, in 1784. Drake, in his recent work,» repeats the story of her wreck, and says she was burned by the wreckers.
1 Drake-Legends of New England.
In his poems, Whittier also alludes to
“The spectre-ship of Salem, with the dead men in her shrouds, Sailing sheer above the water, in the loom of morning clouds."
In an early and now scarce work, he tells the story of another spectral bark of Salem. In the seventeenth century a ship about to sail for England had as passengers a strange man and a girl of great beauty. So mysterious were their actions, that they were supposed to be demons, and many feared to sail in the ship. The vessel sailed on Friday, and never reached her destination, but reappeared as narrated, after a storm that lasted three days :
“Near and more near the ship came on,
With all her broad sails spread,
Around her path was shed,
For against the wind she sped.” On her deck were seen the spectral forms of the young man and woman. This spectral bark disappears at the prayer of the minister.
. Whittier gives us another story of a phantom ship, in a recent poem. The young captain of the schooner visits the Labrador coast, where, in a secluded bay, live two beautiful sisters with their Catholic mother. Both fall in love with the handsome skipper, who loves the younger alone. She is confined in her room by her mother, just as she is to meet her lover and fly with him. Her elder sister profiting by her absence, goes in her 1 Garrison of Cape Ann. 2 Legends of New England. See also Blackwood, Vol. XXI, p. 463. 3"The Wreck of the Schooner Breeze."
stead, and is carried to sea in the vessel. The disappointed lover, on learning the deception, returns at once, but finds his sweetheart dead. The schooner never returned home, says the poem,
“But even yet, at Seven Isle Bay,
Cotton Mather gives us a legend of a Colonial spectre-ship—the New Haven ship. A new ship was sent out from New Haven in January, 1647, but was never heard from again. In June, about an hour before sunset, and after a thunder-storm, a ship like her was seen sailing up the river against the wind, disappearing gradually, and finally fading out of sight, as she drew
This vision was declared a premonition of the loss of the vessel—even from the pulpit. Longfellow has illustrated this tradition:
2 "On she came, with a cloud of canvas,
Right against the wind that blew,
The faces of the crew."
Hanging tangled in the shrouds,
And blown away like clouds."
"And the masts, with all their rigging,
Fell slowly, one by one,
1 Magnalia Christi Americana. 2 Poems.-The Ship of the Dead.
And the hulk dilated and vanished,
As a sea-mist in the sun.”
Bret Harte 1 relates a legend of a phantom ship, in one of his poems. Children go on board a hulk to play, but it breaks loose, and drifts out to sea, and is lost.
“But they tell the tale,
For the signal, they know, will bring relief,
In a phantom hulk that drifts away Through channels whose waters never fail.” Celia Thaxter 2 has also published a poem, "The Mystery." She is a slaver, whose cargo of two hundred, penned below hatches, perish there, and their corpses are thrown overboard. The wicked captain tries to regain his port, but a calm comes up, and the ghosts of the murdered slaves come, and bind the captain to the mast. The crew hastily desert the ship.
"And they were rescued; but the ship
The awful ship—the Mystery,
Never to any port came she.
"But up and down the roaring seas,
Forever and for aye she sails,
Unshaken by the wildest gales.”
Roads, in his History of Marblehead, relates tales 1 Poems.-A Greyport Legend (1797). 2 Our Continent, Apr. 5, 1882.