Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Ghost Ship with Treasure!


THE BUFFALO COURIER

TUESDAY DECEMBER 11, 1894

Page 11

THE GHOST SHIP
_______

A Traveler's Tale of the 
Dismal Swamp
____________

OF THE FLYING DUTCHMAN

________


A ship Seen in the Famous Swamps 
- Dead Men Were in the Rigging-
The Indian Guide's 
Marvelous Story.
_________

"Do you mean to say you  never heard
of the ghost of the Dismal Swamp'" said
an old Georgia traveling man to a Post
reporter the other evening in the lobby of
the Metropolitan Hotel. "No, I don't mean
the Indian hunter and his ghostly sweetheart,
that are celebrated in t h e old school
reader poem. It is not so well known a
ghost as that pair, but it is infinitely more
gruesome. It is a regular Flying Dutchman
of the swamp, and to see it brings
death within a year, sure as yellow fever.
I've seen it, or a part of it, but I suppose
it's because I didn't get a real good
look at it that I am here now.


"It's a queer story, that of the ghost
ship, and it is told with more or less and
some of the swamp Crackers. From what
I have seen, I am inclined to believe there
is some foundation of truth, at least, in
the part of t h e story that says there is a
full rigged ship stranded up somewhere in
the center of the swamp.


"I was up hunting in the little Dismal
when I came near solving the mystery
of the swamp. It's a real nice region for
fishing and fevers, though not m u c h good
for anything else. It contains about 10,-
000 acres, and a man lost in there might
wander for years without getting out if he
did not starve to death or get eaten up
by snakes and alligators.which he probably
would in short order.


"I had two good  Indian guides with me,
so I was not much afraid of getting up
into the swamp by way of Alligator River,
and in t h e course of a couple of weeks'
hunting. got clear beyond the track of even
ordinary hunting parties. The Indians
knew t h e path of the  swamp that no one
else knew anything about, and I would
go off with one of them for a couple of
days' excursion through the tamarack, and
finally break out some night on the edge
of a swamp lake or a big lagoon, and find
the other guide with the batteau drawn
up on shore and a fire ready to cook supper.


"It is a wonderful country for a man
who loves the picturesque and mysterious
in nature. Where the forest closes in on
the river there is a wild, solemn beauty
that appeals to the imagination, especially
in the cool, gray light of the morning
or in the warmer light of the afternoon,
that gives the color of the atmosphere to
the surrounding wilderness and to the narrow,
tortuous bayous that wind on and
on out of sight into the shadows on either
hand.


"Toward the last hour of light the effect
is something magical. From the boughs
of the dark spreading live oak and from
the phantom arms of the cypress, the long,
motionless pendants of pale gray moss
point down t o their inverted images in the
water below them. You can feel the stillness,
and at the same time hear the thousand
voices of the swamp almost as in a
dream. You can hear the swish of wings

as a blue crane or a big white heron flags 
quietly away. 50 yards ahead of you down
the stream, and feel the pulse of the ripples
as a muskrat swims across with his nose
just breaking up the  water in the golden
path of the sunlight through the trees.


"But it was not poetry and picturesqueness
that we were after, that is, not altogether.
We had hunting and fishing
in plenty, and finally, when, as I say we
had gotten out of  sight and sound of the
average hunting party, we made what we
decided was to be our last camp, before
returning. It was on one of the big
swamp hummocks overgrown with short,
sweet grass, and covered with great
spreading tamarack trees. It was a regular
island in the jungle of the swamp,
from which no white man could ever have
found his way out again.


"The swamp was overgrown with giant
trees, through which were opened vistas
into the "deeper shadow land of t h e swamp
around. But from the looks of the stream
I judged there must be the opening of
some big swamp lake not far ahead. I
suggested that we might push ahead and
see what we found the next day. But
the Indians acted queer, and said we had
gone plenty far -enough, which I thought
was rather strange, seeing they were
getting paid by the week. I questioned
them, but could not get anything out of
them, and all the rest of the evening they
were hobnobbing over the fire and pointing
 off into the swamp till I might almost
have thought there was some plan
on hand to plant me permanently in the
swamp and make off with my valuables,
had I not known the fellows so long and
been on so many similar expeditious with
them before.


"Just about sunset I climbed one of
the trees and took a look about. You must
remember that up to that time I had
never heard anything of the swamp ship,
but looking off in the direction I Indeed
t h e lake must be, I was almost certain
I saw the top masts of a big vessel mingled
with the tangle of the trees. It
seemed to be fully half a mile away, too
far to tell what sort of a craft it was , but
one mast was gone  at the cross trees, and
the other canted over like a part of an
old crumbling wreck.


"It was a beautiful outlook from my
perch, the sun gilding the tops of the
trees and then sinking out of sight
through their branches, lighting up all
the west like a great conflagration, and
turning the black, still waters of the
bayou blood red. There were three buzzards
circling through the sunset quadrant
like moats in a sunbeam, and a sit
got darker they settled down like black
shadows seemingly on the very masts of
the old wreck.


"I went down and told the Indians what
1 had seen, and then they acted scared
sure enough. They assured m e that they
loved me like a father, and t h a t they were
utterly devoted to me s o long a s I had a
plug; of tobacco left, but they grieved to
say that 1 was a dead man. I told them
I was naturally sorry to hear that, but
craved to know what blight I had incurred
from watching an unusually fine sunset
from the top of a tamarack tree. They
said that it was not a matter that w a s
good to talk about, especially at such a
time and place, but that since I was
doomed I might as well be told about it.
and lighting their pipes after supper was
over they lay down by the fire and told me
the story of the ghost ship.


They said it was two men's lives before
the stars fell, which would bring it
about the close of the Revolution, the great
meteoric shower of 1833 serving as
a calculating point for dates all through
the South, that the buccaneers from the
West Indies were very bad and equally
plenty off the coast. One in particular
was of a most evil reputation, a devilish
pirate with a black beard, and eyes like
fire coals in the back of a chimney, a 
description that corresponded very well to
that of t h e notorious 'Spade-Beard, so I
nodded my head and told them that he
was a particular friend of mine.


'*They seemed rather staggered at my
assurance. but proceeded with the story.
which was that this two-legged sea-serpent
had fallen in with a British merchantman,
bullion laden, under convoy of a
frigate. A storm came up and separated
the treasure ship from her escort, and the
buccaneer, falling in with her in the storm,
ran her aboard, lashed t o her, and murdering
all her crew, secured the treasure and
made off under cover of the storm, his
own vessel being almost dismantled in the
adventure.


"He ran inside the sea islands, but the
storm continued to increase in fury such
as was never known before or since along
the coast, and finally culminated in a great
tidal wave, sent, of course, for the pirate's
just punishment, that overflowed the island
barrier and carried the robber vessel, with
all her black-hearted  crew , up through t he
reaches of the swamp river over the treetops,
miles inland, where  the receding
waters left her.


"While the Indians were telling the story
with lowered voices and mysterious gesture,
the night had fallen, and there had
come up a regular Southern thunder storm.
It interrupted the tale, and we tipped up
our boat for shelter and staked down our
tarpaulin over it. When we had rigged
up this shelter and the wind was howling
like panthers through the trees, the Indians,
as sort of cheerful accompaniment
t o the storm, continued their tale of how,
at intervals, the pirate vessel had been seen
on stormy nights—a rotten, crumbling
wreck, sailing the swamp, down t h e bayous
that were scarcely wide enough for her
masts to pass through the trees, and then
again how she would rise and fly over t he
tree-tops,


"All her sails and rigging were gone,
they said, but the swamp moss had grown
to the spars in their place, and the crew
of ghastly corpses could be seen in the tops
and on the yards, reefing the swamp sails
with live snakes, and cheering all sorts
of blasphemy to each other every time
lightning struck the masts. Death fires,
the Indians said, floated over the rotten
decks, and green lights glowed through
the gaping seams of the hull, and the pirate
captain, with one arm torn off at the
shoulder and one side of his head carried
away by a round shot, would fire noiseless
 broadsides from the rusty cannon on
the deck, while the lightning flashes seemed
to especially pick out the wreck as their
mark, though they went straight through
it without damaging it in the least.


"No one, the Indians assured me, ever
lived more than a year after seeing the
phantom, which was very encouraging, as
I thought I had seen a part of it at least
that very afternoon.


"The storm that night was fearful. The
lightning licked through the trees like
whip-lashes and fired the forest in half a
dozen places. But then the rain came
down and put out the fire and churned up
the water of the bayou till the black water
was turned to white foam that overflowed
the banks and surrounded the knoll on
which we were camped. Then the snakes
and all the rest of the crawling demons
of the s w a m p seemed t o pick out the knoll
where we were camped as their especial
refuge, and w e could see hundreds more
of them carried down on the flood through
the swamp twisting and writhing in the
water. The animals were driven from cover,
too. The panthers howled in t h e trees
around, and we saw one deer and dozens of
smaller animals carried down on t h e roaring
stream.


"You may bet I kept an involuntary
look out for thee phantom pirate, but the
only glimpse I had of her was once when
a sheet of steel blue lightning flooded the
whole of the Western sky . Then I could
have sworn I saw the same leaning mast,
the broken cross-trees outlined against
the heavens, and at the moment I would
not have sworn but that there was a
corpse struggling with the snakes in the
rigging."


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