Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ghost Stories

One of the 10 ships that left England for America with the 3,000 Palatines was the Herbert.  Governor Hunter says "All of the Palatine ships, separated by the weather are since arrived, except the Herbert Frigate. She was cast away on the East end of Long Island, on the 7th July. The men are safe, but our goods are much damaged. The poor people are mighty sickly, but recover apace. We have lost above 470 of our number."

It is believed that the loss of the Herbert is what gave rise to the legend of the Palatine Ship and Light. In the legend the name of the ship is Palatine and the tradition says that the vessel was decoyed ashore by false beacons and then rifled and burned by islanders. The spirits are said to remind those responsible frequently. There is some thought that although Hunter stated Long Island, it could have been Block Island. That is where the legend actually takes place in the stories and the fact that there are Palatine Graves on block island leads everyone to believe that the Herbert actually went down on Block Island.

They say that at times there is a light off shore which resembles a burning ship under full sail, this they call the Palatine Light and Palatine Ship.

John G. Whittier wrote a poem about this legend, it is called 'Tent On The Beach: The Palatine'

It is quite long and the author of the book I am reading called it 'exquisite.

John G. Whittier has a prologue to his poem that puts a bit of a different slant to what Mr. Cobb had on the loss of the frigate, the Herbert.

'Block Island in Long Island Sound, called by the Indians Manisees, the isle of the little god, was the scene of a tragic incident a hundred years or more ago, when _The Palatine_, an emigrant ship bound for Philadelphia, driven off its course, came upon the coast at this point. A mutiny on board, followed by an inhuman desertion on the part of the crew, had brought the unhappy passengers to the verge of starvation and madness. Tradition says that wreckers on shore, after rescuing all but one of the survivors, set fire to the vessel, which was driven out to sea before a gale which had sprung up. Every twelvemonth, according to the same tradition, the spectacle of a ship on fire is visible to the inhabitants of the island.'

I think that would be something to see.

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