Category

Ghost Ship Jourdan 
Fall River, Massachusetts 
December 29, 1885

"The big three-masted coaling schooner William H. Jourdan, lies at the iron works dock at Somerset [Fall River] , deserted by all except her black cook. She is reputed among the villagers, to be haunted and her owners find it almost impossible to ship a crew. She arrived at Somerset three weeks ago with a cargo of coal, and, as usual, the crew were discharged, leaving only Captain Thresher, the mate, the cook and the cabin boy aboard. During her trip the Jourdan had fouled and damaged one of her bowers, and the captain sent it away for repairs when he arrived at port.

A week ago Saturday the anchor was returned, and while superintending the loading of the heavy piece of iron at the railroad dock, Captain Thresher was thrown between the cars by the sudden starting of the train and was killed. The unfortunate captain was ordering the men to take hold of the anchor and turn it when the accident happened, and the words of command were on his lips when death seized him.

The day after the captain's death the mate seemed nervous and look as though he had slept but little, but he made no confidant of anybody. The next day the mate told a man in the iron works that he didn't want any more tricks played around the schooner in the night, and, when asked to explain, he said:

'Somebody was aboard last night and kept me awake for hours with the most outrageous performances you ever heard. The boy and I turned in about 9 o'clock, and as we were both pretty tired we soon fell asleep. I don't know how long I had been sleeping, but it must have been two or three hours. When I awoke suddenly, not with a start, you understand, but just found myself wide awake all at once, with a feeling that something was wrong. My first thought was that something had happened to the ship, forgetting for an instant that we were not at sea, but in a second I noticed that the schooner was steady as a house, and remembered that we were at the wharf. It was just coming into my mind that I must have had a sort of nightmare, when I plainly heard the captain's voice giving the order Take hold of that anchor.

'Now I am not more given to believing in such things than most men. I know that was the captain's voice and those were the very last words I heard him say on earth. I might think I was dreaming, if the boy hadn't heard the same thing. He asked me if I was awake, and wanted to know if I'd said anything, and I said no, and asked him if he was playing monkey tricks. He said he'd heard a voice like the captain's, but supposed must be me. That gave me a queer sort of feeling, but I didn't want him to know, so I said I guessed I'd been talking in my sleep and told him to snooze away again.'

'But somehow I couldn't sleep. It seemed to me something was in the cabin. I couldn't see anything, but I could feel it just as you can feel when somebody behind you is looking at you hard. I don't say anything was there, but I know I was mighty uncomfortable. At last I dozed again, and just as I was about to lose myself, I heard something going on up forward on deck. I thought it might be the cook throwing barrels about and paid no attention to it until I heard a fearful thump on deck. Then I sprang up and rushed up the companion and looked around. I couldn't see a soul on board, and after waiting awhile I went below and laid awake until daylight. When I went on deck I found that the bower anchor had been dropped from the bows aft nearly to the waist, where the shore plank is. It takes a good many men to handle that piece of iron, and how it got there I don't know.'

That same day the mate and cabin boy quit the vessel and left the town for parts unknown.

The mate's story, as told to an iron works watchman, from whom the above version was obtained, was told and retold among the villagers, gaining with each repetition, till some of the townspeople relate that the vessel is peopled with an entire crew of spooks, under command of the captain, and half of the people of the town would not be surprised to wake up some morning and find the schooner had been sailed away during the night by her ghostly crew.

There is enough sailor about the Somerset people to make them superstitious, and especially is this is the case with the older residents, who have fresh in their memory the tradition of the old schooner Jefferson Borden, which formerly hailed from this port, and which has for years borne the reputation of being haunted, since a number of her crew were killed in a mutiny several years ago. The Borden since has been sent down to Maine, her rig altered, and her name changed, but she still bears the reputation of a haunted craft.

So the mates story finds general credence in Somerset, and has produced such an impression that an offer of $5 per night for a night watchman finds no taking, though there are plenty of able-bodied men in town out of work. But a night watchman is scarcely needed as no one in town will go down to the wharf after dark. The trouble is generally attributed to the anchor which was the cause of the captain's death. The only contradiction of the ghost story is the presence of the cook, who still remains on board the schooner. He doesn't believe in the ghost story theory and says that the noises were caused by rats. The rat theory, however, doesn't explain how the anchor was moved, but that doesn't seem to bother the cook. The villagers look upon him with awe and he is not bothered with many visitors. The owners are afraid that the ghost will materialize some night and carry the anchor away to a junk store. They want to ship a crew but it is hard work

One of the crew of the haunted schooner came to this city last night and applied for lodgings. He was advised to return to the schooner. At this suggestion [by] the police officials he exhibited a decided aversion, but did not tell the reason of his reluctance."




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