Soon, I’ll be heading off to the tip of Cornwall for a holiday. It’s close by, which is handy, as it makes exploring this craggy, isolated county nice and easy.
With a landscape like that, it’s small wonder that Cornwall’s history is steeped in mysterious goings-on and ghostly events. What’s interesting is that plenty of them centre around the sea.
Cornwall; a sea-swept strip of land
The Cornish have always been known as an independent group of people; something that pervades to this day. In fact, there are some Cornish folk who would love nothing more than to gain independence from the rest of the country.
Cornwall’s history is also intrinsically linked to the sea that surrounds it. It’s unsurprising really; it boasts some of the most spectacular beaches and bays in the country. It’s where boats set sail on dangerous voyages, and where fishermen plied their trade. It’s also where smugglers sneaked in their stash, with only the moonlight to guide them between the treacherous rocks.
Porthcurno’s ghost ship
Ghost ship tales aren’t uncommon in Cornwall. Goodness knows that enough ships have smashed in those brutal craggy bays, where rocks hide unseen in the water below.
These days, Porthcurno is most famous for the Minack Theatre – an impressive open-air establishment that puts on plays throughout the summer months; all while overlooking the sea below. However, the pretty bay that lies behind the theatre has a dark tale to tell.
There have been several sightings of a jet-black ship, gliding silently through the waters. Sometimes, the ship has appeared long enough for people to take a detailed account of its appearance; four-masted, square-rigged, and somehow threatening. Others report a sense of dread after seeing it.
Floating through solid ground
According to eye-witnesses, the ship usually drifts right up to the beach. Then, rather than coming to a stop on the sand, it continues to sail right through the land itself, as easily as through water, until it vanishes completely.
Naturally, this would be somewhat disturbing to anyone who saw it. There are numerous theories as to who the ghost-ship originally belonged to. One story suggests that it belonged to a stranger, who arrived to Porthcurno by sea, then settled in the neighbourhood. He was a silent, sinister man, who talked only to his faithful manservant, and was always accompanied by a pack of howling hounds, if the noise was anything to go by.
The stranger and his servant were seen many times, boarding a boat on the beach, and taking it out to sea. What they did out there is anybody’s guess. For some reason, they always chose to go on stormy, dark nights, when the sea was at its most choppy and treacherous.
After some time, the stranger died. His coffin was carried to the local church, with the manservant trailing behind it. However, as the coffin was lowered into the earth, the air filled with the sound of baying dogs, and the manservant vanished before everyone’s eyes.
Why are we so in love with ghost-ships?
There are literally hundreds of ghost-ship tales out there. Interestingly, some of them are modern, and feature boats that have been wrecked in recent years. One thing is for certain, we humans can’t get enough of the image of a spectral ship, sailing on stormy water, before disappearing completely.
Perhaps it’s the fact that the sea is so expansive and unknown. Ships represent the bravery of the men who dare to go into these sometimes hostile, unpredictable locations; but they’re also vulnerable to the elements. Or maybe it’s the thought that ghosts can get anywhere, and they’re not restricted to dry land.
In other news...
Completely unrelated to ghost-ships; but I was very happy to discover recently that Amberjack had signed with Dreamscape Media, who are now producing audiobook versions of all of my books! That's all the Dr Ribero books (to date) and The Hanged Man and the Fortune Teller too. The first Ribero and the Hanged Man are in production now, so hopefully will be available soon.
The Hanged Man and the Fortune Teller is due to be released in just over a month; expect to see it hit the shelves on the 17th September, 2019!