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The Murdered Seaman

The Murdered Seaman

New York. 1912.

It was not exactly the fault of Captain Frederick Foote that the Annie Smith, as trim a little barkentine as you can see any port, did not sail the other day for Brazilian ports. Nor was it the fault of Edwin Moore, the mate of the ship. No, the blame really belonged to seaman Steve Jackson, lately deceased. Or rather, to the ghost of said Steve Jackson. The Annie Smith, with her general cargo stowed away, her clearance papers signed, her sails ready to be set, was unable to cast off, because Captain Foote could find no mate to sail in her.

If you speak to Captain Foote, and your conscience and your constitution can weather oaths that will make your hair stand on end, you a will learn that when Steve Jackson slipped his cable with a knife stuck in between his ribs, he carelessly allowed his ghost to roam at random on the Annie Smith. That was both unprofessional and unethical on the part of Jackson, and you can hardly blame Captain Foote for using plain and forceful, if unpleasant language. Captain Foote, you see, joined the Annie Smith only a few days ago. In those few days Steve Jackson’s ghost has been working overtime, and with such success that Moore, the mate, quit cold. Moore did not mind a ghost that helped to trim a sail, give a hand at the wheel and take a turn at watch, but he did draw the line at a ghost that pirouetted the fo’castle deck with a couple of black cats poised on his shoulders. And so the mate quit and the captain became sore, and the Annie Smith did not sail.

It was five years ago, when the Annie Smith was bound for the east, that Steve Jackson gave up the ghost. The night they committed Steve’s body to the deep, the seaman’s ghost appeared to the mate. Moore was at the wheel, eyeing the fluttering of the topgallant sail, as the wind showed signs of shifting, when he heard Steve’s voice say: “Good evening, mate.” He looked in the direction whence the voice came and there, sitting on the starboard rail, was Steve’s ghost, dressed just as Steve was dressed when he signed on the grim ship Death. The mate answered him, but though the ghost remained there, he did not utter another word until after an hour, when he said “All’s well” and disappeared.

Moore soon became used to Steve’s ghost, which appeared morning and night, and greeted him, and which said, “All’s well,” whenever a storm arose. But after three and a half years, the ghostly visitor became too much for Moore, and he left the Annie Smith. A year ago, however, he shipped again in the barkentine, and there was a great little reunion on the first day that the mate took the wheel.

“Morning, mate,” said the ghost.

“Hello, Steve,” quoth Moore as was his wont.

“You’ve been away a powerful long time,” grinned the ghost.

“Glad to see you again, Steve,” went on Moore. “And say, Steve, just go forward to the jib halliards and hoist that jib.”

Sure enough, Steve’s ghost hoisted the jib, and coming back, touched his hat, cried “All’s well,” and vanished.

But the other day the ghost got on Moore’s nerves, for if there he one thing that the superstitious mate was afraid of it was a black cat, and Steve’s ghost appeared to Moore with two black cats, one on each shoulder.

Moore went straight to Captain Foote. “See here, captain,” said he, “I’m through. Ghosts is my middle name, but I draw the line at black cats.”

Since that day, Foote has been unable to get a mate to sign on the Annie Smith. Everyone on the docks is afraid to work on a haunted barkentine.

Citation: “Unlaid Ghost Delays Ship. Mates won’t sail on the Annie Smith with Steve Jackson’s wraith roaming the decks.” Newport, TN: Newport Plain Talk, May 16, 1912. This article is in the public domain and is part of the cited work.