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Posts tagged ‘legends’

Vengeance, Creatively Told

Flaming Reflections

I have noticed as I read and write, an ingredient that it used for conflict, suspense, and even justice, is vengeance.  The act of claiming or the need for satisfaction, or feeling compelled to receive payment of fairness.  It can grab my attention in a story, as I follow along the plotting, planning and scheming to prove purpose as seen from their point of view.  We, as readers, may not always agree, and sometimes pull for the other side, but the point is that revenge can add to the story.

It also adds to the legends and ghost stories that continue to be told over and over to each generation.  I can remember a ghost story of a burning ship in New Bern that supposedly continues to reappear on the Neuse River a certain evening each year.  Of course, I have never been able to find the local storyteller that knew that exact time, but shared it happens during the summer.

As the story was told when I was a youth, the sailing ship was carrying a group of German Palatines that were sailing from England in 1710 to settle in their new location, New Bern.  The ship was under the command of an unfavorable captain and crew.  The captain had the reputation of being a wicked crook that would steal, cheat or swindle without a second thought.  So, the prosperous group of German Palatines decided to pretend they were poor and so, hid their treasures of gold coins and silver dishes below from the captain and crew.  When the German Palatines were able to see land and were told by the captain that they needed to bring their belongings up from the hold in preparation of landing, they did.  The captain and crew were able to see their wealth.  Quickly, the captain came up with a plan.  He told the group that the ship could not come into landing until tomorrow.  The German Palatines were disappointed to wait another day, but took their processions back down from the deck and soon were laid to rest, sound asleep with visions of their destination when they awaken.

That evening, when everything was quiet and still down below, the captain shared his plan with the crew to obtain the German Palatines’ riches, by killing each and every one of them, including women and children.  They would set the ship to fire that would be filled with the dead, and escape in the lifeboats with all the treasures of gold and silver.

The ambush was quick; many of the German Palatines were murdered in their sleep.  The crew felt everything had gone as planned, as they pushed off in the small boats and could see the ship burning.  When they were some distance from the ship, they turned to look back.  They could see the ship on fire, the blaze was getting bigger and brighter, but the ship did not sink.  And then they witnessed the ship moving towards them.  It is said, the ship burned all night.  It would sail along the waterway and then return to the location of where the murders had happened.  By dawn, the burning blaze was gone and the ship still stood, fully erect with its spars, sails, masts fully unconsumed.  Everything was in its place; the only thing was that it was blackened and charred.  But at sundown, the ship would reappear in flames, but yet it would not burn.

The captain and crew became frightened and abandoned their small boats on the bank and supposedly fled into the forest.  There they stayed the captain and crew.  They and their descendants lived on their “ill-gotten spoils.”

It is said, to this day, the crime of the murders has not been avenged, so on that certain evening, during the summer, once a year, the burning ship appears on the waters off of New Bern and I am told, it will continue until the blood of the German Palatines has been paid for in kind.

Imprints that Last

Mysteries of the Past

I will say, it can be so much fun to research stories that have been passed down.  Looking up and researching legends and ghost stories I heard as a youth usually around a campfire, can be inspiring while I work to write.  Even my daughter has become intrigued to hear the stories and legends of her hometown.

One of those stories that intrigued me and I remember a bit different from what is published was the Mysterious Horse Hoof Prints.  I was taken to see the prints as a youth, and probably wouldn’t be able to locate them today without directions from the locals.  As the story goes, back in the early 1800’s it was forbidden to horse race on Sunday.  There was this wild young man, Jesse Elliott, who seemed to live to defy the rules and laws, enjoying his free spirit and spirits of the still. He met a mysterious stranger on a black horse around Bath, North Carolina one Sunday.  The stranger challenged Mr. Jesse by telling him, “Your stallion could be beaten.”  The foolishly wild young man accepted the challenge by telling the stranger to meet him at the track in an hour.  Supposedly, Mr. Jesse went home to get ready for the race and was warned by his wife to not race on Sunday.  It is said, her final warning was, “I hope you’ll be sent to hell this very day!”

At the track, when Mr. Jesse arrived, he found the mysterious stranger was waiting for him.  Both men seemed confident and calm as they agreed on the terms of the race, even though it is said, Mr. Jesse stated something about the stranger bothered him, but he was eager to win the race and take the man’s money.

The race was on, and both horses galloped down the lane.  Now I was told as a youth, Mr. Jesse’s horse was falling behind, and he decided to take a short cut to by-pass the curve ahead and take the lead, but others say Mr. Jesse’s horse was taking the lead.  As the story continues, Mr. Jesse was heard to have shouted to his horse, “Take me in a winner or take me to hell!”

I remember sitting around the campfire, the voice of the storyteller getting softer as he leaned closer to continue the story, “And at that very moment, as the horse reached the curve in the track, Mr. Jesse’s horse suddenly twisted his head, reared and dug its hooves into the ground.  Mr. Jesse was violently thrown, breaking his neck against a large pine tree and killed instantly.”  I would get goose bumps listening and watching him speak with his hands.

It’s said, after the race, the stranger disappeared, and Mr. Jesse’s horse was never again seen, but the horse hoof prints remain, even today.  To add to the story, there are those that believed Mr. Jesse went straight to hell that moment, and others that believe they continue to hear him and his horse galloping the area.  Of course, the storyteller would add that last tidbit that would take my breath that some say they have seen a dark horse and his rider’s head bobs of a broken neck.

Goose bumps would cover my arms as the hair would stand, when I continued to listen to that soft tone, almost a whisper, as I was told about folks that have attempted to bury the hoof prints with leaves, pine needles, and soil, and they would reappear.  I would get shivers listening to the various attempts mentioned over the past hundred years.  There is one encounter of chicken feed that was spread around and in the prints.  The chickens would not eat the feed from the prints but only on the ground around the hoof prints.  Even today, there is still the mystery of why the hoof prints remain and the story still fascinates me and people of all ages.

Creative Storytellers

Stories of the Past

Each day brings new opportunities.  This morning was a pleasant break in the heat of June.   The weather provided a refreshing morning to enjoy the outdoors.  Taking a walk gets the blood pumping and thoughts racing.  I think about stories told to me way back when, stories I’ve read, and stories I am writing.

Several years ago in a small town of the south, a house was leveled after the property went to the state with no family to inherit.  A surprising discovery of a body was uncovered that was buried under the house.  The body had been there over 40 years, and rumor was he had run off with his mistress.

That news article has now given me ideas to expand on the story.  Small towns of the south can be filled with mystery.  Maybe that is why there are so many legends of pirates, especially Blackbeard and ghost stories with no explanation.   Some folks have captured these legends and stories for others to read, but I will have to say when I was a child, they were more intriguing when I heard the old-timers tell them on the waterfront.   Their accent, pauses, and facial expressions brought those stories to life, and they were embedded into my memories as if I were there watching the events play out.  I don’t hear those stories told as much these days, but I still enjoy remembering and sharing with my children.  Today with our technology, I can Google those stories, but the realness of being told has faded over the years.  It wasn’t like the horror stories and movies of today, no scare of death.  These stories, filled with mystery and unexplained results could keep me on the edge of my seat, focused and wanting to hear more and more.  It is a time that has passed, but still alive in the memories of some to be shared.

Within the state of North Carolina, I found the legend of the small town of Bath to be intriguing.  A curse placed upon the town by Reverend Whitefield.  A town that was prospering with its ports and merchants and supposedly the corrupting influence of Blackbeard the pirate (legend has it; that his gold is still buried there), this Reverend was not welcomed with what he had to say to the people.  The folks of the town chased him from Bath and told him that he was never to return.  Legend has it; he brushed the dust of the town from his shoes and cursed the town that it will never grow.  Today, the town remains small with exceedingly little growth.   It was the town of Little Washington that began to thrive with its merchants and ports after the town of Bath was cursed.

I can remember listening to the story being told, and it took longer to be told than written.  I truly miss the storytellers of the past and their creative inspiration that gave way to my imagination that left a lasting memory.

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