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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.

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