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 Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands

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Mauro

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PostSubject: Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands   Wed 10 Sep 2008, 7:32 am

I've always loved a good ghost story, and the seas have plenty to offer.
All of you will know the Goodwin Sands, that treacherous sand bank in the Channel a few miles off Deal, which has been the site of litterally hundreds of shipwrecks in centuries past, one of the last notable victims being the Ross Revenge, last of the pirate radio ships, in 1991.
Of course the Goodwins have their fair share of legends, starting from their origins. It is said that this sand bank was once a small island, called Lumea. Some say that it was swept away by a fearful storm in 1099, others that its last owner, an abbot in Canterbury, failed to properly mantain the sea walls resulting in the island's distruction.
Saxon sailors surely knew the area well as the name demonstrates: gode wine, good friend, probably given with apotropaic intentions.
Local legends hold that there are a number of ghost ships in the area: the first is an unnamed Spanish galleon from the Armada, which is said to have become shipwrecked during an attempted mutiny. The second one is the HMS Northumberland, a frigate lost with all hands in the Goodwin sands during the Great Storm of 1703 together with four other warships. The most recent one is the steamer Violet, shipwrecked with the loss of the entire crew in 1857. But the most famous ghost of the Goodwin Sands is bound to be the schooner Lady Luvibond, lost at sea in 1748. Local legends link it with a tragic love story but since the ship was lost at sea with the entire crew and all the passengers nobody came back to tell what really happened. More interesting is the belief that the Lady Luvibond will appear every fifty years on the 13th of February and that it will regulary require a "sacrifice" in the form of another ship lost to the Goodwins during the first two months of year.
As far as I know the last time the Lady Luvibond appeared was in 1898 and its last "victim" was a small Italian merchant in 1948, whose whole crew luckily escaped unharmed.
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Ian
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PostSubject: Re: Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands   Thu 11 Sep 2008, 11:04 am

Never heard of these before Mauro, I must be a land lubber after all.

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Mauro

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PostSubject: Re: Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands   Fri 12 Sep 2008, 1:48 am

To be honest with you I am not that great seafarer myself but I've always loved these sea ghosts stories. Ghost ships, haunted lighthouses, cursed ships and "floating graveyards" have always enthralled me.
Will surely write something about the Eilean Mor lighthouse in the near future.
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PostSubject: Re: Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands   Fri 12 Sep 2008, 10:41 am

Is that the lighthouse where the keepers dissapeared ?
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PostSubject: Re: Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands   Fri 12 Sep 2008, 1:37 pm

Sounds very "Horror of Fang Rock" - Doctor Who in real life!
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PostSubject: Re: Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands   Thu 18 Sep 2008, 5:18 am

I've heard that Eilean Mor has had more recent unusual sightings related to the old disappearance. Anyone have more info?




BTW: for ghost ships, I still remember one tale of a diver running into a ghost aboard a sunken ship in the Great Lakes in the US. Can you imagine anything more frightening then being alone in the dark of a sunken wreck 200 feet down and meeting a ghost?
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PostSubject: Re: Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands   Thu 18 Sep 2008, 6:10 am

We have an article up about Eilean Mor on the main site. http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/scotland/outerhebrides/ouh4.html. I would love to expand on it if anyone knows more.

As for the Great Lakes ghost, I have never heard of that one.

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PostSubject: Re: Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands   Thu 18 Sep 2008, 6:26 am

baroniveagh wrote:
for ghost ships, I still remember one tale of a diver running into a ghost aboard a sunken ship in the Great Lakes in the US. Can you imagine anything more frightening then being alone in the dark of a sunken wreck 200 feet down and meeting a ghost?

Meeting two ghosts underwater? Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands   Fri 19 Sep 2008, 1:30 am

Reminds me of one of the misadventures of the SS Great Eastern, Brunel's most famous creation. While patching up the outer hull after running aground, one of the divers returned to surface to tell that there was a ghost hammering the the hull of the ship. Note that the crew firmly believed that each accident on board was announced by a strong hammering inside the hull. The engineer directing the repair works was not a man to believe in ghosts and was running late on schedule, so he sent down two other divers to deal with the "ghost". They found out that it was nothing more than a piece of chain beating on the side of the hull with each wave. Once the chain was removed the "ghost" disappeared.
The crew later insisted that the hammering continued, though once the ship ceased to be a liner and became a cable service vessel it also lost its "curse ship" fame, performing admirably until it ended its days in a scarpyard.
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PostSubject: Re: Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands   Fri 19 Sep 2008, 1:37 am

At said scrapyard, as I recall, didn't they find people walled up in that same hull?

Edit: btw, I dug up info on that Great Lakes haunting and posted it over in that section of the site.
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PostSubject: Re: Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands   Sat 20 Sep 2008, 10:12 am

I'll be completely honest with you: I've heard this story many times but I've never been able to trace the original source to check if there's any truth in it. The ship was dismantled by the Henry Bath & Sons shipyard in Liverpool between 1888 and 1891: many parts were auctioned off as memorabilia.
It is well known that a number of workmen died while the ship was being built but this was regarded as "acceptable" back in those days, so I don't think it has nothing to do with this.
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PostSubject: Re: Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands   Fri 26 Sep 2008, 1:09 am

Have you checked the Liverpool Newspapers around that time? Newsmen are like sharks, dead bodies excite their attention.
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PostSubject: Re: Ghosts of the Goodwin Sands   Sun 28 Sep 2008, 5:26 am

I hate double posting: but I found this interesting if somewhat sensational article on the Historic Kent website, which does name some witnesses to some of the events discussed in the original topic of this thread. I can't find an author credited.

Life After Death on the Goodwins?

'The Goodwins, I think they call the place; a very dangerous flat - and fatal - where the carcasses of many a tall ship lie buried.' This is how Shakespeare describes those constantly shifting banks of sand which so terrified the sailors of his age. Even so, many centuries earlier, before the Romans and the Saxons, before the Danes and the Normans, the Great Ship Swallower was known for its treachery and many a sailor, careless perhaps or lacking respect, one might say, or merely ignorant, lost his life in these unforgiving waters.

But the Goodwin Sands needed to be negotiated for seamen seeking the Downs, that stretch of sheltered water of the coast of Kent. At one time in those distant days as many as two hundred ships might be found at anchor off Deal and Ramsgate. Small wonder then, with so much traffic that there have been so many tragedies hereabouts and small wonder, too, that ghost ships are spotted here from time to time.

One summer's day in 1967, Peter and Kim Hinckley, with their sons John and David, were sailing off Deal in their yacht, Grey Seal. At midday they noticed the sky to the east beginning to darken. What had started out as a beautiful day was suddenly threatening as though a storm were brewing. Several hundred yards away, under glowering skies, they noticed a dense mist which oddly enough looked to be confined to a narrow, specific area where the sea was churning up into huge waves. What the Hinckleys saw was a violent storm in a quite tight area. It was an abnormal weather feature which both intrigued and rather alarmed the family, and they were drawn to the rail of the Grey Seal, so remarkable did the scene appear to be. Outside of the misty, turbulent stretch of the sea the surface of the water still remained calm and the sun continued to shine. It was bizarre. For ten minutes the family waited as though they knew that something unusual was about to occur.

And then came an explosion, though it was not obvious why for it came from the mist-shrouded waters. Then, out of the slowly clearing mist, there emerged a sailing ship, struggling through the raging sea. It became increasingly clear to the observers that the ship was in severe distress for it was listing badly. Through the binoculars the Hinckleys saw sailors jumping off the ship into the boiling waters. Were they in the middle of a film shoot? They edged Grey Seal closer and it soon became apparent that this was no costume drama. That was no mock-up of an early 19th century ship and the men in the water were not film extras. It was a solid craft and the men in the water were terrified, swimming for their lives. And then as Grey Seal came closer the mist began to dissipate, the sun shone through, the waters calmed. And the men in the water simply faded and of the ship there was no sign. In seconds the sky and the sea were restored to summer.

Bewildered at the scene enacted in front of them, the Hinckleys made enquiries of the Coastguard Service. There had been no reports of vessels in distress. And no, there had been no film shoots in the area.

The family members were agreed that the ship they saw had been called Snipe. Their later researches, they said, showed that a gun-brig, Snipe, went down in this area in 1807. But in fact Snipe was in service well after that, ending her days in 1846 as a mooring light at Chatham.

Had the Hinckleys made an error about the ship's name? After all there was much more to see in the few minutes in which they believed themselves playing a part in a real-life adventure. Certainly the facts as related by this family of four do not tally with the records. On the other hand, that four people should make a claim to have seen a ghost ship invites one's interest. So this account ought to be treated with caution but certainly not lightly dismissed.

There are two vessels which really do haunt the Goodwins. One of them is the Toogoo, a two-masted Estonian schooner, on her way from Calais to South Shields on Saturday, 1st November 1919. Foundering in mountainous seas, she sent out desperate distress calls. At ten forty-five in the evening the North Deal lifeboat crew responded to guns and rockets and, despite hurricane winds, managed to put to sea. They finally struggled to the stricken boat at two o'clock the following morning.

The Toogoo was breaking up fast and six of the crew were huddled together in the rigging, holding on in the fiercest of freezing winds and lashed by violent waves. The others were hanging on amidships. One of these was the master's wife. Just as the lifeboat was manoeuvring into position, a wave more ferocious than the others hit he Toogoo and she was toppled over on her broadside. Those who had sought to save themselves by clinging to the rigging were flung into the water and none of these were saved, all of them washed away before the lifeboatmen's eyes. As was the master's wife who, in the seconds before being snatched into the sea, was heard to utter a terrible shriek, a shriek of such terror that it could be heard above all other sounds.

The Toogoo has not been seen since the night she foundered on the Goodwin Sands along with three other ships. But at times, when the seas run high and the tearing winds seem to threaten even the sturdiest craft, there can be heard, above all other sounds, the unearthly shriek of a woman.

One phantom ship which has been sighted on the Goodwins is the SS Violet which went down with the loss of all hands in the early hours of Tuesday, 6th January 1857. The Violet, a paddle steamer, which belonged to the Royal Dover Steam Packet Company, made regular crossings between Dover and Ostend, carrying passengers and mail. Late on the Monday evening she left Ostend in the most fearful conditions, sailing into a storm with driving winds and thick blankets of snow, which had raged in these waters and right up the coast of Britain for the past week. Off the Durham coast five ships had already been lost and it was the same tale elsewhere. In some areas of the country, so ferocious were the gales that even houses were blown down.

Such conditions, however, did not deter Captain Lyne of the Violet who believed that he might take advantage of the storm winds and complete the passage from Ostend more quickly than usual. In any event he calculated that the storm would blow itself out. Even so, only one passenger had dared risk the crossing. Others booked to make the trip to Dover elected to wait until the storms abated.

At about two o'clock in the morning the crewmen on the North Sand Head lightship saw the Violet through the thick swirl of snow. It was apparent that she was in extremes of danger, approaching if not already into the Sands. At once the lightship set of rockets and fired signal guns and the steamer Aid, with the Ramsgate lifeboat in tow, responded. Within an hour of the first alert, the rescuers reached the area indicated to them by the lightship, but in the snowstorm and the impenetrable dark they could find no sign of any craft or of any members of her crew. She had gone down in the driving snow squalls.

When daylight broke, part of the mast sticking up in the water revealed the Violet's position on the Southern edge of the Goodwins. Later, at low tide, what little that remained of the three hundred ton vessel sat upright on the sand. Her funnel had gone and the decks, the bulkheads and the cabin doors had all been wrenched off although the tops of the paddle wheels were still visible.

The lifeboatmen who had stuck to their task throughout the night now came across the Violet's battered lifeboat and three members of her crew lashed to it. There were no other bodies found.

A crew of seventeen, one passenger and a Post Office mail guard were lost, leaving sixteen widows and forty three fatherless children. The mail guard, Joseph Williams Mortleman, a father of ten, had struggled to release the mailbags from the depository, dragging them from their berths and setting them adrift so that they were not lost. It was yet another act of selflessness and attention to duty that marked that awful night. The mailbags were all ultimately recovered.

Webmaster's note: My thanks to Anne Chambers, a descendant of Joseph Williams Mortleman, who advised of an omitted forename in the original text, and provided the additional information that his body was recovered on Felixstowe Beach on 21st March 1857 and was identified by his son who recognised the spectacles in the body's pocket.

This was said not to be an inevitable disaster. Had Captain Lyne decided to delay his departure on one of the worst passages imaginable in the North Sea his ship would not have been lost. But perhaps the real error was in mistaking the positions of the lights which marked the sands. It was suggested that the Violet caught a glimpse of one of the floating Gull Streams lights on the east and mistook it for the South Sand Head and shaped her course north-west. It was a mistake that other experienced skippers had made.

In January 1947, George Goldsmith Carter, an historian of the Goodwins, was serving on the lightship. He saw a steamer in severe weather approaching the Sands and in desperate straits. Then, just as if a thick net curtain had been drawn over the scene, the ship vanished in blinding snow. Nevertheless, the lightship fired rockets and radioed shore, calling out the Ramsgate lifeboat. But she found nothing - Carter had spotted the Violet.

One hesitates to introduce one of the best known ships in ghostly lore. This is the Lady Luvibond, which according to the story - and take care, well known as it is there may be some doubt about this story - sank with all hands on 14th February 1748. Some say that it was only to be expected. She went down because the captain had his wife on the ship. It was unlucky to have a woman on board and certainly many sailors in those days stuck to that particular prejudice or superstition, call it what you will.

The story is that Captain Simon Peel had just married and was determined his new bride down to Oporto on his next trip. And so he brought her on board and there were great celebrations on the three-master as she sailed down the Thames and out to sea. But they had not gone far when, approaching the Goodwins, the mate at the helm deliberately ran the vessel aground. Apparently he was mad with love for his captain's wife and jealous that his rival had taken her from him. In his rage he drove the Lady Luvibond into the Sands and all hands were lost. Some accounts tell of a struggle aboard and lives lost before the mate, single-handed, wrested control of the ship from Captain Peel and took those who remained alive to their death.

The Lady Luvibond appears, they say, every fifty years. And exactly fifty years to the day in 1798, according to reports the phantom ship was so close that she was almost run into by the Edenbridge, whose captain reported hearing sounds of celebration. Then in 1848, after another fifty years, longshoremen at Deal were alleged to have seen the ship. It was clearly in distress and the lifeboat set out to rescue her. But once they were out on the Goodwins, there was no vessel in distress nor any wreckage nor were there sailors fighting for their lives in the raging waters.

In 1898, there was no sign of the Lady Luvibond though there are disputed claims that she was seen in 1948. In February 1998, people flocked to the shore to see if they could catch sight of the stricken ghost ship but despite an all-night vigil the watchers were disappointed.

The problem with this much-loved phantom is that the story is without solid foundation. How is it known that there was a fight on the ship if all hands were lost? And there is no record in the newspapers of the day of the ship's loss. Lloyd's Register does not survive pre-1764 and so there is no help from that reliable source. But Lloyd's List has no record of a ship of this name nor is there in the List any reference to any vessel being wrecked on the Goodwin Sands in either February or March 1748.

It might be, of course, that the Lady Luvibond sailed without being insured, which would explain the absence of her name from Lloyd's records. There are those too who dislike the idea of cyclical ghosts, that is ghosts who appear on regular dates, sometimes once a year or in the case of the Lady Luvibond, every fifty years. After all, how do they know the date? How do they fit in leap years? And anyway, wasn't the Luvibond sunk in the time of the Old Style calendar so the 'the date' should really be several days later?

But these are quibbles, for isn't the Lady Luvibond one of Kent's favourite ghost ships? How one hopes that there really is a Lady Luvibond which returns every fifty years. Perhaps it will be cleared up in 2048!
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