Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Ghost Ship Isadore

Found at New England Lighthouses: Maine to Long Island Sound by Ray Jones & Bruce Roberts

In a graveyard at Kinnebunkport is a stone bearing the name of Captain Leander Foss. The body of Captain Foss, however, does not rest anywhere near the stone. It is assumed that Foss went to Davy Jones's locker along with his handsome bark, which disappeared under strange circumstances off Cape Neddick in 1842. But some say that Foss still sails the seas as captain of the ghost ship Isadore.

A seaman named Thomas King was supposed to ship out with the Isadore when it set sail from Kennebunkport on the last day of November 1842. But two days before the scheduled departure, King woke up in a cold sweat from a terrible dream: a vision of a wrecked ship and drowning sailors. King had no doubt that the vessel in his nightmare was the bark Isadore and that the dying men were his fellow crewmen.

King told Foss about his ominous dream, but the old sea captain laughed at him. When Foss refused to delay the Isadore's sailing, King begged to be let out of his contract and left behind. At this point, Captain Foss put on a stern face, reminded King that he had already received a month's salary in advance, and told the frightened seaman, in the plainest of language, to be aboard the Isadore when it pulled away from the dock.

The following night another member of the Isadore crew had a disturbing dream. The sailor saw seven coffins and saw himself in one of them. Foss heard about this second nightmare, but having both little respect for superstition and a schedule to keep, he made up his mind to sail first thing the next morning.

As November 30 dawned the families and friends of the Isadore's crew gathered at the Kennebuckport wharves to wish their loved ones well. But a cloud of dread and gloom hung heavy over the farewell, and there was little of the usual cheering and hat waving as the bark glided slowly out of the harbor. By this time the sky had added a few dark clouds of its own to the scene, and they quickly increased in size and number. It began to snow, and a bitterly cold wind came up out of the north to hurry the Isadore rapidly down toward the sea and into the realm of legend.

Among those who watched the Isadore's masts disappear in the snowy distance was Thomas King. He hid in the woods until he was certain that the bark was under way. King expected his acquaintances in town to scorch his ears for having jumped ship, and they did. But his disgrace lasted only about one day.

On the following morning word came to Kennebunkport that pieces of a large ship were scattered all along the shore in the vicinity of Cape Neddick. It was the Isadore. There were no survivors of the wreck, and only seven bodies washed ashore -- one of them the sailor who had dreamed about the seven coffins. The body of Captain Foss was never found.

Imaginative residents and visitors to Maine's scenic coast have reported many sightings of the Isadore during the more than a century and a half since the wreck. They describe a close-reefed bark and shadowy figures who stand motionless on the deck and stare straight ahead. Maybe Thomas King later saw the phantom ship himself -- in his dreams if not with his eyes. But if he ever again encountered the ghostly Isadore, he never said so.

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