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Weekly Column by Brian Codagnone

August 17, 2012


Seafarers have long been a superstitious lot. Going back to ancient times, when it was thought that an offering of wine and ham would appease the gods, or that crushing egg shells before tossing them overboard would keep witches from using them as boats to get to your ship (no, seriously, people really believed that) to the modern belief that a ship with the name "Titanic" is bad luck, there have been many superstitions, legends and just plain belly laugh inducing beliefs. For example:

Encountering red-headed, cross-eyed or flat-footed people on your way to a ship is a harbinger of doom. It's pretty obvious who has red hair or crossed eyes, but in this day of corrective insoles the flat footed are harder to spot. To be on the safe side, waving a salami at everyone you pass will cancel out any future misfortune.

Women are bad luck on a ship unless they're naked. We've tried that line on many a voyage but it never works.

Encountering an overturned school bus on your way to departure is a bad omen.

Never name a boat with a word that begins with "A", such as "Adolf Hitler".

Whistling in a storm may make your shipmates beat you with a belaying pin until you stop.

It's bad luck to kill an albatross, dolphin, manatee, black sea gull, dodo bird, passenger pigeon, Abyssinian lovebird, Norwegian blue parrot, citron-crested cockatoo, spider monkey, lemur, panda, Asian elephant, gazelle, wombat or rodeo clown.

Other signs that danger or bad luck is near:

Losing your dentures at sea.

Someone dying of a highly infectious disease aboard the ship.

Sighting a glowing, ghastly ghost ship and hearing the tormented screams of the eternally damned aboard. Not to be mistaken for a cruise ship, although it's practically the same thing.

Car horns heard at sea mean you're probably too close to land.

A lawyer following the ship.

For every superstition there's a legend, as it could get pretty boring at sea in the days before TV, radio, the internet or personal hygiene. Ghost ship sighting were pretty common, the most famous being the Flying Dutchman. There are many stories about the origins of The Dutchman. One goes that a Dutch captain named van Smoot, Van Johnson or Van Lingle Mungo wrecked his ship on a reef, or shoal, or an unusually large manatee (see above) and cursed God for his bad luck (or bad navigational skills). God, known to have a low tolerance for this sort of thing, cursed the Dutchman to forever roam the sea, never to make port. It was about this time that the captain stopped getting Christmas presents from the crew.

In addition to the Dutchman, other famous ghost ships include the Caleuche, the Lady Lovibond, the Young Teazer, and the Eliza Battle. Other apparitions have appeared across the seven seas (and, to be fair, in lakes, harbors, the occasional swamp, a few rivers and once in a field in Saskatchewan), usually as a harbinger of death, disaster, calamity or worse, a new "Jackass" movie. Some of the most dreaded are:

On a cold, dreary day in December, 1897, the captain of the clipper ship Rougned Odor spotted a glowing ship off his starboard side. Looking through his telescope, he saw that it was the Socrates Brito, a brig that sank in a storm off the Isle of Smails twenty years earlier. He called his first mate, second mate, third mate, bosun, coxswain and cabin boy to see, but by the time they made it topside the ship had vanished. They thought he was, to use a nautical term of the era, "touched in the head", so they ignored him. The next day the purser spontaneously exploded, sinking the ship.

The galleon Nos Encanta Oro was one of the many Spanish ships that carried gold from the Americas to Europe. The Captain was a cruel and greedy man who enslaved the Yukalyptic Indians, driving them to death in his lust for precious metal. One day the Yukalyptic Chief Ochocinco put a curse on the ship and all who sailed in her. Nothing bad happened to them, but exactly 500 years later the Pontiac Aztec was invented. More than coincidence? We think not.

Another cursed ship was the windjammer Katzenjammer. Because they refused to believe in superstition, they fell victim to pretty much every curse in the book, most notably that keelhauling an albino on a Friday would invite bad luck. Thus damned, they roam the seas, forever, never to see land again. The curse can only be broken when someone on the doomed ship comes up with a good word to describe a fear of pianos. They're still working on it as of this writing.






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Surf Our Site

Home ... Misfits . Rafferty .. . S1019 .. . Star Crossed....
. .
Ginger & Shadow. ..Embrace the Pun.. ..Cool Links . ..More Cool Links .
Oddities ..Link To Us... Guest Comics .. ..Books for Sale . Online Store..
The Cartoonists ..In The Zone . .Emotional Chaos . .Number 9