PIRATES & GHOST SHIPS

AN ANTHOLOGY OF SEAFARING TALES

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Since the beginning of human history, the sea has had a lethal allure to men who stand on the shore and gaze out on the watery horizon. It has an infamous attraction – equally as engrossing as uncharted jungles, unvanquished mountains, and the black void of space – and an infamous danger. 

It is, then, not surprising that the sea has found very comfortable accommodations in horror literature. Some of the greatest writers of classic horror fiction have tried their hand at nautical writing: Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, W. W. Jacobs, Arthur Conan Doyle, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Washington Irving among many, many others. Some are most famous for their seafaring horrors: William Hope Hodgson is the crown prince of nautical horror stories, while the names F. Marion Crawford, W. W. Jacobs, and Robert Louis Stevenson naturally bring to mind the creaking of spars and rigging, the musk of salt air, and the sight of heaving black seas. 

The focus of this collection of nautical horrors is on pirates, ghost ships, and -- of course -- ghost pirates. Tales were told of ships hailed by passing vessels without reply, usually followed by uncanny deaths or accidents. When the befuddled crew reached shore, they learn that the passing ship had been reported lost months previous to their encounter. 

Pirates are Rorschach tests to readers and writers alike: romantic to some, humorous to others, frightening to some, aspirational to others. Yet, with only a few exceptions (Gilbert and Sullivan being one), they never entirely shed their aura of danger: even Jack Sparrow is hunted down by evil pirates, and even Captain Hook – ludicrous to adults – is the stuff of nightmares to children. They frighten us even as we envy them. For every time we find ourselves humming “Yo ho, yo ho! A pirate’s life for me” something far away in the wind brings to our mind a conflicting sea shanty: “Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest – yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum – drink and the devil’s done for the rest – yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum…”