Friday, October 5, 2012

The Legend of Ocean-Born Mary

It's that time of year when the ghosties and the creepy crawlies come out to celebrate on All-Hallows eve....I've always been a fan of a good ghost story and have been studiously reading up for the season. with my kindle in hand, I snap up ghostly freebies and tales of ghosties in bygone days. Algernon Blackwood, a bit of Poe- as in The Black Cat, throw in some H. P. Lovecraft and be sure you lock your doors at night. Mu-ha-ha! Check out a few Shirley Jackson stories from your local library, or enjoy a less stress inducing, but still enjoyable tale of the season, with a favorite child such as The Halloween Tree, or maybe you like real vampires, scary ones, that don't sparkle, as in the original Dracula, still spooky even  after a hundred years. Get your garlic ready, and enjoy a new ghost story I came across in this years reading. I added a few of my own style touches to it, but did not author the tale. Sit back, get comfortable, and enjoy the story as I tell you the tale of
Ocean-Born Mary.........

Here be told a classic ghost tale of Old New happened even before the Brits and the Patriots had their spat, back in the golden age of pirates!

There's a place in Ireland called Londonberry, and the year is 1720....the sailing vessel "Wolf" departs from port on its way to the New World. These Irish immigrants were looking forward to reuniting with their former friends and family in Londonberry, New Hampshire.

Now, this was in the hey-day of pirating on these seas and fate would have it that the "Wolf" was overtaken and boarded by Spanish pirates as it came near to the New Hampshire shore. These pirates, under their leader, Don Pedro, helped themselves to all the valuables and jewelry on board. They raised their cutlasses and prepared to butcher everyone on board when suddenly the pirate captain ordered his men to stand down.

All were astonished, but no one could mistake the sounds of an infant crying from somwhere down below. Don Pedro ordered the infant to be brought on deck, so he could see it. (In sealore, if a pirate kills a baby he will have bad luck for the rest of his days and Don Pedro was a superstitious sort of pirate, as most of them are.) As he gazed into the innocent's face he sheathed his sword and made a promise to the infants mother that if she would name the infant girl after his own mother, Maria, or Mary, he would spare the lives of all aboard. The bargain was quickly settled, for who would not do such a simple thing to spare so many lives? The pirates gave back all the valuables they had taken and Don Pedro quickly went over to his own ship and came back carrying a bolt of beautiful blue- green silken cloth. He presented it to the infant's mother and told her to use the cloth to make the infant Mary's wedding dress with, when the time came.

Mary, 'Ocean-born' Wilson grew up to be an Irish beauty, with flaming red hair and lovely green eyes. At the age of twenty-two, she married her childhood sweetheart, Thomas Wallace, and her mother had saved the bolt of beautiful silken cloth all those years and made her a wedding dress out of it that any bride would be proud of.

The happy couple lived a good life for 18 years, then Thomas died. Mary was left lone with four sons to raise and care for. About this same time, the hey-day of piracy was coming to an end, and the pirate captain, Don Pedro, was no longer the spry young pirate he used to be. He decided to retire and took his ill-gotten gains and purchased some land, where he built himself an awesome mansion with ten rooms and six fireplaces. It was one of the biggest houses in the area.

The Pirate Mansion
It turns out, that over the years, Don Pedro had kept an eye on Ocean-born Mary, and when he found out about her being widowed with four sons to care for he invited her to live with him. He promised her the house was hers, if she would look after him in his old age. Mary accepted and moved in with her boys. She was showered with gifts from her pirate benefactor, and they all lived happily for the next ten years. Mary had a fancy black and gold coach, drawn by four horses, to get around in and there was much entertaining done at the mansion.

One night Don Pedro did not return home until much later than his usual time, Mary looked out the window and saw and heard him talking to a big burly man out in the back yard. They were burying a large trunk out in the orchard under a tree! When Mary asked Don Pedro about it, he refused to answer her.

One year later, when Mary returned from town, no stable-boy came out to meet her and take the four horses that pulled the coach away to their barn. Mary found the servants scared to death, all huddled up together in the tack room. In the yard she found Don Pedro, dead with a cutlass through his back. The bloody instrument had gone right through, pinning his body to the blood defiled ground! The old pirate Don Pedro was buried him under the fireplace hearthstone, as he had requested of her years before.

Occasionally there would be trespassers at the house digging holes in the yard, as rumors of buried pirate treasure were sure to abound. Mary never stopped them and she spent the rest of her days there at the pirate mansion. Her sons grew up, left home, had families of their own and fought in the war for independence. Mary passed away in 1814, at the ripe old age of 94.

The house stayed in the hands of the Wallace family for the next 100 years. It was rented out, but never sold. Tenants came and went, but they often went quite hastily and never lived there very long. Soon tales arose that the place was haunted. For many years it fittingly looked like a haunted house, as it was deserted and became run down. The windows were broken and the front steps sagged. Neighborhood boys crept around the place and claimed to see ghostly images in the windows, they heard strange sounds emanating from the place, and lights in the rooms at midnight. They said they saw a shadowy tall lady floating down the staircase.

One hundred and four years later, old Mrs. Roy and her bachelor son, Gus, moved into the place. They had previously purchased it and were in the process of cleaning it up and restoring the house so they could make their home there. As they cleaned and restored, many interesting things happened to them. On day while burning rubbish, the son was about to throw a bag of trash that had been in the attic into the fire, an unseen hand physically stopped him from doing it. As he checked the trash afterwards, he found out there was unused gunpowder in the sack, and he had almost thrown it into the fire!

In 1938 a strong hurricane devastated the eastern seaboard. It was all rain, wind and mud around the place. Gus had been building a garage and it was threatening to fall down after the storm. He did not want to put his new car inside it until he fixed it up. He went out in the rain and proceeded to prop the garage up and steady it so it would not collapse. When he came inside, his mother asked him who was helping him fix the garage. He said 'no one', then she asked him who the tall woman was who was out there helping him steady up the garage. She had vanished when he started back towards the house!

Soon the family began to see the apparition of a tall woman inside the house. They heard strange sounds in the basement. They must not have minded it because Gus said that he suffered 17 near-fatal accidents while living in the house and he always received help from, Mary. Soon the stories of Ocean-born Mary's ghost were common in that area and folks started coming from all around, especially on Halloween, to catch a glimpse of old Mary's ghost. Gus made a business enterprise out of it and charged admission to gives tours of the place, people flocked in like there was no tomorrow.

The story of the house was popular, it was featured in a publication called "Yankee Ghosts" and a couple named Russell, purchased the house. Gus had become ill and when the Russells bought the place he was allowed to live out his final days there. A ghost investigator visited the house with a medium in the 60's because the Russells had complained about strange goings on in the house. The medium did indeed sense ghostly presences in the house, most notably, Ocean-born Mary, herself was said to be looking after the place. Once there was a mysterious fire on the stairway and Mrs. Russell said it went out by itself, as if someone was damping it down with a blanket. Years later the Russells denied stories of the place being haunted and refused to talk to anyone about it.

Ocean-Born Mary's grave in Henniker New Hampshire

Some even say that Mary never really did live there after was just an old folk tale that had gotten overblown and out of hand. The home is a private residence today. But, who can explain the eerie images the town boys saw there many years ago, who was talking to the ghost hunter through the medium, what about the trespassers who periodically came to dig for pirate treasure in the orchard? Who saved Gus from 17 near-fatal accidents and pulled his hand away when he was about to throw the bag of trash containing gun powder into the fire? Who helped him shore up the garage after the hurricane of '38? Why did Gus insist on remaining in the house even when new owners purchased the place and started living there? Ocean-born Mary's grave is nearby in the Central Cemetery in Henniker, so we know she really did exist. And, who can answer this question come state troopers saw the image of a tall, red-haired lady floating along the highway to the house a few years ago?? Was it just coincidence or was it Mary..............................?

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