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Friday, October 30, 2015

Haunted Waters — Ghost Stories to Read on Halloween

Oceans, rivers, lagoons, bayous, lakes and seas hold secrets throughout the millennia of shipwrecks and ghost ships, voodoo curses and ghosts, swamp monsters and kelpies. For a Halloween thrill we have found some of the eeriest apparitions that live on the waters. You might want to keep all the lights on for this read.

We thought it would be fun to find a local ghost story about the famous Lake Tahoe. Sub Sea Systems’ headquarters is in Diamond Springs, California. We are about 1 hour and 20 minutes west of the gorgeous lake. There are legends, folklore and ghost stories from every part of Lake Tahoe. One particular story concerns Emerald Bay.

Captain Dick

Emerald Bay is on the southwestern edge of Lake Tahoe. In 1862 a British sea captain (Richard Barter — AKA Captain Dick) was commissioned to be the caretaker of a newly built 2 story, 5-room resort at the foot of Bald Mountain on Emerald Bay. At that time the harsh winters prevented people from staying in the region year round. Captain Dick was considered somewhat of a hermit because he spent so much time alone caring for the resort. In fact, he was called ‘The Hermit of Emerald Bay.’ The Englishman had to travel 16 miles, in his boat ‘Nancy,’ to Tahoe City to get supplies and visit the Tahoe House Saloon. Captain Dick was a heavy drinker, and was widely known for his wild tales about bears, avalanches and his own prowess.

Captain Dick’s whiskey habit and his fiery personality made him a brave soul. He would venture into any storm to visit the saloon and refill his flask — which he would empty a few times — before heading back across the lake in wind, snow and freezing temperatures. According to Captain Dick’s own account, on one such adventure in 1870, a strong wind overturned ‘Nancy’ (his boat) and threw Captain Dick into the freezing lake. In the subzero water and pitch black night, Captain Dick righted his boat and swam 10 miles towing ‘Nancy’ along behind him, and shouting “Richard Barter NEVER surrenders!!!” When he finally collapsed upon his bed he passed out for days, and upon awakening found his toes had become gangrenous from frostbite. He cut them off himself with a carving knife and preserved them in a special box that he would show visitors. “Them’s my toes!” he would say.

This experience made Captain Dick contemplate his mortality. He decided he wanted to be prepared for his death, and went out to Fannette Island where he carved a tomb into the granite. Above it, he built a wooden chapel with a cross. He would tell anyone who would listen that when he dies he is to be buried on the island in his tomb. It wasn’t too long before he met his untimely death.

On the night of October 18, 1873 Captain Dick had been drinking at his usual pace of way too much at Tom Rowland’s Saloon on the south shore. Tom Rowland’s Saloon was the premier social establishment, so many people saw the Captain, and some even saw his boat headed toward the rocks at Rubicon point. That night a storm struck. Captain Dick always rowed until he passed out and then woke up to finish the trip home. On this night he was not so lucky. They never found his body, but pieces of his beloved boat ‘Nancy’ and one of his oars were recovered. He never made it to his tomb.

On October nights, when a cold fog settles into Emerald Bay, the spirit of Captain Dick can be seen clawing his way up the weathered granite boulders, forever trying to climb into his grave.

Maybe you can see him tonight…

El Caleuche

Off of the coast of Chile there are about 30 islands known as Chiloé. In the waters surrounding the islands the locals know that El Caleuche roams. El Caleuche is a phantom ship. Every night she appears, 15 sails billowing bright, white and blazing with lights and surrounded by a glowing fog. The voices, laughter and music of a massive party ring through the air. As quickly a she is seen, she disappears. El Caleuche has the ability to navigate above and below the surface and she is capable of shape shifting. She knocks fishing boats over, in the way that a whale might, in order to capture fishermen to serve her passengers and crew the ship. The fishermen are mutilated to mark their servitude — their heads twisted backwards and their legs mangled. It is said if the slaves leave, their memories are wiped clean, but their disfigurement remains.

The passengers aboard El Caleuche celebrate a perpetual festival. La Sirena chilota is a beautiful youthful mermaid with long, flowing, blonde hair and golden scales. She is keeper of the fish, and with the help of her brother and sister she carries the drowned bodies of sailors to the ship to revive them and bring them joy by hosting an eternal party. Pincoya is La Sirena chilote’s sister. She is a sea spirit that represents beauty and the abundance of the sea. She is beautiful, sensual and compassionate. Pincoy is their brother. He is half sea lion and half human with golden fur and long blond hair. Together they protect the sea, bringing hardship to any who would do harm.

It is said that Brujo chilote visit the party at times. Travelling through the sea to find the ship by riding caballo marino chilote — horses that have fins for hooves and tail — Brujo chilote are wicked sorcerers that feed on the flesh of human babies and mutilate children into Invunche. They fashion cloaks from the flesh of Christians to gain the ability to fly.

Some stories say that if you see El Caleuche you will be instantly killed. Others say that the crew will bring you on board and take you to the depths of the sea to see glorious treasure and riches. Then they will give you gold in exchange for your promise of never revealing the secrets of El Caleuche. I don’t know which one is true, but if you ever visit Chiloé maybe you will find out.

Isla de las Muñecas

In Mexico, south of Mexico City, there is an island in the Xochimilco canals. It is named Isla de las Muñecas or Island of the Dolls.

A long time ago Don Julian, the caretaker of the island, found a young girl who had drowned in the waters of the canal. He was very saddened by her death. Not too long afterward he found a doll floating in the same area where he had found her little corpse. He picked up the doll, and out of respect for the little girl’s spirit he placed it high in a tree.

Soon, out of the corner of his eye, Don Julian noticed that the doll would sometimes move. Don Julian knew that the girl’s spirit was communicating with him. In an effort to please the spirit, he began to gather dolls from the trash he collected when caring for the island. He would place them, in whatever state he found them, in the trees, on the ground, anywhere he could. He started to trade produce — which he grew on the island — for dolls, and soon dolls filled Isla de las Muñecas. He was not picky about the dolls, and all different kinds decorated the island. Doll heads, broken dolls, doll parts, and dolls with crushed faces grew dirtier and more worn over time.

Don Julian noticed that many of the dolls would move or blink, and he knew that other spirits of other dead little girls had come to the island. He started decorating the dolls and filling his sheds with them. There was no place on the island that did not have wide, painted, plastic eyes peering through the trees. Soon people became interested in the stories, and Don Julian began to offer tours on the island, sharing his tales about the spirits there. People would bring dolls, as offerings, and Don Julian would use the money he collected from the tours to buy even more.

One day Don Julian was found drowned in the canal in the exact same place where he found the little girl. Don Julian no longer takes care of the island, but the dolls remain. They deteriorate and fall apart, growing moss, collecting spider webs and moving and blinking their eyes in the dark.

People still visit the island and bring dolls.

We hope you enjoyed our Halloween stories about haunted waters. Sleep well tonight.

Happy Halloween from all of us at Sub Sea Systems!


Captain Dick

El Caleuche

Isla de las Muñecas