Pirates get devil of a ride

Dale
Dale Jarvis
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The devil must be getting complacent in his old age, content to sit in his air-conditioned office somewhere in the nether regions of the Dark Beyond and let his minions do his work for him.

It seems that years ago, he got out more, making a special point of arriving unannounced at card parties to beat all players.

Newfoundland unexplained -

The devil must be getting complacent in his old age, content to sit in his air-conditioned office somewhere in the nether regions of the Dark Beyond and let his minions do his work for him.

It seems that years ago, he got out more, making a special point of arriving unannounced at card parties to beat all players.

Luckily for the tourist with a passion for the paranormal, Satan did at one point have a great deal of fun here on the Island. Back then, he was happy to hop around leaving his unholy cloven footprints on all manner of stones, boulders, and kitchen floors.

Up until the early years of the 20th century, the devil was also said to have left another memento of his earthly activities high on the tops of cliffs near St. Shotts. This was said to be the rotting and rusting remains of ship's timbers, the debris left behind after a notorious pirate named Sam Westover had a run-in with the Devil himself.

According to folklore, Westover was a pirate who used to visit the coast of Newfoundland in the early 1600s. Westover would raid the coast to gather supplies, and then would head out to the Atlantic to terrorize the fishermen on the Grand Banks.

At some point in the early 1600s, Westover was said to have attacked the community of Trepassey, which had been a seasonal fishing station for vessels from the Iberian Peninsula and France for about 100 years previously. It may have even been the site of a plantation promoted by Sir William Vaughan between 1617 and 1636.

In spite of its history, Trepassey was not as prosperous as the community of Ferryland, further along the coast. After Westover attacked Trepassey, he fixed Ferryland as his next target. The bloodthirsty crew set out that very day.

The weather, however, had other plans for Westover and his crew, and no sooner were they out of Trepassey harbour when the wind died, leaving the ship dead in the water. The strong tides kept pulling Westover's ship further and further away from land. No matter how hard they tried, the buccaneers could not make it to Ferryland.

After six full days of calm, Westover became violently angry. Then, in a fit of rage, shaking his fist at the windless sky, he called out to the devil himself with a true piratical oath, saying:

"Damnation seize thee! If God will not send me wind, then may the devil take this ship and tow it straight to Hell!"

Apparently the offer seemed a good one to the Prince of Lies. The day was calm and clear, without a cloud in the sky and with not a breath of wind in the air. Nonetheless, the ship suddenly spun around and headed straight for the cliffs of Cape St. Shotts.

Terrified, Sam Westover ordered his crew to drop the anchor.

The corsairs rushed to do his bidding, playing out the anchor chain. Amazingly, however, an anchor and chain weighing more than a thousand pounds floated on the surface of the water and didn't slow down the ship at all.

The ship struck the cliffs of Cape St. Shotts with a sickening blast, and amidst a streak of sparks the wreck was lifted right up the side of the rugged cliff. Its timbers and anchor were left perched high at the top of the cliffs as proof of Westover's blasphemy.

According to one account, the remains of the ship were said to be visible well into the early 20th century.

I have seen this story in print, but I have never actually heard anyone speak of it. I would love to know if anyone has come across this story, or if they have heard of the ship's wreckage left high and dry on the top of a cliff.

If you have information on the history of the tale, you can e-mail me at info@hauntedhike.com.

Dale Jarvis can be reached at info@hauntedhike.com.

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Trepassey, Ferryland Iberian Peninsula France

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  • Ken
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    That'll teach him. Arrrrrrrrrrrr!

  • Ken
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    That'll teach him. Arrrrrrrrrrrr!