June 11th – The Treearch Cove Ghost Ship Festival

On this day, in 1833, a paddle steamer called Auntie Grace crashed in Treearch cove, a small, sandy inlet with high cliffs on either side, a little along the coast from the Buentoille Bay. The lighthouse keepers at Watchman’s Point, a couple called Ray Ives and Furnace Brompstein, were the only people to witness the wrecking, watching in dismay as it apparently steamed straight past them for the bay. At first they assumed it was a particularly audacious smuggling craft, trying to land in the cove right under their noses. It was only when it beached violently on the shore that they realised something was wrong.

Ives set off to inform the coast authority, whilst Brompstein rand down to the crash site to see if anyone had survived. There was still a little light left in the sky at this point, and the sea was calm; it appeared that the craft had intentionally beached itself, wrecking the metallic hull in the process. ‘I got a funny feeling when I got up close,’ said Brompstein in his later interview with the Buentoilliçan Coast, Boat and Port Authority (BCBPA). ‘It was too quiet, I supposed they must all have died, yet the boat was mostly intact – surely someone survived.’ When he clambered aboard to look for survivors he found only three long-dead corpses, their flesh dessicated by time and the salty air.

When the official report was concluded the Authority took charge of the scrap and hefty cargo of thousands of large red candles. The candles were transported off to a warehouse, but not before a couple of local families had salvaged a few crates-full for their personal usage. The report was officially stumped; the bodies had clearly been long dead, but surely someone must have been keeping the boilers going, stocked with coal, for the Auntie Grace to steam past in such a manner; I made no sense. The Authority proposed two theories: firstly that someone had been on the craft not long before they set it on its final journey to the cove, then had bailed out into the sea for reasons unknown. Secondly, that the lighthouse keepers were simply too drunk to provide any accurate reportage of the event; presumably it had just drifted into the cove unbidden; it was Brewer’s Day after all.

The three dessicated corpses were never identified, but were estimated to have been dead for at least a month. Had this boat been riding the waves for so long, the engines churning over, nobody at the helm? There was nothing to indicate what had killed the men, no marks or traces of poison found in the extensive autopsy. They were buried on the cliffs above the bay. The whole thing was something of a mystery, folk started calling it a ghost ship, and before long it attracted ghoulish visitors of occultist tendencies. When one of the families (the Eityand family) who had salvaged the red candles all died in the night (now thought to be as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, an unknown cause of death at the time), the mystery surrounding the craft only intensified.

With the death of the Eityand family, those others who had taken candles from the hold returned them with haste, as did the BCBPA, a remarkably superstitious organisation when it was in existence. The candles sat there, crated up in the split hold of the steadily rusting ship, and would still today were it not not for the actions of the Society of Nautical Spirits, an organisation of sixteen occultists who hold a séance today in the old rusting captain’s quarters of the Auntie Grace.

If you want to witness the proceedings tonight, your best bet is to either moor a boat outside the cove and look in, or to find a gap in the literal arch of trees which acts like a roof over the cove; the one path down to the derelict boat is guarded by a hooded, menacing guard. All that is truly known about the actions of these would-be ghost whisperers is that they take a brace of candles from the hold each year and place them all about the wreck and the surrounding cove. Sometimes the path leading down is illuminated on either side. Perhaps they are trying to find out what happened to the unfortunate souls onboard the paddle steamer, or perhaps their seances deal with more traditional, personal matters.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Broken Discus
  • The Ageless Toad Festival
  • The Festival of the Tall Man’s Burden