"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

A story of a hoodoo ship from the June 17, 1946 "Western Morning News." Let this serve as a cautionary tale: When you travel abroad,  be very careful where you get your souvenirs.

A strange story of a Chinese curse which laid a hoodoo on a ship, culminating in the mysterious disappearance of a French millionaire banker, was told at Plymouth yesterday by members of the crew of the 10,500 tons Glen Line steamer Samwater, which arrived from Vancouver.

For six months the Samwater had crossed and recrossed the Pacific, taking cargoes of wheat from Canada to China without incident, until on her last trip M. Henri Bar, 60-years-old president of the Franco-Chinoise Bank in Shanghai, embarked to return to Paris.

He took with him 25 crates containing Chinese antiques and treasures which he had collected during his 30 years in the Far East and told fellow passengers and ship's officers that among them were agate drinking cups looted during the Boxer riots from the Imperial Palace at Pekin, which carried a curse threatening disaster to anyone taking them out of the country.

Then began a series of mishaps. First of all. while the crates were being loaded into the ship's hold, one of them struck and seriously injured a Chinese coolie. Three days later one of the British members of the crew began to suffer from delusions and, acting on instructions from a warship, the Samwater put back to Yokohama, where the man was taken ashore for hospital treatment.

For sixteen days after leaving Shanghai on her way to Vancouver, the Samwater had to battle with heavy seas and fierce gales until one day the weather suddenly moderated. Then it was discovered that M. Bar had mysteriously disappeared. During the nine months we were away from England we had bad weather only on those 16 days during which M. Bar was on board." one of the crew told the "Western Morning News." "Apart from those 16 days we had a particularly lucky voyage."

Capt. F. Howe, master of the ship, whose home is at Middlesbrough, said:  "The ship never stopped rolling after we left Shanghai until M. Bar disappeared. He left the saloon as usual that night announcing that he was going to retire.

"When it was found that his bed had not been slept in we made a thorough search of the ship, but there was no trace of him. It was a dark and windy night and we could only assume that while walking along the deck a heavy wave had washed him overboard.

"His luggage, including the treasures, which he told me were worth £50,000, were put ashore at Vancouver. From then until we reached Plymouth we had a pleasant and uneventful voyage, and apart from those 16 days I should call it a very lucky commission."

During one trip across the Pacific the Samwater came across the British steamer Empire Ouse which, with 10,000 tons of wheat on board, was lying disabled with a propeller missing.

The Samwater took her in tow and in 17 days brought her 3,200 miles across the ocean without mishap to Hong-kong, a feat of salvage which should bring rewards of thousands of pounds to owners and crew.

Vancouver police launched an investigation into Bar's disappearance--they suspected he was murdered in an effort to obtain his treasures--but they finally agreed with the captain and crew that he had likely accidentally fallen overboard.

Incidentally, the Samwater's troubles did not end with the puzzling exit of M. Bar.  In 1947 there was a fire on the steamer that killed sixteen members of the crew and two passengers.

1 comment:

  1. I'm always wary of 'curses'. How many times are crew members injured or lost on non-cursed ships, I wonder.


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