The ghostly crew of the Charles Haskell
By Thomas D’Agostino
The eerie accounts of the Charles Haskell and its fated crew stand to this day as one of the most retold tales of the New England coastal ghosts. The ghostly phenomena witnessed by a whole crew makes this following account all the more reputable.
The Charles Haskell was built in 1869. She was a beautiful schooner that any captain would be proud to sail, but tragedy beset the boat before it ever left port. A workman making one last inspection slipped and broke his neck. Such a tragedy makes superstitious sailors think twice about boarding a cursed ship. The original purchaser immediately backed out of the sale, and the schooner sat dormant until a brave captain named Clifford Curtis purchased the boat and set sail for Georges Bank with his crew.
That winter, as the ship was anchored in the fishing grounds of Georges Bank, a terrible storm blew in. There sat many other fishing vessels moored in the bountiful shoals. The captain feared other boats might lose their anchor lines and smash into the Haskell. He ordered the lines cut for maneuvering purposes. This proved to be a fatal move as the ship crashed into another schooner, the Andrew Johnson, out of Salem. Salem’s vessel sank quickly, taking all ten crew members to their graves. The Charles Haskell was damaged but stayed afloat.
A few months later, the vessel was repaired and set sail once again for Georges Bank. The crew fished for several days undisturbed until the most terrifying incident changed their lives forever. As the midnight air descended to an intolerable chill, ten phantom fishermen in oilskins floated over the railing of the boat. They silently began manning invisible nets, baiting unseen hooks, and going about the tasks of a well-seasoned fisherman. Captain Clifford Curtis and his crew stared in disbelief at the apparitions. At one point, the captain mustered enough courage to approach the specters but was immediately froze in his tracks when they turned towards him with black holes of the dead for eyes and unearthly disdain on their faces.
The ghostly crew resumed their duties until dawn. At that point, they climbed over the railings and vanished into the sea. The Charles Haskell sailed at breakneck speed for the Port of Gloucester. Unfortunately, breakneck speed in those days was not enough for them to reach dry land safely before another night saw them once more, in the company of the phantom fishermen. This time as the ghostly crew pulled in their invisible nets and lines, they climbed over the railing, stared at the captain and crew for a few moments, then began walking across the water towards Salem Harbor.
Once in port, the schooner was immediately abandoned and never saw the fishing grounds of Georges Bank again. Some say that the Charles Haskell sat in the Gloucester port until it fell into ruin, as no one would dare board the haunted ship. Another account states that a Nova Scotia merchant purchased the vessel and took it away. Either way, Gloucester was eventually rid of its haunted schooner. As for what became of the ten ghostly crew members, many who fish Georges Bank will tell you that sometimes they see things or receive help from unseen hands. Perhaps the spirits are still hard at work helping the fishermen from Salem before finally coming to port after such a long time at sea.
Thomas D’Agostino and his wife Arlene Nicholson are seasoned paranormal investigators, authors, and co-organizers of Paranormal United Research Society. You can find out more about them by visiting www.tomdagostino.com.