The Spectre Leaguers: Part II
By Thomas D’Agostino
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On July 14, the whole garrison spied a half dozen men who were now in gunshot range of them. Babson and his fellow townsmen set out in hot pursuit of the strangers. Babson saw two and took aim, pulling the trigger of his gun but it would not fire, thus allowing the two to get away. He then saw three more exiting the swamp where he then shouldered his rifle and fired at them. All three fell at once. Babson yelled to his companions that he had shot all three, but when he approached them, the three dead men rose and stole away into the night. One of them returned a volley that hissed by Babson’s ear, implanting the bullet into a tree.
Babson and his comrades took cover and plotted another attack upon where the spctres were now concealed. Once again, the strange beings rose and retreated but not before one could be hit by a shot from Babson’s rifle. As they closed in on the casualty, they were taken by a sudden horror; the place where the enemy had fallen was void of a body. It was clear to the exhausted men that neither lead nor iron was useful against whatever demons had come to torture them. No sooner had they reached the garrison when more were spotted roaming about the brush just out of gunshot reach.
The next day, Babson went out to the harbor to warn of the visitors and the danger that may follow. As Drake puts it,
“While on his way thither he was waylaid and fired at by the ‘unnaccountable troublers,’ who, strange to say, loaded theor guns with real bullets, as poor Babson was near finding out to his cost. Having procured help, the neighborhood was scoured for traces of the attacking party, two of whom were seen, but not being of mortal flesh and blood, could not be harmed by lead or steel.”
For several days, scouts combed the vicinity of the garrison in search of the spectres. One day the scouting party spied eleven men departing an orchard where they were performing strange incantations. Richard Dolliver fired into the assemblage but, as before, the bullets did nothing but make them scatter. It now became more evident than before, in Drake’s words that the “strange visitors bore a charmed life, and that the cape was in great peril fro this diabolical invasion…”
A regiment of sixty men from Ipswich were called in to assist in the fight against the unearthly visitors who for a fortnight had continually appeared in various places, harassing the people of Gloucester. Though repeatedly shot at, not one was killed or injured. The assailants beat on barns with clubs, threww stones, whooped and made various noises much to the resemblance of a poltergeist more than a foe wishing to annihilate an enemy. To make matters more supernatural, they left no footprints in the sands or swamps where they were seen and chased.
It was a matter of time before the spectres began confronting the soldiers of the garrison. Three of them were seen one morning by Babson walking toward him with no fear or apprehension. Babson quickly hid and waited until they were within stones reach. He then shouldered his rifle and fired at them. The powder flashed in the pan, but no shot projected from the barrel. he tried repeatedly to shoot them with no success as the phantoms passed by without as much as flinching. He later was able to fire the gun several times in succession without fail. There was only one explanation Bason could come up with; the wraiths had charmed his rifle so it would not harm them.
In time, the visitors either grew weary of their diabolical pranks or had better things to do somewhere else. The odd happenings ceased as quick as they had started. One account states that it was not just the spctres going away but divine intervention that played a role in their retreat.
It was decided that if mortal tools could not harm the spectres, then the only answer was to pray to their savior for redemption from the evil. The people of the garrison converged and began praying for salvation. Their plan seemed to have worked, for it was not very long before the spectres were gone for good and the people of Cape Ann were relieved of the devil’s minions that had for some time kept them in fear of being taken by the evils that prevailed at the time.
John Greenleaf Whittier wrote of the phenomenon that beleaguered the people of Gloucester in his poem, The Garrison Of Cape Ann.