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The Cloud of Death, Hawker and A Letter to the Times August 10, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

A pleasing example of how something unusual can get blow up into something extraordinary.

A letter to The Times 1 Dec 1858 from North Cornwall [this date appears to be slightly wrong, it must be a couple of days later]

To the Editor of The Times

Sir, Last night, at 15 minutes to 9, it being very dark and raining heavily, I was ascending one of the steep hills of this neighbourhood, when suddenly I was surrounded by a bright and powerful light, which passed me a little quicker than the ordinary pace of man’s walking, leaving it dark as before. This day I have been informed that the light was seen by the sailors in the harbour, coming in from the sea and passing up the valley like a low cloud. Will you or any of your readers be pleased to give an explanation of the above? I am Sir, yours truly, Jabez Brown. Boscastle, Dec. 1.

Now a letter from the great and rather mad R.S.Hawker (previously seen in this place trying to be a mermaid) written 26 Dec where we learn this experience has been absorbed into local tradition.

But the weather for Ten days has been very very awful and exceedingly strange – Thunder, Hail, Rain and Storms of Wind…. The whole countryside is excited about these storms, and the people connect them with the death of a Mr.– a Merchant of Boscastle and a notorious wrecker. As soon as a Ship was seen he used to mount his horse, and never leave her out of sight until she came ashore, when he would take possession, and make an enormous profit by charging Salvage, etc. He did so in Morwenstow twice. Ten days agone a Man called Jabez Brown living at Boscastle was returning at Night when he saw sailing up the Valley from the Sea Cloud filled with fiery light. All the Sailors also saw it. It glided on over –’s House, and passed inland up the Glen, until it reached a Church to which he belonged and where his Family Vault used to be and is. This sight so astonished Brown, that he wrote an account of it to The Times, and there I read it. On Sunday evening this day week – went out on the cliffs, and was seen watching the sea, it is supposed for Wrecks. He returned quite well and went to bed. At 5 in the morning his Servants heard him walk about his room. Then his footsteps ceased. He had returned to bed. At Six O’clock a vast roll of the Tide came up the Harbour, and one of his Vessels broke loose. The Servants went up to tell him – knocked – no answer – again – silence – frightened, they went in and there he lay quite dead. His head upon his hand. Ever since that day it is certain the storms have been continued – again and again with violence and while I now write my table trembles with the wind.

Spooky! The cloud killed the wrecker. There is a God! However, one south-western expert has done her homework. Jabez Brown had his experience on 31 November. The wrecker was Avery, who died on 20 December and the storms that Hawker mixes with the divine light ran from about the 16 to 22 of December.  In other words, never underestimate human ability to conflate different things while creating convenient patterns.

Any other example of mental gymnastics: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com And what about that cloud?