Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Haunted Shipwreck?

When the Vallejo steamer Sunol sank in March 1897 after colliding with the sailing vessel Olympic, she carried a valuable cargo of lead and silver bars from the Selby Smelting Company. But when divers set about salvaging the wreck, they had a ghostly encounter that nearly ended the operation. On April 13, 1897 the Vallejo Evening Chronicle reported the mysterious story:

“There are spooks about the sunken wreckage of the steamer Sunol, according to the wild tale related by Diver Dolph, who has been working most energetically at recovering the treasure that fell out of the Sunol when she was sunk by the big bark Olympic. Dolph has given satisfaction in his work for a diver especially, but he balked at the spooks Saturday afternoon and refused to work any more.

“Captain A. E. Pryor, who heads the wrecking party and is generally addressed as the superintendent of the prospecting party that located a silver mine in the bay, was greatly astonished to see Diver Dolph rise to the surface hurriedly late on Saturday, tear off his diving costume and swear that imps were holding a high revel around the lead and silver bars sixty-five feet down in the depths of the bay, and that an infernal band was playing “A Life on the Ocean Wave” to amuse the imps.

“Pryor looked at Dolph, whom he knew to be a level headed and sober man, but whom he did not know to be superstitious. Divers see queer things in the depths and imagination can make them appear to be still more strange. Dolph was closely questioned as to what caused his fear. He finally said that that while clearing away some wreckage he came across a dark-colored box of hard wood about a foot and a half square and several inches deep. As he threw it aside to pick up some lead and silver bars he said he heard well-known music and then he saw fantastic figures hovering around the wooden box. Without waiting to investigate, Dolph left the depths and came to the surface. As he told the tale the seamen who were working on the schooner became interested at first, and finally began to show as much superstitious fear as the diver.

"Pryor tried to think out an explanation to the mystery, and suddenly remembered that there was a large music-box on the steamer. He came to the conclusion that it had remained water-tight, and that Dolph, throwing it aside, had set the machinery into motion, and that the music Dolph heard was the result. Pryor had saw that it was useless to dispute with the men as to Dolph’s ability to hear the music, and, as they had all worked so faithfully, he decided to give them a holiday and strive to have them regain their spirits by listening to real music, so he secured seats for the whole party of fifteen and took them to the Orpheum Saturday night. Dolph and the rest of the men were hard at work yesterday, and nothing further was heard of spooks or spook music.”