Madame d’Esperance - Shadow Land - 05 The phantom ship
Type of spiritual experienceHallucination
A description of the experience
SHADOW LAND OR LIGHT FROM THE OTHER SIDE by Elisabeth d’Esperance(1897)
The day had been intensely warm, so that the breeze caused by the swift progress of the steamer was extremely refreshing The sun was setting in a bed of fire. The sky was wonderful its beauty of colour,-crimson, gold, yellow and opal. The sea was smooth and still, not a ripple to be seen except in our wake where the curling white foam reflected the beauty of the colours above it, making one of the loveliest scenes on earth.
Lieutenant N. was on the bridge, and I, as usual stood beside him, eagerly discussing the events of the past few days, the scenes we had passed through, the merits or demerits of the purchases made on our last excursion on shore. My tongue was, as father often put it, "running nineteen to the dozen'. We had during our conversation remarked several vessels in the distance and the subject of the purchases having been discussed and dismissed, I turned my attention to the ships, anxious to show my ability to distinguish one class of ship from another, and classify them sailor fashion. Lieutenant N. and I did not agree as to whether a vessel outlined against the skyline was schooner or brig, I persisting that it was the one and he the other.
"Take my glasses and you will see I am right", he suggested, offering me his telescope.
I turned to exchange glasses with him when I was almost petrified by seeing a large vessel close before the bows of our own. We had been looking aft during our conversation, and, intent on our argument, had not noticed for a few minutes what was going on forwards.
"Look, look!" I cried fearfully.
"What at?" asked my companion.
'At the ship! Won't you stop? We are going to meet-Stop, stop! Why don't you stop?" I gasped in terror, for the vessel was so close that the men on her deck could be clearly distinguished, and we were nearing each other with frightful rapidity.
"What ails you, child? What ship? What do you mean? Why should we stop?"
I grasped his arm and turned him round, for he was looking at me in surprise, not at the vessel we were swiftly approaching.
"Now can you not see?" I screamed.
'Are you blind?" And in my fright I shook him, repeating "The ship! the ship! stop! stop! stop!"
He took no notice of what I said, but loosened himself from my frantic clutch and drew me down on a seat that had been placed for me in a sheltered corner. My only idea however, being that we were going headlong to destruction and that I must be with my father, I struggled from his grasp and was rushing from the bridge when he caught and held me, insisting that I should be still.
"How can I be still when you are going to drown us all? Let me go. Father! Father!" I moaned, struggling anew.
Then I cowered down and hid my face against his arm.
The strange ship was now looming full over our bows, her white sails gleaming rosy red in the light of the setting sun. One man on her deck was leaning with folded arms against the bulwarks watching the on-coming of our vessel. All this I saw in the brief glance I gave before hiding my face. Everything turned black before me, my heart stood still while I waited for the inevitable crash. Oh, the agony of those moments! No lapse of time will efface from my memory the thoughts that rushed through my
brain while waiting for the meeting of the two vessels. It seemed to me that a life-time was crowded into that second.
"What is the matter, why are you so afraid?" said Lieutenant N. putting his other arm round my shoulders. But I could not answer, I could only moan and tremble.
The crash was long in coming. I ventured at last to raise my eyes. The vessel had disappeared! The relief was so great that a sob almost choked me, and the tears began to stream down my cheeks. "Where is it? Which way did it go?" I stammered when I could get out the words.
"I don’t know what you are talking about", replied the Lieutenant. "There has been no ship near us. Do you think I should not have seen it had there been one?"
I stood up and glanced uneasily round. There in our wake was the vessel with her sails fully set. I saw each rope of the rigging and noticed that the sails, this time between the setting sun and me, were not rosy red as before, when the red glow lay full on them, but grey. I saw the men moving about on the deck. I saw the pennant flying at the mast head. The vessel did not seem to be fifty feet from us, but the distance was rapidly increasing. It was quite clear to me that we had in some way passed through each other and were now speeding on our different ways.
"Can you not see it now?" I asked, pointing to the receding ship.
"I can see nothing", replied he shortly…………………………..
After this my father left me and went to talk with the officers on deck. I heard no more of the matter till later in the day when he came to me and told me, in a vexed tone, that I must never make such an upset or say such things as these again. He had, he said, made very careful enquiry of the men on watch as to the vessel, which I declared I had seen, but they all maintained that no such vessel had passed near us since leaving port nor had they noticed anything except that I was crying bitterly. Thus the whole matter was shrouded in mystery, and I saw plainly that I must not expect to be believed in the face of so much evidence to the contrary.
The old weight of anxiety and dread that had lifted itself from my heart during the long holiday seemed to again settle down upon me. I began to wonder and speculate as to the possibility of there being shadow ships as well as shadow people. In short the old trouble came back and made me heavy-hearted and wretched, though the various little excitements incident to the life on board ship prevented me taking it so seriously as I had done previously.
The source of the experience
Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image
Observation contributed by: Neffy Limb