Captain Edward J. Smith, Master of the Titanic
This has proven one of Mrs Daffodil’s most popular posts. The anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic is here once again, so here is a strange and ghostly story from that tragedy.
Of the Ill-Fated Titanic
“Seen” on Streets of Baltimore, According To a Former Shipmate of Captain Smith
Special Dispatch to the Enquirer.
Baltimore, Md., July 20. The statement that Captain E. J. Smith, commander of the ill-fated Titanic, was not drowned in the disaster, but was seen safe and sound Friday morning in Baltimore, was made to-day by a retired mariner, who claims to have been a shipmate of Captain Smith for more than 17 years.
Peter Pryal, 9074 Valley street, who was Quartermaster on the steamship Majestic, of the White Star Line, 30 years ago, when Captain Smith commanded the vessel, made the statement, and added that he had not only seen the Captain, but talked with him.
Mr. Pryal also said that he saw Captain Smith last Wednesday morning, but was skeptical as to his identity, and to confirm his belief that the Captain was alive, went to the same spot Friday morning to see the Captain again. So shocked was Mr. Pryal at seeing the man he believed dead that on his return home he suffered a nervous breakdown.
At 9 o’clock Friday morning he went to Baltimore and St. Paul streets and stood on the corner for almost an hour. Finally to his astonishment he saw the same man approaching him. Walking up to him, he said, “Captain Smith, how are you?” Then, according to Mr. Pryal, the man answered: “Very well, Pryal, but please don’t detain me; I am on business.”
Hardly able to stand, so great was his astonishment, Mr. Pryal, without realizing what he was doing followed the man to St. Paul and Fayette streets.
Several times the man turned and when he finally saw Pryal behind him rushed into the Calvert Building, and, according to Mr. Pryal, endeavored to lose himself in the crowd. Pryal was behind him, however, and followed him through the Equitable Building and saw him board a west-bound car on Fayette street.
His pursuer boarded the same car and saw the man get off at the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Station, where he purchased a ticket to Washington. As he passed through the gates to board the car he turned to Mr. Pryal, smiled and said: “Be good, shipmate, until we meet again.”
Mr. Pryal when seen to-day said that he did not expect to be believed when he told of the incident and added with great earnestness that he was willing to swear to his statements.
Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 21 July 1912: p. 3
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin 3 August 1912: p. 3 adds the details that “It was while on his way to the office of Dr. Mactier Warfield for treatment for an internal disorder last Wednesday that he swears he first saw approaching him the commander of the Titanic. Attired in a neat-fitting business suit of a light brown color, straw hat, and tan shoes, the man carried two suitcases and was staring straight ahead. Pryal approached him and spoke, but received no reply. The man seemed unconscious of his surroundings and continued walking rapidly west out Baltimore Street.”
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A detail given later in the article is that Dr. Warfield (who appears to be related to the grand-father of that rather dreadful American woman who ensnared the Prince of Wales, briefly King Edward VIII.) was treating Captain Pryal, but “felt he was perfectly sane.” We meet Captain Pryal again in 1914 under rather sensational circumstances.
PRAYERS CURE CANCER
Supplications to the Virgin Mother give Man Relief, he Claims
Baltimore, Jan. 21. In answer to his prayers to the virgin mother for two years a cancer on his nose from which he has suffered for the last 27 years has been cured, declares Peter Pryal, aged 72.
The old man said he retired one night, and on awakening he discovered that the cancer, which had been eating its way into his left eye and into his brain, had been cured. Pryal discarded the shield which he has worn over his nose for years and the skin of the nose was perfectly dry.
The Mahoning Dispatch [Canfield, OH] 23 January 1914: p. 5
One wonders how much an incipient cancer eating into the eye and brain influenced Captain Pryal’s vision of the master of the Titanic? It seems beyond doubtful that Captain Smith survived the sinking of his ship. In fact, a Spiritualist medium was pleased to be able to bring the late Captain Smith the exoneration afforded him by the maritime court of inquiry. It seems a little odd to Mrs Daffodil that a spirit able to see from the Great Beyond to a séance room in Great Britain should not have been able to hear the verdict for himself.
Disregarding chronological order I will here state what came to me as I read the verdict of the British court of inquiry pronounced on July 30th by Lord Mersay, the presiding Judge. In reading the words: “In the circumstances I am unable to blame Captain Smith. Other skilled men would have done the same thing in the same position,” I hear Captain Smith say: “I thank God for that—I have wished and wished and wished I might know how that investigation ended and now I have read it when you read it, and I cannot sufficiently thank God for showing it to me. I don’t see how I could have done otherwise than as I did. I had done it hundreds of times before and nothing had ever happened. Every captain who crosses the ocean does it. It is wrong of course but then it is the custom. Could we know such terrible conditions as had never been known before prevailed? As I said before, those long ships are too unwieldy to use in crossing the ocean or in any other place. Tell them if they use them again there will be just such another accident and they must give them up. No other ship must be built of the size of the ‘Titanic’ It will be fatal to many more people than were lost on her. I insist upon your publishing this. It is most important. That is all. Smith—late Captain of the’Titanic'”
There Are No Dead, Sophie Radford de Meissner, 1912
Madame de Meissner also appears in this post over at the Haunted Ohio blog about tales of Titanic premonitions.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.