Sunday, December 26, 2004

Speaking of Coffins...

Two main oddities come to mind:

First is the Arthur's Seat finding (by some Scottish children in 1863) of 17 mysterious miniature coffins:

some cool British educational website.

Who made them? What purpose they serve? And what of the spooky little wooden dolls that were inside the coffins? Hey, you can even see some of them inside their coffins in that picture...

Was there a real link between the miniature coffins and the infamous grave robbers Burke and Hare?
Dr Allison Sheridan, curator of the Museum of Scotland, where the coffins are, commissioned Dr Allen Simpson and Dr Sam Menefee of the University of Virginia to
find out... , as reported in an article by Allan Brown (Sunday Times, September 17 2000).

The second incident relates to a story I read a long time ago - although recent research by the Galveston News cries 'myth!', as it is usual with these tales:

The 'myth' was well-covered in 'Blithering Antiquity' (in its December 2003 issue):

Susan Kin

"Charles Coghlan was a professional actor who died while on tour in Galveston in 1899. He was laid to rest there in a casket placed inside a stone vault. Released and carried away by the receding surge, his coffin began to drift . . . and drift, and drift. It drifted across the Gulf of Mexico and rounded the Florida Keys. Then, obviously borne by the Gulf Stream, it slowly bobbed northeastward the entire length of the Eastern Seaboard. Finally extricated from the great ocean current, it was found in 1908 basking on the surface of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Shocked fishermen towed the barnacled casket to Prince Edward Island. What shocked them most was the name of the occupant, identified on a metal plate. Charles Coghlan the actor was a native son of Prince Edward Island. His coffin had found its way home on a 3,000-mile, eight-year voyage."

The website 'Paranormal Canada' tells us that Charles Coghlan was born in 1841 to a poor Irish family living on Prince Edward Island. It appears that his parents were strict people who wanted the best for their son and who, with the help of neighbours, sent Charles to England to study. Later he returned home having graduated with honours.

When Charles announced that he wanted to be an actor he became banned from the homestead by his father. Charles left Prince Edward Island, vowing never to return. Eventually, he became a success on the stage, performing in productions all over North America. Being a talented actor, he managed to capture a great audience everywhere.

When he was a young actor, Coghlan visited a Gypsy fortune teller who gave him a chilling prediction: sudden death, being at the peak of his popularity. This would happen in a city in the Southern United States, but that his body would not rest until it was returned home to Prince Edward Island. The incident made Coghlan quite uneasy, and he would bring it up frequently with friends. Charles would tell this story until 1898. Then we find Coghlan was playing Shakesperare (Hamlet) in Galveston, Texas. He was 57 years old and at the peak of a brilliant career when he died on stage that very same year. A week later, Coghlan was lowered into a granite vault in a lead lined coffin on Galveston Island. Two years later, the great Hurricane of 1900 hit Galveston. Almost seven thousand people died and the island was nearly washed into the Gulf of Mexico, including (supposedly) the cemetery where Coghlan was buried.

Then, no less that eight years later, in October of 1908, a few fishermen off the coast of Prince Edward Island spotted something unusual in the cold Atlantic waters. It was a large box, badly damaged in its travels. The fishermen managed to get it onboard and brought it in to shore.

According to the legend, he was buried in the cemetery next to the small church where he was baptized in 1841.

Hmm. True story?

The Galveston News reporter did a good job with research to unearth bits of truth and falsity to this story, originally made popular by Ripley in his 'Believe it or Not!'.

Read all about it
here in 'Farshores', although the original source is Galveston News (Sept. '03).


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