The Dead Ship
The Dead Ship of Harpswell was a
ghost or phantom, it was not a broken up ship. The
ship was always under full sail and sailed straight
ahead no matter what the wind and tide was like. The
ship was mostly seen just before dark and between
the afternoon and night.
Sometimes it was seen as a four mast
ship, sometimes a two mast ship or sometimes a brig.
As the ship was going toward the dock, the watcher
saw there was no one on the ship and no one to steer
the ship to the dock. When the ship was about to
crash, the ship would disappear or go backwards and
go into a mist. People thought that if someone saw
the ghost ship that someone in Harpswell would die.
The only people that saw the ship were the ones that
were waiting for a ship. The ship was seen many
times at Lookout Point in Harpswell Center and Potts
Point in South Harpswell. It was also seen at Bailey
and Orr's Island.
John Greenleaf Whittier talked about
the legend in his poem, The
Dead Ship of Harpswell. It was written in 1866
when the poet was 59 years old. His story was that
the ship would appear on the horizon “as out of a
mist,” approach a dock head on and then go out to
sea again, stern first, against the wind and tide.
According to his poem, the ship didn't go a certain
way and it never came to port.
Some people said the Dead Ship of
Harpswell was the famous ship Dash, built in
Freeport for Seward and Samuel Porter of Portland.
Other people said it was the “ill‑fated Sarah,”
built for Charles Jose and George Leveret of
Portland at the Soule yard in South Freeport. The
superstition kept on for many years that whenever
death was coming near for a resident of Harpswell,
the Dead Ship of Harpswell would appear, driving
into Merriconeag Sound and trying to make her way
into Potts Harbor, “only to vanish in a cloud of fog
when coming near the shore.” The Dead Ship's last
appearance was supposedly in the 1880's when a guest
at the Harpswell House said he had seen a
full-rigged ship sailing into the sound in the
daytime. When he told other people, the ship was
Robert Coffin, the late Brunswick
poet and novelist used the story “The Dead Slip of
Harpswell” in his book John Daim. The ship was seen
twice by Captain James Dawn. The sighting came
before the death of his first wife and son; the
second before his own death.
Easter Toothaker is said to have
seen the phantom before jumping overboard to his
death. Another source says the ship's final
appearance was to Polly Toothaker at the time of
Captain John Toothaker's death. Since that time no
one has reported seeing the ship.