"A Colonial Apparition" by James Sprunt PDF Print Email
Written by Leilani Pickett   
Tuesday, March 28, 2017 11:21 AM

“A Colonial Apparition: A Story of the Cape Fear” by James Sprunt is a ghost story about a terrible storm that devastates the Carolina coast and causes many shipwrecks.

The booklet was published by Harper’s Steamboat Line in 1909 and printed in Wilmington on the Morning Star Electric Power Presser, a printing press owned by the local Wilmington Morning Star newspaper. This newspaper is still in print today as the Star-News. Sprunt's “A Colonial Apparition” was read aloud to members of the Society of Colonial Dames of North Carolina.

In the story, the mail boat “Wilmington” is docked in Wilmington but must push through the storm to deliver its passengers and parcels to Southport.

The ferry is frequently held up by the driving wind and sleet, and Captain Harper and a mysterious passenger named McMillan swap old colonial tales to pass the time. 

McMillan recounts stories of the Scottish settlers to the Cape Fear region. He tells Captain Harper how three Highlanders, including his great-grandfather William McMillan, were captured by the British in Robeson County during the American Revolution.

They were imprisoned in a floating jail that was anchored in the harbor of old Brunswick, near Sugar Loaf.  All of the prisoners were executed except for McMillan’s ancestor, who daringly escaped as he stood before his executioners.

After the Captain hears McMillan’s tale, he feels uneasy. The “Wilmington” is struggling against the wind and waves when a piercing cry rings out on the water.

Suddenly, a primitive rowing barge, covered with barnacles and seaweed, appears beside them. Two skeletal figures, bound with chains and dressed in ragged Highlander garb, stood on the barge’s deck. Had the passengers and crew of the ferry seen the ancient prison ship and the ghosts of its unfortunate Scottish prisoners?