Graveyard Of The Atlantic Ghosts
With the Graveyard of the Atlantic being the final resting place for hundreds of ships off Hatteras Island's coastline, it is no surprise that ghosts play an integral part in many Outer Banks legends. Sometimes these legendary ghosts even make modern day appearances.
Some Outer Banks locals claim that right before a storm they spotted, and maybe even talked to, the Old Gray Man of Hatteras. Though little is known about the figure, consensus says he was a wealthy shipwreck victim that met his end on the Diamond Shoals after a hurricane popped up out of nowhere, surprising the captain and crew and essentially sinking the ship.
On dreary days right before a hurricane hits, when the rough ocean waters often create a slight mist on the beaches, the Old Gray Man has been spotted in a faded gray suit, wandering the beaches and warning locals and visitors of the approaching storm.
Many Outer Banks stories don't have to be stretched or exaggerated to become amazingly unbelievable tales, and many of these stories stem from the Lifesaving Stations that were located along the Outer Banks. These predecessors of the U.S. Coast Guard were also flagships of the U.S. Lifesaving Service, and many heroes were born from their thousands of amazing rescues.
For example, on February 23, 1889, a ship wrecked well off the shores of the Northern Carolina Coast (modern day Corolla), where Malachi Corbel was stationed as the keeper of the Wash Woods Lifesaving Station.
The ocean was treacherous with towering waves and torrential winds, and though most of the men were lost, five survivors still clung to ropes along the side of the boat, floating in the water.
Corbel attempted to navigate these waters numerous times over the next several days, but each time the sea won the battle, and he could not get through to the ship. Soon only one man was left, being constantly heaved by the ocean and still desperately holding on to the single rope that held his life in the balance.
On February 27, the ocean calmed down just enough for the desperate Corbel and his men to get through, and they were able to bring the lone survivor to shore. He had held on the rope for four solid days. Corbel later noted in his journal that the survivor's only injuries were swollen feet.
Cats pop up a lot in Outer Banks stories, as a six-toed cat was considered good luck on a ship, especially through the treacherous waters of the Diamond Shoals that border the coast. This notion might have stemmed from the (mostly) true story of the Carroll A. Deering, a supposed ghost ship that crashed onto the Diamond Shoals on January 31, 1921.
Surfman C.P Brady of the Cape Hatteras Coast Guard Station spotted the shipwreck of the Carroll A. Deering on January 31. He paddled out with his crew as quickly as possible, but because of inclement weather and treacherous waters, this was 5 days after the wreck was initially spotted. When they arrived at the ship on February 5, what they found was peculiar.
The ship was deserted, and there was no sign of personal belongings of the officers or the crew and the ship's key navigational equipment and some papers were missing. The ship's anchors were missing and red lights had been run up the mast. Yet, food in the galley appeared to be laid out in preparation for a meal. Boots had been laid out in the captain's quarters and the spare bed appeared to have been slept in, but the only living soul that remained aboard the Carroll A. Deering was the ship's six-toed cat. All of the lifeboats were gone and the ladder was thrown over the side as an indication that the crew had tried to leave, but they were never seen again.
While cats can bring luck to an Outer Banks mariner, so can other animals that are found in abundance along the coast, as evident by the story of the famous local dolphin, Hatteras Jack.
According to legend, in 1790 the Hatteras Inlet waters were well known for being a treacherous passageway for ships trying to get into port. Because of the shifting sandbars and currents, many mariners struggled to make it through these waters.
Assistance for these ships came in a very unusual form. Captains soon began to notice an albino, white as snow dolphin preceding each boat through the inlet, indicating the path. Somehow, the dolphin, who was dubbed "Hatteras Jack," always seemed to know the exact route to follow to avoid cuts and sandbars. It wasn't long before the captains began to trust and even seek out Hatteras Jack, blowing their foghorns as they drew close to the inlet.
As the years progressed, and the U.S. Government stepped in to aid navigation through the Inlet, Hatteras Jack was seen less and less and finally disappeared, as apparently it was evident that his work was done.