By Brent Swancer
THERE have been various ghostly legends and tales told throughout the ages, their truth very often obscured by the mists of time. While these stories go back centuries, such tales also have managed to worm their way into the modern age, embedding themselves within our technology and modern habits. This can be seen especially on the Internet, which has managed to spawn all manner of modern urban legends for which it is not always exactly clear what is true and what is pure fiction. One such story that has made the rounds in recent times concerns a mysterious website that is said to be haunted, cursed, or both.
Like many Internet legends, the tale of the haunted website has a rather in-depth backstory. According to the lore there was a little girl born in the 18th century, and although it is unknown what her original name was, she is mostly referred to as “Repleh Snatas.” She was apparently born after her parents suffered through several miscarriages, so for them her birth was considered a bit of a miracle, especially since she turned out to be a very healthy and seemingly normal baby girl, but things would turn out to be quite sinister. It is said that as the baby grew it was noticed that she had a strangely shaped birthmark on her face, and although the parents didn’t think much of it at first, rumors began to swirl around their village. People began to claim that the odd birthmark was actually the mark of the Devil himself, which caused people to react to the girl with either fear, animosity, or some combination of both. The dark tale says that, although her mother loved her, the father became more and more convinced that the rumors were true, and that his daughter had been marked by Satan. He took to forbidding her to go outside until after midnight, and as his obsession with the Devil grew he supposedly took to locking “Repleh” in a room full of mirrors, and told not to look into them because her visage would cause them to crack and allow the Devil into this world. Pretty creepy stuff already, but it gets even weirder.
The abuse directed towards Repleh by her father apparently became worse, with him putting her through various tortures in order to try and drive the Devil out, and as this was going on he is described as rapidly losing his grip on reality. He became an eccentric recluse, never leaving his cursed daughter out of his site for even a moment, and then one day it all came to a head and he just snapped. According to the legend he then brutally murdered his daughter, as well as his wife, before then killing himself. It is said that the bodies of Repleh and her mother were lashed to a tree in the forest facing opposite directions, and that neither one of them ever received a proper burial, with Repleh being just unceremoniously interred right there under the tree she had been tied to. The father supposedly did all of this grim work thinking this would purge the world of the evil, but instead Repleh remained.
The original legend tied to Repleh is that the spirit lurks about mirrors, gravitating towards them as a moth does to a flame, and that it is possible to contact her through these mirrors. Traditionally, it was said that if you want to make her appear you must be alone in a darkened room at exactly midnight and write the name words “Repleh Snatas” backwards on a mirror six times by candlelight, and if you do it right the mirror will then crack and she will supposedly appear in the fractured mirror image behind you. She will then communicate with the one who summoned her, but you are never to turn around and try to look at her directly, as this will make her angry and she will either attack you or kill you, depending on her mood. In order to make her go away, you are supped to blow out the candle while saying “Repleh,” after which she will vanish and leave you alone in the dark room once again. This was the common legend, but it also seems Repleh has managed to make her way into the Internet world.
The new twist on the legend is that there is a website devoted to her memory, simply called “Repleh Snatas.” In order to view the page, you must first gain access, but the site is said to open for some, and not for others. It is unknown why this should be, but some people simply cannot get onto the site, even after switching devices, no matter how many times they try. If one is “lucky” enough to get in, they will be treated to a collage of creepy photographs allegedly of Repleh, as well as cryptic, spooky messages in her honor, all accompanied by unsettling, off-kilter music in the background. This opening page is another hurdle to cross, and there seems to be nothing else one can do here, no links, no boxes to type something into, just a wall of eerie creepiness. In some versions of the tale, if you access the site there will be a message or even a voice that tells the visitor to come back at midnight.
If you do access the site at exactly midnight, there will be supposedly a box that appears where there was none before, and the site will instruct you to type in the name of a person who you wish to get revenge on as you imagine that person’s face. According to ominous Internet accounts, this will sometimes be preceded by riddles one must answer to move onto the box, or even the ghostly voice of Repleh herself asking you if you want to play. Some reports even describe seeing the ghost of the girl lurking in the reflection of the computer screen. At this point you probably do not want to play at all, but if you do, and type that name in, the person you have specified will apparently soon after experience some misfortune, calamity, or death. The payment for this “service” is that Repleh now gets to comes to you in your dreams and nightmares for as long as you live. This sounds like it must all be surely pure urban legend, but there are numerous accounts of people visiting this site and experiencing all manner of weird things. One report from the site Creepd comes from a witness who says he had quite the bizarre experience when using the site. The witness explains:
So at first it wasn’t that scary, just a page with some creepy noises and candles. All you can do is type in your name, email address and country you live in. you then click a button and are invited to come back at midnight. You cannot do anything else. As I don’t scare easily I went back on the page at midnight but now it was different. Its starts off a little creepy with a few scary sounds and weird pictures. From there the pictures of the girl get frighteningly more scary. You then get to a page and it asks you to put in a ‘victims’ name. I just typed in the first name that popped into my head (we’ll say john) and then from there it tells you to click on the candle. After doing this the screen started flashing with all these freaky images and I heard all these screams so I quickly shut it down as I was severely freaked. That night I went to bed and had weird dreams about the little girl and the images I had seen but nothing overly frightening.
I went about my day as normal but when I returned home that afternoon I had a call from my mum. My Uncle John had mysteriously died that night of what they believed to be a heart attack. They said he was found in the corner of the lounge room with a look of absolute fear on his face. Like he had seen a ghost. They also said he had this strange red marking on his chest. if quickly remembered back to the site and after clicking the button, text popping up saying “your victim has been marked”. Surely this was all coincidence, it had to be. that night I struggled to get to sleep but when I did had a long dreamless sleep. When I woke up the next morning there was a crack in my mirror. this was 3 days ago. I have not slept since. I feel like every time I close my eyes I see that little girl and I when i turn the light off I think I see her at the corner of my eye behind me. Getting closer, smiling. Tormenting me like she was once tormented. Do not look for this site and if you do manage to get on it do not enter a name because you will regret what follows.
There are numerous other accounts and stories like this floating around in forums online and on sites like Reddit, and we are left to wonder just what is going on here. Although there seem to be plenty of people who are convinced there is some reality to this and that it is a genuine paranormal phenomenon, it seems more likely that this is just a creepy urban legend. First, it is based on a spooky story that cannot be confirmed about a girl that may not even have ever existed at all, and there is the sort of suspicious fact that the unlikely name “Repleh Snatas” is “Satan’s Helper” spelled backwards. There is in fact an actual website called Repleh Snatas, which I will refrain from linking to here, and it is indeed supposedly every bit as creepy as you might imagine, but it is most likely a site created to be scary as either viral marketing or merely for someone’s sick sense of fun. It is apparently quite unsettling, yet there is no evidence at all that anything paranormal happens there. In the end it is probably just a scary Internet story like many others out there, but it has still managed to draw to it a large amount of discussion and debate, and is all certainly a very bizarre and creepy tale all the same.
The Mysterious Flaming Ghost Ship of the Bay of Chaleur
SPRAWLED out in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, located between Quebec and New Brunswick, is the Baie des Chaleurs, or known in English as the Bay of Chaleur. The bay stretches for 27 miles, and is well-known for its treacherous weather and fierce winds, generated by the steep cliffs that line much of its shoreline, as well as for its rich biodiversity and abundant fishing grounds. However, one thing the Bay of Chaleur is also known for is a strange ghostly phenomenon that takes the form of a massive spectral ship wreathed in fire.
What has become mostly known as the “Phantom Fire Ship of Chaleur Bay” has been seen for centuries, in all parts of the bay and in every season, although almost exclusively at night. Typically, the apparition will take the form of an old fashioned three-masted, full-rigged vessel sailing vessel spewing flames, and will either be sailing on the water or hovering above it. In some instances, it can look quite dramatic, with some reports mentioning what looks like a “wall of fire” or a firestorm surrounding it. Some reports will mention a ghostly crew on the ship’s decks or climbing about on the blazing rigging, similarly engulfed in flame and sometimes described as wailing or screaming, while on other occasions the ship is said to have no crew at all. The flaming ship will patrol the area for some time, anywhere from several minutes to hours on end, before vanishing into thin air, sometimes fading gradually, but on other occasions disappearing in a bright flash of light, and many locals claim that it is more likely to appear before storms. When it appears, the ghostly fire ship will often be seen by hundreds of people at a time, with whole communities on the coast witnessing it, and it can be very awe-inspiring for someone seeing it for the first time. One local archivist and genealogist Florence Godin, who has written dozens of books on the history and lore of the region, first saw the Fire Ship of Chaleur Bay in the 1950s, as she was taking a walk along the shoreline. She then noticed a crowd looking out over the water and a taxi come screeching to a halt for its occupants to jump out and point excitedly. She says of what she saw when she looked out over the sea:
At that age, I never heard of the phantom ship. That was the only time I looked at it. It was sails. There were big sails. It was slowly drifting, bobbing up and down. The sails were all aflame and the fire seemed to be coming from the bottom of the boat. The colour was just indescribable. It was beautiful. The sails crashed down and its Waterloo was becoming ever clearer. It was really eerie. Really strange.
So, what is the Fire Ship and from where does it originate? This seems to rather depend on who you ask, as there are plenty of different pieces of lore attached to the phantom ship. One of the most popular stories about the ghostly ship and crew involves two 16th century Portuguese explorers and traders by the names of Gaspar Cort-Real and his brother Miguel, who one day decided to try and abduct some of the local tribesmen to sell into slavery. According to the story, they brought some Natives on board under the pretense of negotiating a trading deal, but instead got the men very drunk and chained them up below decks and whisked them off to a life of slavery. When Cort-Real returned some time later to get more slaves, the Natives supposedly rose up and killed Gaspar. His brother Miguel was then ambushed aboard the ship and set it on fire in a bid to escape, apparently cursing the vessel and swearing it would haunt the bay for a thousand years. Another rather popular tale is that the phantom ship is an English ship called the Lady Colbourne, which in 1838 was wrecked off the coast while carrying a large shipment of gold. There are plenty of other stories as well. One comes from the French and Indian War of 1760. During the naval Battle of Restigouche, many ships were sunk or set ablaze, so the idea is that it might be one of these could be the ghost ship. Another tale says it is the ship of the notorious pirate Captain Craig, or conversely that of one of his victims. In one version of the pirate tale, a woman is killed and curses them with her dying breath by saying, “For as long as the world is, may you burn on the bay.”
Of course, there have been many more mundane explanations offered up as well for the phenomenon. Everything from underwater gas releases to rotting vegetation, phosphorescent marine life, and marsh gas, to natural electrical or atmospheric phenomena have been proposed. A popular notion is that the ship is nothing more than a type of mirage called a Fata Morgana, or that it is caused by St. Elmo’s Fire, a natural weather phenomenon that causes a sort of halo of luminous plasma to appear around edges of rod-like objects such as sailing masts. In 1907,Dr. W. G. Ganong, a New Brunswick scholar who became professor of botany at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, said of his ideas along these lines:
Grouping together all the evidence it seems plain. First, that a physical light is frequently seen over the waters of Bay Chaleur and vicinity. Second, that it occurs at all seasons, or at least in winter as well as summer. Third, that it usually precedes a storm. Fourth, that its usual form is roughly hemispherical, with the flat side to the water, and that at times it simply glows without much change of form, but at other times it rises into slender columns, giving an appearance capable of interpretation as the flaming rigging of a ship, its vibrating and dancing movements increasing the illusion. Fifth, its origin is probably electrical, and it is very likely St. Elmo’s Fire.
However, St. Elmo’s Fire does not really explain the fact that people see the ship in great detail, complete with ghostly crew, it appears from nowhere and disappears into thin air, and there is also the fact that the phenomenon is attracted to the edges of pointed of cylindrical objects, whereas the Fire Ship is a complete, clear apparition sighted out on open water. Many of the witnesses of the ghostly fire ship are also reliable witnesses such as seasoned seamen or educated people who have lived their whole lives by the sea, people who know what they can expect to see out there and who would not be as likely to mistake these illusions for a burning ghost ship. Locals tend to shy away from trying to explain it, simply accepting it as a strange feature of the landscape. One long-time resident, Peter Fiott, has said of it:
I have seen the Fire Ship hundreds of times. It takes various forms. Usually it is a sailing vessel wrapped in flames. It has also been a shapeless ball of fire, a ship’s lantern, and once in 1906 it was a burning steamer. How do I explain the Fire Ship? There are those who say it is a mixture of imagination and phosphorus, or imagination and St. Elmo’s Fire. For myself, I can’t explain the unexplainable, but I have seen it—yes, hundreds of times.
The mystery of the Phantom Fire Ship of the Chaleur Bay has become a persistent and prominent piece of local lore here, and despite all of the speculation and attempts to explain it we still have no concrete answer as to what causes it. Is this some ghostly remnant from the past, imprinted upon our reality on some inscrutable mission? Is it merely misidentified natural phenomena? Or is it maybe even something stranger altogether? whatever the case may be, it is still unexplained, and the ghostly fire ship of Chaleur Bay still sails on, perhaps until the end of time.
The Strange Ghost Ship Mystery of the SV Resolven
ON August 29, 1884, a large merchant brig was spotted listless and abandoned in the grey, wind-lashed sea between Baccalieu Island and Catalina, at the northern point of Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The ship was found by the Royal Navy gunboat HMS Mallard, which approached it to see that it was a ship called SV Resolven, which was a Welsh merchant vessel captained by John James, and which operated carrying cargo between Aberystwyth, Wales, and Canada. It was immediately apparent that the ship was not under any intelligent control, adrift and at the whim of the sea, and the decks were completely abandoned. After some efforts to make contact with anyone there, it was decided to board the vessel. From here things would get strange, indeed, launching a true unsolved ghost ship mystery of the high seas.
Upon boarding the aimlessly drifting ship, it soon became obvious that no one at all was there. There was no sign of the captain or crew, the whole of it completely abandoned, although the cargo was still in the hold. This was odd, as there could be found no sign of any damage or fire, nothing that could explain why they would want to leave their ship and its cargo behind. Making it even stranger was that the galley still had a fire lit, the lamps were burning, and food was set out on the table as if some would return at any moment. The logbook was found intact, and the last entry was a completely routine message left approximately 6 hours before the HMS Mallard had arrived. A lifeboat was found missing, but no one could figure out why anyone would possibly want to leave the ship. The best they could come up with was that an iceberg nearby had caused them to panic, but it wasn’t an immediate threat, certainly not to the point that such an extreme measure of abandoning ship was necessary. Especially odd was that wherever the crew had gone, they seemed to have taken nothing with them. Indeed, the only thing missing was a good number of gold coins that the captain had with him. Had this perhaps been an act of piracy? If so, why take only the gold coins and leave everything else? No one had a clue.
The SV Resolven was towed to port the port of Catalina, where it would eventually be refitted and pushed back out into service, but as to where its original crew and captain had gone, no one knew. It was as if they had just vanished into thin air. This was where the mystery would stay for years, with the SV Resolven gaining the nickname of the “Ghost ship of Trinity Bay” and “The Welsh Mary Celeste,” after the more famous case of a legendary mysteriously abandoned vessel. There were no new clues as to what had happened to the crew and captain of the ghost ship, no leads as to why they had suddenly abandoned the vessel in the middle of a meal. Nothing. It would not be until 2015 when by chance a woman from Newfoundland by the name of Daisy Bailey came across the website of researcher Will Wain, the great grandson of Captain John James, who had spent years investigating the strange case in an attempt to find answers. Her story would add a compelling possible clue, something he had spent a decade trying to find to no avail.
Bailey had by chance read about the tale on Wain’s site, and it brought to memory a story that had been passed down in her own family. It turned out that not long after the discovery of the abandoned SV Resolven, her grandfather and his older brother had been out on the gray coast of a remote island called Random Island, in Trinity Bay. There they had allegedly found a body sitting beneath a tree on top of a hill, as if looking out over the sea. The body had been dressed in a captain’s uniform, and had had on it a white gold watch. There was no identification found, but the discovery of this mystery man in the captain’s uniform would have coincided with the same general time frame as the SV Resolven mystery. Bailey explained that the two men had not reported the discovery at the time, and also that they had seemingly come into a good amount of wealth at the same time, perhaps because they had also found the missing gold coins. Wain would say of this:
Like me, this story had been passed down through various generations of her own family. She also told me that one of the pair who supposedly discovered my great-grandfather suddenly became richer than the rest of the community not long afterwards. And, when he died, his widow – whose mind had started to go – began spending what appeared to be a long-hidden trove of gold sovereigns. It was probably about £300 worth in total – a hell of a lot of money back in those days.
Wain was so excited by the prospect of potentially finally having some sort of answer that he immediately made arrangements to meet up with Bailey and take a trip out to the spot where the body had supposedly been found. Rough weather stopped him from making the journey out to the island at the time, but he has stated that he plans to try again, although the body is long gone, supposedly buried at an unmarked grave in an unnamed fishing village. It is unknown if the body found was truly that of Captain John James, but Wain seems to be convinced it was, and he aims to locate the body, have it DNA tested, and if it really is James give him a decent burial. As to what actually happened to the SV Resolven and why James would have ended up dead on that hill, Wain has said:
What did him in in the end is anybody’s guess – maybe he starved, died of an injury or froze to death. It’s likely I’ll never know all the details, but I’ve already heard plenty of theories about what the chain of events might have been that lead him to that place. There’s one which supposes the brig ran aground on an iceberg, which isn’t as unlikely as it may sound in that part of the world, even in August. It’s also been suggested that the ship was abandoned before it hit anything – there was, after all, a lot of money on board. The Resolven could have been a target for pirates, or some of those on board could have plotted a mutiny. Apparently, I’ve heard it said that, in addition to the usual crew of about eight, there had been four local men on deck who’d asked to hitch a ride around the coast. So, if it had been an inside job, I’d say it’s a safe bet they’d had something to do with it.
Myriad questions orbit this case. What happened to this ship and its crew? Why did they abandon it so suddenly? Was this pirates, a mutiny, an iceberg panic, or what? Was that really the body of the captain found on that lonely island, and if so how did he end up there and how did he die? What happened to the rest of the crew and what happened to the treasure that was aboard? There are no answers forthcoming, and whatever the case may be, as far as anyone knows, the crew of the SV Resolven has never been seen again, their fates perhaps forever lost to time.