Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ghost Story

Halloween seems the appropriate day to post a period ghost story. Bartolome de las Casas became in his campaign for fair treatment of the New World's native inhabitants, one of the few chroniclers of the early conquest of Hispanola (in modern day the Dominican Republic and Haiti). La Isabela was the name of Columbus' settlement that he established on his second voyage across the Ocean Sea. The site proved problematic and was abandoned after a few years.

This is from: History of the Indies Bartolome de las Casas. Collard, Andrée M. trans. & ed.
Harper Torch Books, New York, New York 1971

"..the Christians' misery grew stronger every day as the possibilities of relieving it diminished...And what made it worse was the idea that they were going to die of starvation so far away, without any of the usual consolations afforded a dying man, not even someone to give them a glass of water...So, then, many noblemen raised in comfort who had never known a day of hardship in their lives found their misery intolerable and some died in a state of great turmoil; even, it is feared, of utter despair.
For this reason, the residents of Hispaniola were terrified to go to Isabela after it was abandoned. Reports circulated about the horrible voices and frightening cries that could be heard day and night by anyone who happened to pass near the town. There was a story about a man walking through the deserted town and coming upon people lining the street on both sides who were dressed like the best Spanish courtiers. The man awed by this unexpected vision, greeted them and asked where they came from. But they kept silent, answering only by lifting a hand to their hats, as a sign of greeting, and as they took off their hats,the whole head came off so that two files of beheaded gentlemen were left lining the street before they vanished altogether. The man almost died of fright, and the story was told quite frequently among the common people here."

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