In November of 1913, a ship called the Johnson made a gruesome discovery. While traveling past a cove off the coast of Chile, they spotted a derelict ship which appeared to be in good condition and the captain decided to investigate. Upon approaching the vessel, it quickly became apparent that the ship was in bad shape- a green moss was growing on the sails and masts, and the wood was rotting away. Most disturbing of all, the only people aboard were long dead- the captain, now little more than a skeleton, was found still clutching the helm's wheel! A few of the crew were also reduced to bones above deck, and though investigation proved difficult due to the unstable nature of the boat, the Johnson crew found more skeletons in the mess area. They also determined that the shipment of lumber was still intact, and they discovered the name of the vessel- Marlborough of Glasgow.
Upon landing in Lyttelton, New Zealand, the captain of the Johnson reported the discovery to learn that the Marlborough had left their port in 1890- 23 years earlier- with a crew of 23 men- never to be heard from again. The captain, named Hird, was bound for Glasgow and had last been seen in the Straits of Magellan. How had the men died? And when? Had they all died at once, leaving a literal skeleton crew to sail about for over two decades before coming to rest in the place they had been discovered? How had the ship not been dashed upon rocks or sunk during a storm in all those years?
These are the bones, as it were, of the Marlborough Mystery story. This version of events appears in FATE Magazine, written up by Vincent H. Gaddis in the March, 1951 issue. It would later be included in Frank Edwards' Strangest of All (1956), Brad Steiger's The Unknown (1966), and in Into the Strange by Warren Smith in 1968. (Many thanks to Dr. Jerrold Coe, whose wonderful blog is well worth perusal, for pointing me to these sources.) As with any mystery, and with many of the timeworn tales of Forteana or seafaring superstitions and legends, there are minor variations on the details. The major implications remain consistent, and the questions brought about by them are terrifying and mind-bending. If we are to entertain the mystery, taking the basic story for granted, we can imagine all sorts of fanciful explanations. Perhaps there was a time slip of some kind, or perhaps the dead sailors were cursed to be corporeal revenants, manning a vessel even as the flesh fell from their frames. No doubt some would speculate that aliens were involved, or point to some strange conspiracy related to Atlantis. Just as the fog rolls in over the sea, the questions overwhelm the mind. The imagined monsters hiding in the fog become grandiose, and without the visibility of the stars to guide a course we are stuck in place- not unlike the Marlborough.
The repetition of the number 23 is significant, particularly since it applies here to a lost boat. 23 seems to appear often in strange tales, and is hailed by Discordians as being particularly important. Robert Anton Wilson popularized the 23 Enigma in the 1970s, and credits its discovery to William S Burroughs in a 1977 issue of Fortean Times. Burroughs, he claimed, knew a man called Captain Clark who boasted about having 23 years of experience at sea without an accident. Upon setting sail, his ship crashed and killed everyone on board- a cruel twist of fate. While thinking about this later, he heard about the crash of an airliner- Flight 23- off the coast of Florida. The pilot was named Captain Clark.
The 23 Enigma, then, might be seen as an ominous one, though that is not always the case. 23 seems to be a number of mystery, of fate, and the interconnecting nature of things. Wilson would go on to include the Enigma in his works, notably as part of his journey into the Chapel Perilous in Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati. The 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet is Psi, which has applications in fields as nebulous as quantum mechanics, psychology, and of course in parapsychology, where "Psi" effects relate to all manner of ESP, psychokinesis, and other wild talents.
Noticing the frequency of the number in relation to Odd Things is a wonderful example of synchronicity at play in the world, so long as you employ the "Maybe Logic" of RAW and interrogate your own Belief System (BS). Otherwise, madness is a danger, like Jim Carrey in the 2007 movie The Number 23 experiences. The mysteries of 23 are perhaps best left as an indicator, something to be noted peripherally- as synchronicity largely should be. These events and symbols often act as signs, directing you on a path, but are not themselves the path forward. One can easily lose sight of the forest for the synchronici-trees.
|The author's own house marker|
Having established the anomalous significance of the 23 years the Marlborough apparently drifted with only skeletons to pilot it, we can now pierce through the fog of the unknown and perhaps satisfy some of these concerns. Looking at newspaper articles from 1913, further discrepancies in the narrative appear. Two examples follow, from the New Smyrna Daily News (December 5, 1913) and The Star Tribune (December 14, 1913) respectively: