Screeching Lady Beach at Lovis Cove, top
There’s a small, stone strand called Screeching Lady Beach in Marblehead, Massachusetts, which is off Front street in Marblehead’s old town. Also known as Lovis cove, the beach is home to a well-known restaurant, The Barnacle. The Barnacle’s main claim to fame is that during Nor’easters, the waves actually crash over the building, which no doubt provides a great view for the locals who sit inside the glass encased dining room and watch the action.
The beach takes its name from an old specter, known to the local fisherman over the centuries as the Screeching Lady. According to Robert Ellis Cahill in New England’s Ghostly Haunts, the story goes something like this …
An English woman was captured by Spanish pirates in the late 17th century, and robbed of all her valuables with the exception of an emerald ring which wouldn’t slide off her finger. Try as they might, the pirates couldn’t deprive the hand of the ring. As a result, they let her live for the time being, and slaughtered all the others who were captured in the raid.
A bit later, the pirates found themselves off the then tiny village of Marblehead, and decided to go ashore and engage in a bit of pillaging and plundering, as pirates oft-time do. Being so close to shore for the first time, the unfortunate woman with the swollen finger leapt from the ship, and made her way to shore, hoping to find sanctuary.
By this time, the pirates had determined that there was nothing worth pillaging or plundering in Marblehead, and were in something of a foul mood. Finding the unfortunate woman dripping water on the beach did not improve their mood.
The woman screeched, the pirates pounced upon her, and beat her savagely. The villagers in Marblehead, at first sight of pirates, had retreated to the woods, and from there could hear the screams of the unfortunately lady, which no doubt kicked up an octave or two when the scoundrels finally realized that they could remove the finger and obtain the ring. Which they did.
Soon the screams ceased, the pirates went back to their ship and left. The townspeople came out from hiding, and there on the beach they found the mangled and mutilated corpse of the woman. They felt bad for ignoring her cries, and so buried her in the burial grounds.
But old timers insist, that each year on the anniversary of her death, you can still hear her cries, rising up from the beach.
The oldest version of the story which I’ve encountered is from an old book, published 1821 of articles written by a certain William Tudor entitled Miscellanies. He received the story from an elderly woman in Marblehead, who had it written down and kept in her bedroom, so one can assume that it dated from much earlier.
A Spanish ship steered a bit too close to Marblehead harbor, and was overtaken by a pirate ship. The ship was laden down with trunks of gold and jewels, and aware that the Marblehead fishing fleet was out to sea, the pirates waited till dark to bring the captured ship into the harbor to relieve it of its cargo.
Everyone aboard the ship had been killed, except one quite strikingly beautiful lady, well dressed in a gown of silk and bejewelled to boot. She refused to give up her jewels to the rapscallions, and so they took her to shore at Lovis cove, where they chopped off her fingers to get to the rings, then savagely murdered her. She screamed for help, begged her redeemer for mercy, but her cries fell on deaf ears. The women of the village, unable to help the wretched lady with their husbands off to sea, could clearly hear her screaming “O mercy! Mercy! Lord Jesus Christ save me!”
According to Miscellanies, “Her body was buried where the crime was perpetrated, and to this day these screams are occasionally repeated; sometimes every year, sometimes an interval of two or three years will intervene. When these screams have been heard, it is always in a sound so superhuman, and superlatively dreadful, that the horror is indescribable.”