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Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, [1873], at

A Ghostly Ship's-Bell.

In the southern side of St. Levan Churchyard there is a low altar-tomb on the grave of Captain Wetherel, whose ship sprung a-leak and sunk, and who was drowned near the Rundle Stone many years ago. This grave is regarded with fear and wonder by many persons of that neighbourhood; for ever since the Captain was laid there, it has been believed that a ghostly bell strikes the hours, and half-hours, in his grave, the same as on board ship.

’Tis said this sound beneath the sod may be heard the clearest by persons passing the Churchyard at midnight. It was a few minutes before that hour, when the Captain, finding his vessel sinking, made his crew take to the boat; but he himself refused to quit his ship; and, as she went down, they heard him give eight loud and distinct strokes on the bell.

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Many years since several young people were assembled in the Churchyard one Sunday forenoon, after service had commenced and the elders had gone into Church; time passed pleasantly with the young folks in chatting about such occurrences of the St. Levan world as interested them. In rambling among the graves, to look at the many garden flowers that bloomed on them, they approached Captain Wetherel's tomb, and a girl who stood by it reading the inscription, started back on hearing a hollow sound beneath her feet; she, and others near her, who saw her emotion, listened, and lo! a ringing came up as of a bell at sea; all rushed into Church in great fright. There was much talk of the strange occurrence for a few weeks, and less loitering of the youngsters to gossip in the Churchyard during service.

Shortly after a young sailor, belonging to St. Levan, who had been absent many years, came home for a few weeks; being in the "Elder Tree" public-house, one forenoon, with some of his former companions, their discourse led to the mention of the ship's-bell sounding in Captain Wetherel's grave. The young seaman said he believed the story was all nonsense, though as strange or stranger things sometimes happened in old vessels; but, as it was then near upon twelve o'clock, for curiosity sake, he went out and stood near the Captain's tomb; whilst his comrades remained by the Church porch, for a few minutes, watching the sun-dial. As it marked noon the sailor rushed back to his companions, and, looking as pale as a corpse, said, with bated breath, "True as I'm alive, I heard 'eight bells' struck in the grave, and wouldn't go near the spot again for the world."

The young seaman, on his next voyage, found his grave in the deep.

I never heard of any other person who went purposely to hear the Captain's bell, for it is a general belief here that bad luck is sure to overtake those who endeavour to pry into ghostly doings that don't concern them. Although the belief still holds, yet most West Country folks are become shy of mentioning Captain Wetherel's bell, or of talking on kindred subjects, except amongst ourselves, from the ridicule with which it is now fashionable to treat such matters, even in St. Levan.

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