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Ocean-Born Mary

A New Hampshire Ghost Story 

Elizabeth and James Wilson were Irish immigrants from Londonderry, Ireland. In 1720 they set sail for America. They had been granted some land in Londonderry, New Hampshire, and were hoping to start a new life there.

As they neared Boston, Elizabeth went into labor and gave birth to a daughter. While she was giving birth, a strange vessel accosted the ship. They were fired upon and were forced to heave to. Their ship was boarded by a band of swarthy pirates. Their leader, a surprisingly young man not yet twenty years of age, was dark, handsome, and ruthless. He was called Don Pedro, and his English was flawless as he ordered all the captives killed.

At this fatal juncture, the cries of a newborn baby could be heard from down in the hold. Startled, Don Pedro ordered the captain to take him to the child. After gazing for a long time at the tiny girl, Don Pedro said to Elizabeth: "If you name this child after my mother – Mary – I will spare the lives of everyone on this ship." Frightened by the fierce pirate, Elizabeth hastily agreed.

Don Pedro sent one of his men back to the pirate ship. When the man returned, he was carrying an armload of gifts. Don Pedro presented these to Elizabeth. Fingering a green brocaded silk with an odd look of tenderness on his ruthless face, he said: "This is for my Mary’s wedding dress." Then he and his men returned to their ship and departed.

Soon after their ship landed safely in Boston, James Wilson died. His widow and daughter went to Londonderry to claim the land in his name. Ocean-born Mary grew into a tall, beautiful red-haired woman. In 1742, wearing a green brocade gown made from the silk given to her by Don Pedro, Mary was married to James Wallace. They had five children, four sons and a daughter. Sadly, after the birth of his fourth son, James Wallace died.

Around that time, Don Pedro, having retired from the sea, decided to build a home in New Hampshire. Having never forgotten his little Ocean-born Mary, Don Pedro began seeking to discover what became of her. Finding her a widow in Londonderry, he married her and brought her and her children to live in his grand mansion in Henniker. He gifted Mary with a stately coach and four, in which Mary would often be seen riding around the countryside. One by one, her sons grew up, married, and settled down near Mary.

One day, coming in from an errand to town, Mary saw Don Pedro and one of his retired pirates carrying a large black trunk to the orchard in back. She heard the sounds of digging, and then silence. Don Pedro came back to the house alone, and they never spoke of the matter. But later, he told Mary that when he died, she should bury him and the treasure under the hearthstone. A year later, Mary came home one evening to an empty house. She started searching for her husband and found Don Pedro in the orchard, stabbed to death with a cutlass. Mary buried Don Pedro with his treasure under the hearthstone and there they lay to this day.

After her death in 1814, Mary’s ghost began to haunt the house where she had once lived with her pirate-husband. People would see a tall, beautiful red-haired woman come walking down the long staircase. Sometimes, she could be seen standing beside an upper window, or throwing something down the well. Others had witnessed Mary driving in her coach and four up to the front door of the house. The house was finally abandoned and later torn-down, although the house where her son Robert lived still stands and is sometimes called the Ocean-born Mary house.


A new version of this story is in Spooky New England.


S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser is the author of the Spooky Series published by Globe Pequot Press. She has been telling stories since she was a child, when games of “let’s pretend” quickly built themselves into full-length tales acted out with friends. A graduate of both Houghton College and the Institute of Children’s Literature, Sandy received her MLS from Rutgers University while working as a full-time music teacher and a freelance author.