Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Hoodoo Cat


This bizarre story appeared in several newspapers early in 1912. This particular account is from the Washington Post on January 12, 1912:

Fifteen men on a dead man's chest,
Yo-ho! and a bottle of rum.
Drink and the devil had done for the rest.
Yo-ho! and a bottle of rum.


Since Andrew Lundberg signed as able seaman aboard the two-master schooner Sarah and Lucy in Bridgeport last Friday he dinned the words of Stevenson's pirates song in "Treasure Island" into the ears of his shipmates until they drove him from their quarters in the fo'castle, and made him share the ice-covered deck with a big black cat that went aboard before the schooner left Bridgeport for this port.

Early yesterday morning Lundberg, in a tipsy frenzy, lay on the deck, the cat on his shoulder and an empty bottle in his hand, mumbling the same old chorus while the schooner rolled at her anchorage off Red Hook. His shipmates were asleep, and the watch had curled himself up in a warm corner.

Two hours later Lundberg was found dead, hanging by a halyard from the foremast. The empty bottle was frozen to his fingers, and perched on his shoulder, as it swung like a pendulum in the breeze, was the hoodoo cat.

Lundberg lived at 1 Seeley street, Bridgeport. He told his mates the cat had followed him for miles, and that it meant his death. At times he cursed it, and once tried to kill it. The other seamen aboard prevented him, and for a time it looked as though Lundberg was going to start a killing on board.

A few hours sleep cleared his mind a little from the effects of the drink he had been swallowing, but he was not long awake before he found a bottle again, and once more he started raving and hunting for the cat. He found it and kicked it half the length of the schooner. The thought that he had killed it seemed to pacify him for a time, and he began to sing again.

The schooner dropped anchor off Red Hook on Tuesday, waiting for a tow to Perth Amboy. Then the cat, minus its tail, appeared on deck from nowhere and sat and blinked at Lundberg. With a curse the sailor tried to get on his feet, but the deck was like glass and he slipped down again. For an hour he lay, singing and cursing until he dozed off.

There his mates left him, with the black cat alongside, and went below to sleep. The man on watch gave him a glance of disgust, tossed a piece of bread to the cat, buttoned his coat, and sought out a corner where he would escape the sting of the icy northwester that blew steadily all night.

Lundberg cut a halyard, tied a hangman's noose, and slipped it around his neck. Then he climbed the rigging high enough to be sure the drop would break his neck. Whether the cat went with him or climbed on his shoulder after he had hanged himself is not known.

When the body was found it was shrouded in frozen spray; the fingers of the left hand showed they had been badly cut, and the sailor's coat was missing. The cat was dead.

The New York police were notified, and Lieut. Dwyer, of Harbor Squadron A., went out to the patrol and brought the body to the Battery. There it was taken to the morgue and information sent to Bridgeport.

The schooner Sarah and Lucy did indeed exist...other accounts do confirm that Andrew Lundberg hanged himself just before the ship reached New York. As for the 'hoodoo cat'...who knows? Possibly an overzealous journalist. Regardless...life and events at sea seem difficult to explain sometimes.

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