The Mary Celeste's Liverpool Connection

Most unsolved mystery buffs know the basic story of the Mary Celeste. She left New York in November 1872 under the command of Captain Briggs with 1,700 barrels of crude alcohol in her hold, bound for Genoa in Italy. On board were Briggs' wife and 2-year-old daughter, and a crew of eight.
  Almost a month later, Captain David Moorhouse of a ship called the Dei Gratia saw a speck on the horizon 500 miles east of the Azores. When he looked through his telescope, he saw it was a ship that was sailing erratically. He sent a boarding party over to investigate, and they found the ship deserted. The only lifeboat was missing, but the ship was completely seaworthy. There were six months worth of food and water on the ship, and the crew's oilskins, boots, pipes   and tobacco had been left behind. It was obvious that everybody had left in a hurry for some unknown reason. Only navigation instruments had been taken. Someone had struck the ship's rail with an axe, and in the cargo hold, one of the barrels had been opened. The captain's sword was found on his bed in his cabin. On a slate, someone had chalked "Fanny my dear wife, Frances M R".  Captain Moorhouse took the derelict ship to Gibraltar and after a lengthy court of enquiry, Moorhouse was awarded a salvage cheque for £2,000.
  No one has ever solved the mystery of the Mary Celeste, but quite a few people later came forward, claiming they were survivors of the seas most famous mystery.  Most of these claimants were either attention-seekers or plain conmen out to get money. But curiously, two Liverpool sailors were among those who said they'd been onboard the Mary Celeste during her fateful voyage. 
One was a 92-year-old cook from Maryland Street named Laurence Keating. Keating said he joined the crew at the last minute because one of the superstitious sailors on the Mary Celeste refused to go on a 
merchant voyage with a woman on board (the Captain's wife). Keating claimed that the Mary Celeste ran into a hurricane in the mid-Atlantic which almost turned the ship on its end. The piano on board crushed the Captain's wife, and the Captain went nuts. He refused to put his wife's decomposing body in the sea, so he put her in a lifeboat and towed the boat by rope. Somebody cut the rope, and a fight resulted. The captain went on the rampage with an axe during the storm, and after killing most of the crew, he was washed into the sea, holding his daughter. Keating had survived by hiding in the cargo hold. No one believed Keating, and he died two months later.
  Another Scouser named William Foyle, who was a notorious thief and confidence-trickster, literally leapt onboard a ship named the City of Ragusa bound for Boston, in 1870. Billy Foyle was a imaginative conman who was in the habit of selling fake maps of South African diamond mines to the gullible. When he got to America, he embarked on a series of frauds, and in the end when the American authorities began to close in on his entrepreneurial activities, Foyle allegedly stowed away on a brig - the Mary Celeste. Now, Billy Foyle had such a deserved reputation for telling so many whoppers, no one believed his version of the Mary Celeste mystery when he reached Liverpool in 1873. At a waterfront tavern in Paradise Street, he told a motley crew of associates that he'd woken up in the hold of the Mary Celeste to the sound of a deafening rumble. It was the alcohol in the barrels simmering in the tropical heat. He thought there'd be an explosion, so he came out of cover and ran on deck. There was no one there. All the crew had gotten into a lifeboat, which was attached to the ship by a long line of around 300 yards. Foyle realised that they too had been scared of the unstable cargo, so had took refuge in the boat. Foyle begged them to let him on the boat, but they refused. So he took an axe and cut the rope. The lifeboat carrying the crew drifted off. Foyle got on his knees and prayed. And incredibly the cargo gradually stabilised. When Captain Moorehouse, who found the ship, was towing the Mary Celeste into harbour at Gibraltar, he saw Foyle come on deck. Foyle could have ruined the salvage prize, so Moorhouse let him go. This all ties in with the facts. At the court of enquiry, witnesses said an 'unaccounted for crew member left the Dei Gratia and went to England.'
  Mystery solved? Furthermore, I recently uncovered an article in an old newspaper which may throw some light on the fate of the Mary Celeste's crew. On 16 May 1873, the Daily Albion of Liverpool reported that fishermen at Baudus in Asturias, near Madrid, had spotted two rafts floating in the Atlantic coastal waters of Spain. One of the rafts had a corpse lashed to it and was flying an American flag. The second raft   carried five decomposing bodies. For some sinister reason, the reports were never looked into, so we'll never know what ship the dead were from. Could they have been from the Mary Celeste?

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