Krakatoa exploded on this day in 1883, ushering in The Year of Poet-and-Artist-inspiring Sunsets. (I mistakenly thought it resulted in The Year Without a Summer, but that was Mount Tambora.) I’ve written a little about volcanos, such as the putative one near Chillicothe, Ohio and one where an engineer saw the devil frolicking in a cave of gold. But I’ve always been fascinated by the notion that caldera are the gates to Hell.
There are, it seems, many of these gates, including Hekla in Iceland and Mt. Etna in Sicily. Stromboli, off Sicily’s northern coast, famous for its bombastic explosions and lava fountains, was another high-profile Infernal ingress. One of my favorite references to Stromboli appears in this brilliant post by EsoterX about a 17th-century mariner, Captain Barnaby, who saw one of his English neighbors being herded to his Doom on the volcano, and the lawsuit which ensued when he mentioned that the neighbor had gone to hell.
I was pleased to find an earlier story of damnation on Stromboli, from the 16th century. It, too, involves an English voyager and one wonders if it could have been known to Captain Barnaby and influenced his experience.
Mr. [John] Gresham, an eminent merchant in London, being homeward bound from Palermo in Sicily, where, at that time, lived the rich Antonio, who had two kingdoms in Spain mortgaged to him at one time by his Catholic majesty. The wind being against them, the ship, in which Mr. Gresham sailed, came to an anchor to leeward of Stromboli, one of the Lipari islands in the Tyrrhenian sea, on the north of Sicily, where is a mountain that casts forth flames of Sulphur in some places of it continually. About noon the mountain generally ceasing to throw out flames, Mr. Gresham, accompanied with eight sailors, ascended it, and went as near the opening as danger would permit them, where, among other frightful noises, they heard a loud voice pronounce the following words, ‘Make haste, make haste, the Rich Antonio is coming.
At which, being in a great consternation, they hastened a-board, and the mountain beginning in a horrible manner to vomit fire, they weigh’d, and the wind continuing in the same quarter, made the best of their way back again to Palermo, and enquiring after Antonio, they found that he died, as near as they could calculate, at the same instant they heard the voice at Stromboli say he was coming. Mr. Gresham safely arrived in England, made this surprising accident known to King Henry VIII. And the seamen being called before him, attested the truth of it by their oaths. It made such a sensible impression upon Mr. Gresham’s mind, that he quickly gave over merchandizing, made a distribution of his estate, which was very considerable, among his relations, and to pious and generous uses, reserving only a competency for himself, and then spent the remainder of his days in the exercise of piety and devotion.
Sandy’s Trav. Clark’s Mir.
The History of Man: Displaying the Various Powers, Faculties, Capacities, Virtues, Vices, and Defects of the Human Mind, 1746: pp 216-7
As an aside, does anyone know who Rich Antonio might have been?
I seem to remember an even earlier, perhaps medieval story about sailors watching souls being chased into a purgatorial volcano, but cannot find the reference. Or I might be thinking of the Voice that bade an Egyptian sailor report that “The Great God Pan is dead.” Sailors seem to have front-row seats to these things.
Earlier forays into volcanic damnation? chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.