Myth Monday: The Princess Who Cried, or The Creation of Scargo Lake (Native American Legend)

Myth Monday: The Princess Who Cried, or The Creation of Scargo Lake (Native American Legend)

By Kara Newcastle

Holy crap, I actually have time to write?!

That aside, this is a story I’ve been dying to get to ever since I found out about it at the end of this past summer. I really love the beaches in Dennis, and in order to get to my favorite ones, you have to drive past a place called Scargo Hill. At the top of said hill, there’s a big thirty-foot tall tower, built out of old cobblestones, looking like something the Templar Knights built (it’s not, though as a child I had fun pretending it was.) If you can stomach climbing up the winding metal staircase, at the top you can get a great view of the area, particularly of the freshwater Scargo Lake.

Scargo Lake has two beaches that you can visit, one of which is called “Princess Beach.” For years, I wonder why it was called that, and this past summer I decided I was going to find out. And I’m so glad I did! This is a great story, and, as happens so freakin’ often in mythology, there are many different versions of the legend. I choose the one I liked the best to share with you. (There’s only one version I found that named both her father and her lover. I was a little skeptical about the authenticity of the names, so I kept her father’s name the same but changed Scargo’s lover’s. If I find out anything, I’ll change them to the correct names.)

Scargo Lake, by Costoa, Wikimedia commons

Hundreds of years ago, the sachem Mashantam ruled over his tribe, the Nobscussett, in the woodlands not far from Cape Cod Bay. The tribe at that time was small, just about one hundred people and the most beautiful of them was the sachem’s only child, his daughter Scargo. She was flawless both in visage and character, exceedingly sweet and kind, and because she felt such duty for her people, Scargo was placed as the caretaker of the freshwater spring that provided her village with drinking water.

Eagle of Delight, from the National Museum of Denmark

Late in the spring, warriors from neighboring villages came to visit, sent by the great chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag Nation to bring words of peace. One of these warriors, a bold and dashing young hunter named Megedagik, parted from his company just long enough to visit the freshwater spring by the Nobscussett village. As he came upon the little pond, he froze in place, struck dumb by the sight of a beautiful young woman kneeling down by the spring, collecting water to bring to her father. The girl glanced up as he approached, and she smiled at his stunned expression.

“Here for a drink?” she asked.

It took the warrior a second to remember that he had a voice. “Uh … yes. Yes, I am.” He cleared his throat and thrust out his chest, hoping to regain his composure after being caught gawking at the girl. “I am Megedagik I come with my brothers to bring greetings from Great Massasoit.”

The girl’s smile grew even brighter. “Then you met my father?”

Megedagik felt his heart falter for a moment. “Your … father? The sachem Mashantam?”

“That’s the one.” The girl stood up. “I’m Scargo.”

“I’m Megedagik.”

Scargo giggled. “You said that already.”

Any other time Megedagik would have turned himself inside out over making such a flub in front of a girl as lovely as Scargo, but he found himself smiling at her sweet laugh. Forgetting all about his drink, Megedagik walked with Scargo back to her village, talking and laughing with her the entire way. By that night, the pair were smitten, and by the next day, they were hopelessly in love.

Much to the princess and the warrior’s dismay, Megedagik could only stay a short time, as he and his fellow warriors had to continue their mission. The morning that he had to leave, Megedagik wrapped the trembling Scargo in his arms and pulled her tight against him.

“I promise I’ll come back,” he whispered into her silken black hair, “and when I do, we’ll marry right away. Until then, just stay strong. I’ll send you a present soon.”

Bitter though she was at the thought of letting him go, Scargo was brave, and she held back her tears, waving goodbye to Megedagik and his men until they vanished deep into the woods. Her father Mashantam and the other villagers comforted Scargo as much as they could, for they all knew how much she loved Megedagik.

Less than a day later, two strangers arrived in Scargo’s village. People emerged from their wigwams, staring dumbstruck as the two men, puffing and muttering mightily, staggered to carry the bright orange object up to Mashantam and Scargo’s home.

Alerted by their bemused warriors, the chief, and his daughter hurried out of their house, stopping short as the two men, wheezing in exhaustion, very carefully lowered a massive pumpkin down to the ground.

Groaning, one of the strangers straightened up, planting his hands on the small of his back and flexing his spine back. “Princess Scargo,” he panted, “this is a gift for you, sent by Megedagik. He says—agh, sorry, something just popped—that as long as the fish are alive, he will be protected and come back to you soon.”

Jumping at the sound of her true love’s name, Scargo hurried forward to inspect the pumpkin—and she cried out in delight. The massive gourd had been hollowed out and filled to the brim with clear water. Swirling around inside were four gorgeously shimmering fish, the likes of which no one had ever seen before.

“I will do everything I can to keep them alive,” Princess Scargo said as her father and their people bent to watch the fish. “If they are safe, then Megedagik will be safe.”

The villagers and the sachem were all charmed by the unusual gift, and over the days many people would visit Scargo and ask her how her pretty fish fared. Scargo would answer happily that the fish were healthy and that she couldn’t wait to show Megedagik when he returned.

As the weeks passed, summer arrived, promising to be brutally hot and dry. Scargo and the villagers moved the hollowed pumpkin to the shade of the trees to protect the fish, but soon the fish grew larger, and larger, taking up more and more room in the pumpkin. Seeing that her beloved pets were uncomfortable, Scargo decided to move them to the little pond by the spring. There they thrived … for a little while.

As the summer progressed with no rain and days of intensely blazing sun, the spring began to dry up. Scargo watched in horror as the little pond began to shrink, and her dear fish began to die, one after the other, until only one was left. This one was very big, and every day that passed, there was less water for it to swim in. It would not have long.

Scargo was devastated. Try as she might, there was nothing she could do to help her pet. Overcome with grief at her loss, shame that she had not fulfilled her promise, the realization that her people were running out of water to drink, and a growing fear that Megedagik would not return, Scargo collapsed by the dying spring and sobbed. She cried for so long and for so hard, that her father Mashantam’s heart broke for her, and he called his people together.

“My friends,” the sachem said, “my daughter is weeping. Yes, she weeps for her pets, she weeps for her lover, but she also weeps for all of us. We must find more water.”

The Nobscusset all winced, all feeling sorry for the sweet girl, but not knowing how to solve the problem of lost water. When they voiced this, Mashtantam held up his hands for silence.

“I have an idea,” he said. “We will dig a lake. Our finest hunter will shoot arrows in four directions. Where the arrows land, that will be as far as the lake goes. We will all dig out the land using clam shells.”

The people were perplexed. “That seems like a good idea,” they said cautiously. “But where will we get water to fill it?”

The sachem nodded. “Scargo’s tears will fill it.”

The village immediately went to work. Their best hunter shot arrows into four directions, and everyone immediately began digging, scooping out earth with clamshells, piling it up to form the hill overlooking the lake. They fashioned the shape of the new lake in the form of a great fish, to honor the creatures that Megedagik had sent their beloved princess.

The only person who did not work was the poor Princess Scargo, who lay there, weeping. As soon as the land was carved away, Scargo’s tears poured into the lake, filling it within hours with crystal clear, fresh water. When the princess saw what her people had worked to achieve, her tears finally stopped, and they released her last fish into the water. As soon as it slid beneath the surface, the fish magically spawned, creating hundreds more just like itself.

Realizing that calamity had been averted, Scargo was at last comforted and happy again. Before that fiery summer ended, Megedagik returned and he and Scargo were married, much to the joy of her people. Together they built their home and raised their children on the shores of the lake that now bears her name—Scargo.

Like I said, there are many versions of this story. Some have Scargo herself and her friends digging out the lake, some have her just sitting at the top of Scargo Hill, with her tears pooling down at the bottom. Sometimes it’s one fish that rapidly outgrows the pumpkin, sometimes Scargo finds out that her lover was killed in battle and that’s why she cries so much. Some stories say that Scargo cried so many tears that she eventually drowned in them, and transformed into the lake fish that fed her people. Another storyteller mentioned that “Scargo” actually means “skunk,” and the lake is supposed to be in the shape of a skunk. Obviously, I chose the nicer of the many versions. (There’s also one about the giant Maushop—known as Moshop around here, based on what I found—digging out the land to build a hill for him to sit on, and when he lights his pipe, the smoke causes a thunderstorm to fill the lake. You can read a bit more about Maushop in my blog about Granny Squannit here!) There are other, modern stories about the lake, including one about the ghost of a woman with long dark hair seen crying at the water’s edge at dusk … could it be Princess Scargo?

If you’re ever in the area, stop by Scargo Lake or Scargo Hill Tower. It’s a really beautiful location—just follow all the rules, please!

Myth Monday: A Few of My Favorite (True) Ghost Stories (Paranormal)

October 22, 2018

By Kara Newcastle

Interestingly, I’ve discovered that when reading about things like mythology and folklore, you are inevitably drawn into the world of the supernatural. So many things—like ghosts, for example—that are discussed in mythology crop up again in the modern day, which just adds proof that maybe ghosts are real. You might not believe in ghosts and you’re entitled to your beliefs/non-beliefs, but there are just so many stories that it’s hard to deny that something is going on, and while I have a wealth of examples, I picked just a few of them for this Halloween. Enjoy!

The Ghost of Abraham Lincoln: One of the most haunted buildings in the United States, is, believe it or not, the White House in Washington, D.C. It’s so rife with a variety of spirits (including presidents and first ladies), that even former president and skeptic Harry S Truman once wrote to his wife Bess, “The damned place is haunted, sure as shootin’.”

The most famous and frequently seen ghost is that of our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln. Not only is he frequently seen around the White House, he has been known to interact with the living as well. One of my all-time favorite stories hails from the 1940s or thereabouts, during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. Roosevelt’s guest at the time was Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, and, as an honored guest, she was given the Lincoln bedroom suite.

Late one night as she readied for bed, the queen heard a knock at the bedroom door. Queen Wilhelmina opened it and saw a very tall, thin, bearded man standing there, wearing a frock coat and tall stove pipe hat, smiling. He inclined his head and said, “Good evening, madam.” This all would have seemed like a polite gesture from a member of the White House to the royal guest, but the queen didn’t see it that way. She recognized the man in front of her as none other than Abraham Lincoln! She screamed and slammed the door shut, causing several Secret Service agents to coming rushing to her room, finding her in a dead faint. As the men helped her come to her senses, Queen Wilhelmina looked up and saw a bathrobed FDR frantically wheeling his way down the hall to see if she was all right. The queen told the president what she saw … and he wasn’t at all surprised.

The other story I absolutely love is that of when English Prime Minister Winston Churchill was staying in the Lincoln bedroom. One night he emerged from his bath wrapped only in a towel. He glanced up and stopped dead, seeing Abraham Lincoln sitting on the edge of his bed, watching him. Never at a loss for words, Churchill summoned his nerve and said, “Good evening, Mr. President … you seem to have me at a disadvantage.”

Always appreciative of a ready wit, Lincoln smiled, then vanished.

The Ghost at Little Round Top: In 1981, two Civil War reenactors (naturally, I can’t find their names, but I’ve seen them on TV), were sitting on Little Round Top Hill, taking a break from the faux battle when they noticed a man dressed as a Federal soldier trudging wearily through the brush towards them. He stopped to rest, and they chatted a bit until he seemed to summon up his strength. Standing, the stranger handed them two cartridges containing live ammunition—musket balls—then turned and tromped back down the way he came, vanishing into the undergrowth. The two reenactors were alarmed when they realized that the rounds the stranger gave them were live (meaning they were actual bullets, not blanks), since the use of live ammo was strictly prohibited during reenactments. At the end of the reenactment, they couldn’t find the stranger to ask him about the cartridges, which made them uneasy. They had the cartridges examined, and were astonished when they were told that the bullets were actual ammunition from the Civil War. The stranger was never seen again.

The Gray Man: Not all ghosts are scary. Some are actually very benevolent, and they actively look out for the safety of the living. One famous example is the Gray Man of Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Since approximately 1822, this ghost of a man in gray clothing has been seen walking along the beach prior to the arrival of fierce hurricanes. Many people have encountered this odd but solid looking specter, and while he often walks by without a word, sometimes he will acknowledge the humans he meets. The locals know that if they see the Gray Man on the beach, they have to clear out and fast. Interestingly, those that have seen the Gray Man and fled the area before the arrival of the hurricane come home to find that their home is standing completely intact, while their neighbors’ houses are all smashed to kindling.

Why would the Gray Man want to protect the living? Well, the story goes that in life he was a handsome and rich young man (thought to be possibly the island’s namesake Percival Pawley, or early resident Plowden Charles Jeannerette Weston, though some have suggested Edward Teach, a.k.a. the pirate Blackbeard) with a beautiful fiancée that he loved very much. One year he traveled to Europe for business, and when he returned home he was so impatient to see his beloved that he rode heedlessly out into the woodlands towards her house, not realizing that recent storms had badly saturated the land. His horse skidded in the mud and threw him into a pool of quicksand, where he drowned as his slave looked on helplessly.

His fiancée was utterly devastated. One day while walking on the beach, mourning, the woman looked up and saw her fiancé standing there before her, wearing the gray suit he had been wearing when he died. Overjoyed, she started to rush to him, but he threw his hands out, begging her to stop. He warns her that a monstrous storm was barreling towards their town, and that she and their families had to flee. Believing him, the woman rushed home to warn their families, and while they were dubious that she had seen her lover’s ghost, they agreed to leave. When they returned home, they were shocked to see their town destroyed … but their houses were unscathed.

Though well known locally, the Gray Man gained national and international notoriety when the show Unsolved Mysteries (bring it baaaaack!) interviewed Jim and Clara Moore, a married couple who encountered and recognized the Gray Man shortly before Hurricane Hugo hit the coast. Their house was miraculously spared in the devastation. More recently, the Gray Man was seen just before the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

The Charles Haskell: Here’s an interesting twist—instead of a haunted house, it’s a haunted ship. The Charles Haskell was a schooner built in a Massachusetts sea port in 1869. It was scheduled to be purchased for cod fishing, but before it ever left port, a deck hand fell from the rigging, broke his neck and died. Seeing this as a bad omen, the captain refused to buy the ship, and the Charles Haskell sat at port for several years before it was finally purchased by Captain Curtis of Gloucester.

Curtis and his crew didn’t experience any real difficulties at first, but that first winter asea, a beastly hurricane roared in, overtaking the Charles Haskell and a dozen other fishing boats in the same area. The crew of the Charles Haskell struggled to maintain control, but the huge schooner veered sharply and slammed straight into another fishing boat, essentially sawing it in half. The vessel went down so quickly no one had time to see which ship it was, and there was no chance to save any of the twenty-six men on board.

Captain Curtis and his crew were heartbroken at the loss of life, but there was nothing that could be done. They attempted to find out where the ship was from, but three similar ships had been lost that night: two from Gloucester, and one from Salem. There was no way to determine which ship it had been, so, with heavy hearts, the crew set sail again in the spring on 1870.

The Charles Haskell wasn’t at sea long before something extraordinary—extraordinarily freaky—occurred. One night as most of the crew slept, the night watchmen were manning the helm when they noticed several dark shapes moving around the stern of the boat. To their utter horror, twenty-six men—a full crew—climbed up the sides of their ship! Silent, hollow-eyed and faintly glowing, these inhuman men moved about the ship, seemingly tightening sails and rigging, tossing out fishing lines … doing all the work that a living crew of seamen would do. The watchmen were too terrified to raise the alarm, but the noise of the ghosts working roused Captain Curtis, who came out of his cabin to see what was going on. He froze in shock at the sight, and by then much of the crew had rushed up below deck, woken by the noise. The crew began to panic, but the ghosts continued their work, apparently not noticing the living cowering nearby. After a while, the spirit fishermen finished their work, climbed over the sides of the Charles Haskell, and dropped back into the sea. The living crew immediately demanded to return home, and Captain Curtis was quick to agree.

The very next night as the Charles Haskell approached Cape Cod Bay, the ghost fishermen returned. The living crew of the ship was frantic, desperate to get home but frightened of having to work near these specters. Again, the dead continued to ignore the living as they had done before, but as the cursed ship drew within sight of land, the phantom fishers suddenly ceased their work. Standing up, the twenty-six spirits climbed over the sides of the ship again, but instead of disappearing into the waves, the ghosts marched single file atop the black salt water in the direction of Salem.

As soon as the Charles Haskell got to port, Captain Curtis and his crew abandoned it. The haunted ship rotted away in port, eventually sinking to the bottom of the sea.

My story: Luckily, I’ve only had a handful of experiences that made me go, “???” You’d think that with all my research on ghosts and such that I’d be eager to have a paranormal experience. HELL no! Books and the nimrods on Ghost Adventures are as close to the preternatural world as I’d like to get, thank you very much. Honestly, I’ll be very happy to not ever encounter anything. Ev-er.

But like I said, I have experienced a few things I couldn’t explain. There is one time I saw … I don’t know what … in a room packed with people. And a few of them saw it too.

Many Halloweens ago, my college invited some ghost hunters in to do a little talk—a fun event in the “spirit” of the season. I won’t say who the ghost hunters were, only because I don’t want to see any, “OMG, that guy?!?! He is such a fake!” clogging up my response sections and/or inbox, but I will say that they were both mediums and psychics and are famous. I went because I was interested in what they had, but I’ll admit, I have reservations about people who claim that they can speak to the dead; more often than not, they can’t, and they’ll bilk grieving people out of a lot of money just for the chance to communicate with their loved one one last time.

So it was a decent turnout, maybe close to fifty students showed up. I sat near the middle by myself (none of my friends were interested), and if I turned I had a good view of the reception room from all angles. I could see the ghost hunters up in the front, a woman and a man, and while they seemed like very nice people, I readied myself for any tricks or open-ended questions to the audience, like, “Who here lost somebody recently? He used to wear a hat?” That would have been a major tip-off to me that these two were hucksters.

Surprisingly, neither one of them made any statements like that. Instead they talked about what ghosts were, the investigations they had done, spirits they had talked to, and even played some EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon—voices and sounds that are picked up on recording equipment that aren’t heard by human ears at the time of the recording) that were particularly messed up. Towards the end, some students had some questions, and while I don’t remember exactly what they were saying, I remember the lady investigator stopping, glancing up towards the ceiling, hesitating, then lifting a hand to point.“I didn’t want to say anything before,” she said slowly, “but there have been two spirits hovering around the whole time we’ve been in here.”

Of course, about two dozen girls screamed in terror and I saw a mob of them make like they were about to dive for cover. Smirking, I glanced up in the direction the lady was pointing in, not expecting to see anything …

That smirk vanished, and I felt my eyes widen and my mouth slowly drop open as my eyes focused on a large, dark oval … spot, I guess … moving in a smooth, even speed overhead, about eight feet up (we had high ceilings, and this thing was about two feet below it.) I jerked, then blinked, squeezing my eyes hard. No, no no, that was just one of those light spots you get after you’ve had a bright light shine in your eyes … it’d change, it’d go away …

Except that it didn’t. It never changed shape or size, maintaining a football-like shape at about a little under a foot long and maybe six inches high. It looked solid, though the color seemed to flash from black to a dark gray with a blurry haze around it and a sort of pale yellow ripple running through it.

As I watched it approach along the wall across from me, a second, much smaller and brighter object zipped up behind it, moving speedily along until it caught up with the first spot and then slowing down, lagging a bit behind but still matching the bigger thing’s speed. This thing was perfectly round, hazy like the first, but more see-through, save that it seemed to flash a kind of alternating yellow and white light. By now I knew I was seeing something and my heart started to pound a little as I ran through what these things could be: smoke? Bugs? Birds? Balloons? Light from a projector? Shadows? Reflection?

But then the weird thing happened; as these two shapes drew closer to the ghost hunters and their equipment, the big spot vanished—not really fading away, it was just gone—and the little spot kind of just winked out. I could not believe what I had just seen, and by then everybody was in a ruckus, with some saying that they had or thought they had seen something, and others looking around going, “Where? WHERE?!?!” The ghost hunters assured us that these were really just curious spirits drawn to our collected energy and they weren’t anything to be worried about. That calmed some of the students down.

I did speak to the lady investigator briefly afterwards. I cautiously described a little of what I thought I saw, which she confirmed. I was still on the fence about it—it was weird, sure, but I couldn’t come up with a reasonable explanation for it. It was just too strange. She also recommended that I try to hone my psychic abilities. I thanked her but in my head I was thinking, “Nooooo freakin’ way.”

The lady investigator lamented that she and her partner didn’t have enough time to do a proper ghost hunt with us that night, but I assured her that it was okay; I, for one, had more than enough spectral creepiness that night.