Skip to main content

The Mystery of the H.M.S. Ravenna

The U.S.S. New Orleans

Shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States government purchased a Brazilian navy cruiser that had recently been built at a British shipyard. The ship was christened the U.S.S. New Orleans (CL-22) and remained in service until 1922. Being of British manufacture, the cruiser was armed with British guns that required British ammunition. This was a bit of a problem, since neutrality laws made it illegal for the U.S. to purchase the required ammunition from England.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, an English East India Company steamer, the H.M.S. Ravenna, deviated, for some unknown reason, from her usual course and arrived in Antwerp where, according to the ship's manifest, she took on ballast. This ballast was neatly boxed and handled with great care as it was loaded into the Ravenna's cargo hold. The steamer then went back out to sea and was never seen again.

Interestingly, the disappearance of the Ravenna coincides strangely with the timely appearance of an unknown ship that was discovered by a United States patrol boat floating about 200 miles off Sandy Hook. When the patrol boat discovered this vessel, the crew was perplexed and bewildered-- while the ship was in excellent condition and appeared not the least bit damaged, there was not a soul on board.

Stranger still was the fact that in her hold was neatly boxed cargo. Upon the steamer's hull was painted the ship's name, Scipio.

The patrol boat towed the Scipio to shore, and the mystery ship was docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Workers unloaded the neatly-boxed ballast from the cargo hold of the Scipio without asking questions. And they didn't ask any questions when they were ordered to load the Scipio's strange cargo onto the U.S.S. New Orleans.

And nobody seemed to ask any questions when the U.S.S. New Orleans suddenly had an abundance of ammunition, even though it was the only ship in the U.S. Navy that used smokeless powder during the war.
And nobody asked questions when, in September of 1898, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was opened to the public and there, lying snugly in the "boneyard" where forgotten ships rust away into nothingness, languished a steamer with the name Scipio painted in white lettering on its hull. In time the elements caused the white painted letters to fade and flake away, revealing another set of letters, faint yet distinguishable, reading Ravenna.

While official records fail to explain how the U.S.S. New Orleans obtained its ammunition, the evidence suggests that the United States managed to circumvent international law with the aid of the British, by towing ashore the H.M.S. Ravenna-- disguised as an abandoned derelict-- with its cargo hold filled to the brim with illegal ammunition.

Popular posts from this blog

The Hunt for the Osage River Monster

It's spring of 1844 in St. Clair County, Missouri. A mile or so from the banks of the muddy Osage River a pioneer settler named Matthew Arbuckle is plowing his field when he hears a banshee-like wail in the distance, coming from the direction of the river. Shrill and unearthly, the demonic howl fills the farmer with terror. Wasting no time, he unhitches his plow, jumps on the back of his horse and heads for the hills.

One hour later Arbuckle arrives in Papinville, a town fifteen miles from his farm. The exhausted horse is white with foam; its rider white with terror. In a gasping voice he tells of making an escape from an awful monster. Although he had not seen the beast, he had heard its voice, from which he could tell that it was a monster of immense proportions.

Those who heard Arbuckle's story were bewildered, and those who did not know the pioneer personally could tell, just by the bloodless pallor of his trembling skin, that the man was not telling a lie. Whatever terrify…

The Ticking Tombstone of Landenberg

If you look closely at a map of Pennsylvania, you'll see an anomalous semi-circular border at the extreme southeastern part of the state. This circle, known officially as the "Twelve Mile Circle", serves as the border between the Keystone State and Delaware. Much of the strange circle is surrounded by Chester County, one of the three original Pennsylvania counties created by William Penn in 1682. While there are many historical points of interest in Chester County, few are strange or as steeped in legend as the Ticking Tombstone.

Near the London Tract Meeting House in Landenberg is an old graveyard which contains a tombstone which is said to make eerie ticking noises, much like the ticking of a pocketwatch. Landenberg locals claim that the ticking is the result of two very famous surveyors who arrived in town during the 1760s- Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.  A young child supposedly swallowed a valuable pocketwatch owned by Mason and later died, and the boy's head…

The Incest Capital of the World?

At the far eastern edge of Kentucky, nestled in Appalachia, resides Letcher County. In spite of its isolation and poverty (approximately 30% of the county's population lives below the poverty line), Letcher County has managed to grow at an impressive rate, from a population of just 9,172 in 1900 to a present-day population of nearly 25,000. However, even if Letcher County tripled or quadrupled its present population, there's still a pretty good chance that virtually all of the county's inhabitants would be related to each other-- thanks to one particularly fertile family whose astounding rate of reproduction can put even the friskiest rabbit to shame.

Around the year 1900, Letcher County was the home of a man by the name of Jason L. Webb, who made national headlines for having the one of the largest families in the world. According to newspaper reports of the era, Jason had 19 children, 175 grandchildren, and 100 great-grandchildren. Perhaps even more impressive was his b…