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Pirates, Shipwrecks, Treasures & Mystery

Robert Ellis Cahill


If you want to keep a 12-year old
quiet all afternoon, these are the books to buy. There are 27 in all with titles like – Witches & Wizards, Haunted Ships and Strange Superstitions.




Robert Ellis Cahill, a scuba diver and entrepreneur, created the series and self-published these paperback booklets – under 100 pages each, inexpensively printed, but available for just under $7. You can find them across New England, often collected in display racks. Now retired, Cahill has collected his tales into clusters of essays that continue to sell and sell under the banner of Old Saltbox Publishing.

Cahill’s books are like potato chips, it’s hard to consume only one. They are not exactly history. Cahill’s source for pirates and shipwrecks at the Isles of Shoals, for example, is noneother than Victorian poet Celia Thaxter. Celia was hardly an historian, and the fact that her father and brothers owned the tourist hotels there, makes her bias clear. When Celia says Sam Haley Jr found four bars of silver in the sand at Smuttynose Island – a popular local legend that has never been validated -- Cahill takes the story at face value and presents it as fact.

But that’s what makes these booklets fun. They feel like history. So what if the modern image of a pirate is almost entirely bogus, invented in the 19th century by Robert Louis Stevenson and perpetuated by Walt Disney. Tehre were certainly dangerous men robbing ships on the open seas in the 1600s and 1700s. But forget the image of a peg-leg captain in a striped shirt with a jolly roger and chests of gold. The enjoyment is in believing such things might have been possible. The truth is usually a far cry from Hollywood.

Cahill’s marketing genius, instinct for romance, and his unapologetic blending of legend and reality has kept the collection in print for decades. These booklets a great read in a warm attic on a rainy beach day. These stories – some true, some not -- are at the bedrock of what makes New England spooky and mysterious.

READ: Our interview with Bob Cahill about Blackbeard’s treasure
VISIT: Old Saltbox Publishers web site

(List of Cahill titles)

1. Witches & Wizards
2. Ghostly Haunts
3. Marvelous Monsters
4. Mad & Mysterious Men
5. Strange Sea Sagas
6. Finding NE’s Shipwrecks
7. War Wonders
8. Visitors from Outer Space
9. The Horror’s of Salem’s Witch Dungeons
10. The Old Irish of New England
11. Naughty Navy
12. Viking & Indian Wars
13. Riotous Revolution
14. Pirates & Lost Treasures
15. Mountain Madness
16. Things That Go Bump in the Night
17. Strange Superstitions
18. Ancient Mysteries
19. Haunted Ships of the North Atlantic
20. Sugar & Spice
21. Haunted Happenings
22. Amazing Fish Stories
23. Strange, Beliefs, Customs & Superstitions
24. Christmas Memories
25. Cruel & Unusual Punishments
26. Curious Customs & Cures
27. Lighthouse Mysteries of the North Atlantic

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