The Land of Terror – Finding the Jolly Roger

During the course of “The Land of Terror” readers find Doc Savage fighting aboard a replica of an old-time pirate ship.  The ship is portrayed as a genuine pirate ship complete with cutlasses, pikes, and torture devices.  Lester Dent liked this background so much that he used it two separate times in the story.  Vintage weapons are used in the story – a hand is chopped off with a sword, a gangster is skewered on a pike, a trap door opens to a cushion of sword blades.  During Doc Savage’s first encounter, several of the gangsters are killed.  When Doc returns to the ship a second time, he finds that the dead bodies have been dressed as pirates and added to the displays. So realistic was the rest of the exhibit that the real corpses fitted in perfectly with the ghastly scene. They could hardly be told from the papier-mâché victims of corsair lust.

Readers have to wonder where the germ of such an idea originated. This account starts out as a fish story and like all such tales it has a backstory.  The account begins with a whale shark whose pedigree goes back to 1912 when it was first caught.  On June 5, 1912, Captain Charles Thompson of the “Samoa” limped into the Port of Miami under tow.  The reason for his distress was self-evident in the carcass of a monstrous fish lashed to his battered boat.  The battle between man and fish reportedly took more than an entire day.  The monstrous leviathan was pierced with five harpoons and shot multiple times with a Winchester 30-30 rifle.  The creature was reported to weigh in at 16,000 pounds which is considerably less than the 30,000 pounds it eventually became.  It was a genuine fish story as they generally get bigger with each telling and the passage of time. 

By 1919, Captain Thompson was in the exhibition business himself and the account of the fight with the great fish is astonishing.  Current readers at the time likely thought of Captain Ahab fighting Moby Dick.  Modern readers would be quick to associate the account with the movie “Jaws.”  The Pittsburg Press carried an article on the creature which was then on display aboard Captain Thompson’s yacht anchored in the Monongahela River.  The great battle was described as an ordeal covering more than 39 hours.  The fish was only defeated after five harpoon thrusts and being shot 150 times with a high-powered rifle.  Thompson’s ship suffered severe damage from the bashing given by the angered beast.  To further emphasize its great size, accounts reported that the great fish had a 400-pound octopus in its stomach at the time it was caught.

By 1927, the exhibits had passed from Captain Thompson to a new owner, Captain Lin G. Greene of Mannsville, New York.  Newspaper accounts as early as 1927 carry advertisements for Captain Lin G. Greene’s Special Railroad Exhibition Car.  The centerpiece in the collection was a mounted whale shark with a stated length of forty-five feet and weighing fifteen tons.  The railcar exhibits also included other exotic specimens such as a giant turtle, sawfish, and octopus.  Greene appears to have also been a well-experienced seaman.  The Miami News reported in its December 10, 1927, issue that many yacht owners were making their craft ready for the winter sailing season.  The article notes that Captain Greene’s ship, Sea Scamp, was in the process of a major renovation after which Greene planned to take his family sailing throughout the Bahamas.  A later article in 1928 reveals that Green is refitting the Sea Scamp to hunt killer whales.  The animals will be immediately skinned, and the hides brought back to Miami for exhibit preparation.  His wife and two daughters will accompany him on the voyage.

In 1928, papers reported that Greene was collecting marine specimens for an exhibit he had planned to display on a vintage schooner sailing to ports along the Atlantic and in the Great Lakes.  Lester Dent called her the Jolly Roger but her real name was the Eugie.  Between the time she was built and 1928 she served the ports along the Atlantic coast hauling mostly lumber as her cargo.  In 1928 she was bought and converted into a floating exhibition under Captain Lin G. Greene. She sailed up the Atlantic, through the Hudson River, and into the Great Lakes.  The “Pirate Ship” advertised all types of fantastical artifacts such as Blackbeard’s favorite cannon Big Betsy, pirate chests, archaic weapons, flint-lock pistols, along with a wide assortment of marine life exhibits. There was an exhibit showing Captain Kidd’s dying moments complete with sabers, knives, and swords as well as Kidd’s famous coat-of-mail. The Eugie is described as a Chesapeake fishing schooner built in 1872.  Other accounts list it as a captured Civil War blockage runner.  The most outrageous accounts reveal that the ship had been sunken and recovered from the depths of the British Bahamas!  It is described as having a length of 100 feet. As it travels it grows to a length of 130 feet. Like many fish, the “Pirate Ship” gets longer with each telling.  Lester Dent charged fifty-cents admission.  Advertisements for the exhibit listed admission at twenty-five cents for adults. 

Greene’s floating museum came up the Atlantic coast in 1928 from Miami, Florida, pausing at various ports to allow anxious crowds to come aboard the maritime museum.  In 1928, the Eugie made stops in Virginia at Newport News and again at Richmond. During 1929, she stopped at Baltimore, Maryland, Wilmington, Delaware, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. The floating museum then traveled up the Hudson River and into the Great Lakes where she spent the next four years making the summer circuit through Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan.  In 1930, a small eight-page booklet titled “The Pirate Ship: Captain Lin G. Greene’s Floating Museum of Marine Curiosities” was published and used to promote the exhibits.  In late July of 1933, the Eugie was moored at the Navy Dock in Chicago for a part in the Century of Progress Exhibition. 

After a short stay in Chicago, the Eugie began its return trip to Miami.  Severe gales pounded Lake Huron and the Eugie was feared lost with all hands.  She finally arrived three days late at Port Huron. From there she made additional ports of call in New York on her voyage back to Miami.  Little other information is to be found about her subsequent days.  A newspaper account from 1953 carried an advertisement for Captain Lin G. Green’s Marine Museum on display in Binghamton, New York.  The displays were back in a special railroad car and included the Florida deep-sea monster.  Like the Eugie, not much else is known about Captain Greene.  There are newspaper advertisements in 1937 by Mrs. Lin G. Greene for rental cottages at Greene Point near Mannsville, New York.  The ship and the man have sailed off into the dark passages of history. One wonders if the Albatross ever crossed paths with Greene’s ship, the Sea Scamp during Dent’s travels around the Caribbean.

Ports of Call for the Pirate Ship

  • March 20, 1928 – Captain Greene of Mannsville, NY, is collecting specimens to exhibit on the Schooner Eugie.
  • July 9, 1928 – Scranton, Pennsylvania, Lin G. Greene closing railcar exhibit; World’s largest fish – shown in The Literary Digest.
  • May 18, 1929 – Newport News, Virginia
  • June – Richmond, VA
  • June 12, 1929 – Baltimore, Maryland
  • June 22, 1929 – Wilmington, Deleware
  • September 21, 1929 – Kingston, New York
  • October 19, 1929 – Elizabethport, New York
  • August 30, 1930 – Sandusky, Ohio
  • September 6, 1931 – Ontario Beach, Rochester, New York
  • June 23, 1933 – Port Huron, Michigan – Captain Francis E. Roberts and Captain William A. R. Kruse
  • July 10, 1933 – Manitowoc, Wisconsin
  • July 11, 1933 – Milwaukee, WS – Captain Frank Kerr and Miami, Florida syndicate.
  • July 24, 1933 – Chicago World’s Fair
  • July 30, 1933 – Chicago World’s Fair
  • September 5, 1933 – St. Joseph, Michigan
  • September 18, 1933 – Charlesvoix, Michigan
  • September 28, 1933 – feared lost, Captain T. G. Alvord, Dr. William Kruse, half-owner
  • November 4, 1933 – Kingston, New York
  • October 11, 1933 – Rochester, New York
  • July 10, 1953 – Binghamption, New York – rail car exhibit