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Famous Haunted Places: Block Island, Rhode Island ~ The Ghost Ship, Palatine

Updated on May 1, 2012
the Palatine
the Palatine | Source

by Christine B.

"Behold again, with shimmer and shine,
Over the rocks and the seething brine,
The flaming wreck of the Palatine!"

From the poem, “The Palatine” by John Greenleaf Whitter (1807-1892)

Block Island is an isolated island off the coast of Rhode Island. The only ways to get on or off the island are by plane or boat. Because of this, the residents of this island have been pretty much on their own throughout its history. Although the ocean never freezes in Block Island Sound between the mainland and the island, the 13 mile crossing by boat in the winter would be treacherous.

Sandy Point is located at the southern tip of the island. The residents there are even more cut off from the mainland. The wrenched tale of the doomed immigrant ship, the Palatine actually began in the summer of 1738. The unusual severe weather of that year had damaged most of the crops grown on the island and many of the residents were starving. Desperate to feed its populous, the islanders devised a plan to survive the winter. They decided to trick a passing ship into coming to the island knowing it would scuttle on the rocks off shore. The residents would then board the shop and take all of the food stores on board. They knew that the Palatine would be passing close enough to their shore in December on 1738, so made it their target.

What the islanders didn’t know was that the Palatine had been ravaged by winter storms while crossing the Atlanta from Germany. Most of the food on board had already spoiled. Many of the crew had mutinied during the crossing and lad left the ship with a skeleton crew (literally!).


On December 27, 1738 the crippled Palatine was passing by Sandy Point. When the islanders saw the ship approach they built false signal fires off shore to draw it into the rocks. As predicted, the ship headed toward the island. Once it became hopelessly ensnared by the rocks the islanders boarded the ship. Fires started on board and many of the remaining sailors jumped to their deaths onto the rocks to avoid being burned.

Not only were the islanders shocked by the rotting food that washed ashore from the shipwreck, but also by the dead bodies that came with it—some of them being relatives of theirs from Germany. In order to hide their abominable deed the islanders pulled the wreck from the rocks with their boats and sent the flaming ship out to sea.

Not many passengers of the Palatine survived the ship wreck However, one woman who was on board and had survived, Dutch Kattern, was a self-proclaimed witch. She reportedly put a curse on the Block Islanders that is still in effect to this day. Her curse was that the islanders would see the ghost of the doomed Palatine off Block Island’s shore, therefore blocking the pristine view of the ocean.

The Palatine is still seen by the islanders and guests--it's odd flickering phosphorescent sails ablaze, until it disappears again into the ocean. It is most often seen during rough seas and stormy weather.

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