The Bizarre Legend of St Catherine’s Island

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Was it a ghost pirate ship or a UFO? RICK HALE tries to separate fact from fiction in the strange goings on at St Catherine’s Island in Wales

The Bizarre Legend of St Catherine's Island

A few years ago I was a guest on a podcast and the host  asked a very interesting question: “What is the part about paranormal research and investigation that troubles me the most?”

Without even giving it a second thought I immediately answered:  “That’s an easy one and I think most researchers would agree it’s, separating a legend from historical fact.”

In a land such as Wales, with a rich history of both legend and folklore, sometimes the lines separating legend and fact becomes somewhat blurred.

And no legend is quite so hard to disentangle from the truth as the legend of St. Catherine’s Island in Tenby.

Only because it has elements of two very different elements found on the broad spectrum of the paranormal.

Some might say it’s a ghostly legend. While others believe the people of Tenby came into contact with something out of this world.

Situated just off the coast of Tenby, Pembrokeshire, St Catherine’s is a small tidal island that can actually be reached by foot when the tide is low.

Originally owned by the Earl of Pembroke, who lost the island during the reign of Elizabeth I, the island passed into the hands of the Corporation of Tenby.

For centuries, the only building that dominated the island was a lonely church that looked out over the sea.

That was until 1867, when the church was razed to the ground to make way for St. Catherine’s Fort.

The fort was constructed after Napoleon III, Emperor of France made a number of perceived threats of invasion against Britain. Threats that thankfully were never realized despite the bluster of the French monarch.

For the better part of the 20th century,  the island was tied up in a family trust and sat lonely and quiet.

Thankfully the fortunes of the island changed in 2014 when it was opened to the public and it became a tourist attraction for those looking for the strange and unusual.

And that strange and unusual is due to a bizarre legend surrounding the island.  A legend that fits in with the phenomena known in the paranormal realm as high strangeness. 

Legend Of St Catherine’s Island 

The strange legend surrounding this seemingly innocent island occurred long before the fort was built. Sometime during the reign of Elizabeth I. 

One day,  shortly after all the fishing boats left the docks  to seek their fortunes in the depths surrounding the island, an unusually powerful storm came out of nowhere.

Seeing how foolish it would be to remain on the water, for such a gale would bring certain doom, the fishermen brought in their nets and made for shore.

Their families stood on Castle Hill and watched as every single boat safely came in. 

Satisfied that all the boats were safely in the docks, the people were about to leave for the safety of their homes when they noticed something peculiar.

A single ship, larger than anything the people of Tenby were familiar with, was struggling in the waves the storms were kicking up.

But it wasn’t just any ship. This particular vessel had strange multicoloured lights dancing about it and strange figures walking about its deck.

The good people in Tenby were so terrified by what they saw manifesting before them, they fled in fear to their homes to wait out the storm. And whatever this terrifying apparition could possibly be.

As the storm raged outside, unearthly noises could be heard carried on the winds.

Noises that sounded like a multitude of voices all calling out at once and what could only be described as a massive ship grinding to a halt on the beach.

Whatever this frightening vessel was had made landfall, and it’s ghostly sailors would soon rampage throughout the town.

The following morning, the storm had gone back out to sea and the sun shined high and bright.

Gathering their courage, several citizens of Tenby wandered out to the coast to see what manner of ship made such horrific noises. What they found mystified them.

On the beach there was no sight of a ship, no wreck, not even so much as a piece of driftwood could be found.

The only thing they did find was a single man dressed in odd clothes sleeping soundly on the beach.

When the man awakened he was taken to a nearby house where he refused any hospitality and would not talk to a single person,  as he was a foreigner and barely spoke the queen’s English. 

The only person he would talk to was a local shepherd. And over time bits of his life story began to come to light. And it was truly unnerving. 

According to the stranger he was a pirate who attacked and plundered several coastal villages around Britain.

He had so much blood on his hands that the sea maidens tormented him and turned his vessel into a ghost ship.

After telling his story, the stranger claimed his dead lover was calling him to be with her.

And being helpless to do anything,  the shepherd watched in horror as the man ran to a cliff and threw himself into the sea. Where he sank below the waves and drowned.

An Alternative Theory

What we have here is your age old tale of a ghost ship and a man so tormented by his past that he took desperate measures and killed himself.

According to some who visit the island the man still haunts it to this day.

However, I want to offer an alternative theory to who the man was and the alleged ghost ship that brought him to the good people of Tenby

As far the ship goes, it was unlike anything they had ever seen, with strange lights and cacophonous sounds emanating from it.

And as for the man, completely foreign to them and wearing strange clothes that looked like nothing they had ever seen.

I think you might know where I’m going with this. 

What if the ship wasn’t a sea going vessel, but rather a space fairing one and the man was actually an alien occupant left behind?

This of course is mere speculation,  perhaps even wild. But we as humans when faced with the unknown will put a human face on what we don’t understand. 

Or ascribing the familiar with the otherwise extraordinary.  Either way the legend of St. Catherine’s Island has stood the test of time. And will continue to do so.

Tell us your thoughts about the strange tale from St Catherine’s Island in Tenby in the comments section below!

Watch Ghost Hunting Video at St Catherine’s Island

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Rick Hale
Rick Hale, is a native of Chicago, Illinois and first became interested in the paranormal after having a positive interaction with an apparition at a young age. Rick is the author of The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghosts and Demons. Behold! Shocking True Tales of Terror...and Some Other Spooky Stuff. And Bullets, Booze and Babes: The Haunted History of Chicago and Illinois. Rick is the co-host of The Shadow Initiative Paranormal Talk. Rick was featured in the documentary Ghost Tapes 2. Rick is a featured writer for Spooky Isles and Rick has also been published by Haunted Times, Paranormal Underground, The Supernatural Magazine and Legends Magazine.


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