The Legend of the Wailing Girl

Provincetown Massachusetts, located at the very tip of Cape Cod in Barnstable County is one of the Cape’s most visited destinations. Provincetown is well known for its tourist industry, picturesque beaches, and eccentric art culture and is also a popular vacation destination for the lesbian and gay community. P-town, as it is so admirably called, is a place unlike any other. Many locals and tourists claim to have had mysterious encounters from the other side leaving them looking for answers. This old whaling village; with its fun nightlife and intriguing history, has many tales to tell to those who will listen.

Throughout the generations, Provincetown has changed dramatically. The area’s economy has risen and fallen several times over the years and has seen its fair share of war. The area was rugged. The living was tough and storms are strong making it a treacherous place to live. Today, after proving its strength, Provincetown is going stronger than ever. Beneath Provincetown’s beauty, pulchritudinous beaches, salty air and serene landscape, something is awry. Here, the locals claim the veil between our world and the next intertwine.

The following isn’t the usual story about spirits, UFO’s, or local myth; this is about the legend of a little girl names Ruth. The story below is a true story, documented in the book “Legends of the sea by Edward Rowe Snow”.

The Myth of the Wailing Girl

One day in 1803, the crew of the 80 ton schooner, Polly, prepared to sail out of Provincetown Harbor for a routine fishing trip to Chaleur Bay, between Québec and New Brunswick, Canada. The crew consisted of ten members including Provincetown local, Captain Peter Rider, and his ten year old nephew, Ned Rider.  One day, as Ned was doing his routine chores, he heard crying off in the distant. He ignored it and kept on working. A little while later, Ned heard it again, only this time, louder. Ned brought it to the crew’s attention but they convinced him it was just the seagulls. The crying continued and got louder and louder and even the crew couldn’t mistake the noise. The men jumped into action, looking for the cause of the crying. As they neared St. Paul’s Island, on a large rock just offshore, they spotted a terrified three year old girl clinging on for dear life. The men sprang into action to get the toddler onboard. As it was reported in the captain’s log, the tide was coming in and she would have been swept out to sea in a matter of hours had she not been rescued. The crew quickly surveyed the area for inhabitants of the island or of a shipwreck but came up empty handed.

The crew brought the child to Provincetown, where she was named “Ruth”. She resided with Captain Rider and Ned at Ned’s grandmothers. Upon asking Ruth where she came from and how she got there, her mystery only deepened. She had no recollection of how she got there or where her family was. Ned later returned to the area where they found Ruth and discovered no one populated the island and that were no signs of shipwrecks, old or new. Eventually Ruth and Ned fell in love and married. Captain Rider built the two a home in Provincetown where they raised their family. Several generations of Ruth and Ned’s descendants are said to still inhabit Provincetown and the entire cape to this day. Several years later, a lighthouse was erected off the shore of St. Paul’s island due to the traitorous seas and sharp rocks in the area.

St. Paul Island was nicknamed the “Graveyard of the Gulf” due to the significant hazard it posed during the age of sail. The island is made up of granite and is known for its rugged shoreline, dense fog, and narrow channel. The island is uninhabited by mammals but is visited by a large population of seabirds. A lighthouse was first erected in 1839 on the island. St. Paul Island currently boasts two lighthouses and two buildings; Northeast St. Paul Lighthouse and Southwest St. Paul Light Beacon. The island once had several buildings but the coast guard burnt them down. Today, the lighthouses are maintained by the Canadian Coast Guard facility in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and were replaced by solar-powered beacons.

There are still so many unanswered questions as to how she got there, where her family is and who they were, her name, and why she was left on a single rock in the middle of the ocean and during my research, I wasn’t able to find any back story on Ruth or answer any of the questions which is exactly why this is one of the Cape’s most intriguing legends.

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