In 1884, a young Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired to write a fabulist ghost story after hearing the mystifying tale of the Mary Celeste. The two-masted American sailing ship was hauled into Gibraltar after being found adrift near the Azores with no sign of the captain, his wife, young child, or the crew. Conan Doyle sold his story to Cornhill magazine, hoping for a decent fee.
Published anonymously as “J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement,” it describes a dark fate for the ship — suicide, mutiny, massacre. The story registered as fact in the popular imagination, and a seagoing legend was born.