It had been decided that we should go on holiday to Cornwall. We didn’t go on many holidays because of the hassle of my husband’s job, so my children and I were delighted.
Then we found out where we were staying: in a grubby little chalet, which didn’t exactly thrill me; the prospect of spending three weeks in one of them galled me, and I was right to think so.
After a couple of days, we began finding hideously enormous slugs everywhere. Of course, this was nothing compared to the size of the rat that had made its home under the steps of the hut. It seemed to dislike having a bunch of strange humans living above its home and would scrabble and squeak and run across the roof, terrifying me out of a good night’s sleep.
My husband assured me that, filthy vermin aside, we were going to enjoy this holiday. To get our minds off the miserable chalet, my husband proposed we spend a day at the beach. We took a picnic basket and drove out to a deserted beach called “Marsland Mouth.”
Few people go there because to access it, you have to climb down a load of rocks to get to it, a near-impossible feat while carrying a heavy picnic basket. Somehow, we made it down and while I reclined on my beach towel, my husband took our sons to fish in the rock pools.
My youngest son, who was four, was sitting with me alone on the beach. After a while I noticed he was staring very intently at a set of big rocks on the other side of the beach. He poked me urgently.
“What’s that beard man doing?”
I looked across the beach to where my son was pointing, but there was nothing there. I stood up and asked him to show me properly, but he kept pointing at the same spot shouting, “There! There!”
By this point I was slightly irritated and thought my son was just larking around. I shushed him, but after a few minutes I saw he was still watching that spot.
“What does this man look like?” I asked him curiously.
He simply said, “He’s got a beard.”
“What was he doing?” I asked.
“He’s carrying stuff off a boat.”
By this point I was feeling rather unnerved by the fact that we were the only two people on this beach for miles besides my husband and two other children, who by this point were quite far away.
Later, the rest of my family returned and I told them what my son had been describing. They just thought he was lying or imagining something from a children’s book.
Even so, I was utterly convinced he was telling the truth.
After much pestering from me and my youngest, we all walked a long way to the rocks where he had seen this man. There, we discovered the rusting remains of a boat.
How could my son have known this when this boat was out of view of both of us? He hadn’t left my side the whole time we were there.
On the drive back, I asked him if this man was good. My son scowled and shook his head saying he was a bad man and he had a gun.
I researched this beach and found out that the most infamous smuggler on this part of the coast was Cruel Coppinger, the sole survivor of a wrecked Danish vessel. He operated along this stretch of coast with his gang of cutthroats, and such was their reputation that even the Revenue Officers avoided them!
One legend says Coppinger escaped from the authorities by mysteriously disappearing one misty night, from nearby Marsland Mouth.
I am still to this day wondering if what my son saw was the ghost of that evil man. Whether it was a spirit or a survivor, I never want to return there again.