Stories of phantom “extras” noticed among men and women under great stress are not uncommon. Charles Lindbergh said that, as he approached the end of his historic solo transatlantic flight, he was aware of a second man aboard the Spirit of St. Louis–a man who may have been his double, keeping the plane in the air as Lindbergh neared collapse from exhaustion. The phenomenon also was reported by Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton and two companions made an astounding thirty-two mile, thirty-six hour crossing of the island of South Georgia to a Norwegian whaling station in 1916; Shackleton and his companions all reported later that they had been accompanied by a fourth man whom none of them recognized and who vanished before they reached the whaling station.
The following story of a fifth man, who shows up to help–and hinder–four men searching for Captain Kidd’s buried treasure comes from Helen Creighton’s book Bluenose Ghosts (1957). Altogether spookier than Lindbergh’s or Shackleton’s stories. . .
Sometime in the late years of the nineteenth century, a Scotsman showed up in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Basin. He claimed that some ancestor of his, nearly two centuries before, had sailed with the notorious Captain Kidd. This ancestor, so he said, had left a chart showing that a portion of Kidd’s fabled treasure was buried at a place called Hudson’s Point. He was going to go dig up the treasure, and he needed helpers. Were any of the locals game?
Three men, self-described as “young and [not afraid] of the devil or anyone else”, joined him.
You know how these tales of buried treasure go: the digging must be carried out at night, so the Scotsmen and his three helpers, one of whom was called Ike Fleet, went out at ten PM on a moonlit night to begin the excavation.
They didn’t remember another tradition attached to tales of buried treasure: that one man was always killed and buried with it, to guard it against those who would dig it up.
The four men hadn’t been digging long when one of them crawled up out of the hole to stretch. He turned to look back and saw there were four men below, still digging, where there should only have been three. There seemed nothing strange about that extra man; he was of medium height, dressed like a working man, as they were–but he wasn’t one of them who had first begun digging.
He didn’t say anything, though; he simply waved his three indisputable companions up out of the hole. When they climbed up and stood beside him, he asked in a whisper “Who’s that fifth man?”
Sure enough, they turned and looked back into the hole, and there below was a man none of them had seen before, working away.
While they were puzzling this over, the ground suddenly shook beneath their feet and rocks clattered together, like a minor earthquake.
Then they began to remember some of the other tales about buried treasure and buried men. Three of them–including the Scotsman who started it all–were for leaving that stranger digging down below and going home.
Ike Fleet, braver or more stubborn than the rest, was having none of it.
“Either we heard thunder,” he said, “or that ‘un rolled a rock and it sounds like thunder. Anyway, we come here to dig treasure, and I’m goin’ back.”
Ike went back all right, dropping down into the hole by the stranger and picking up his shovel again.
The hole was twenty feet from shore, even when the tides of the Annapolis Basin were in. That night they were out, a hundred feet from the high-tide mark.
“HELP! GET ME OUT OF HERE!”
Ike Fleet was calling from the water. His companions raced out and found him up to his neck in the chilly waters of the Basin. They dragged him back to shore, and had no trouble, thereafter, in persuading him to go home.
They wondered, afterward, if the mysterious fifth man in the hole had somehow put Ike out in the Basin, but if so, how?
They didn’t ever go back to find out, and for all they knew, Captain Kidd’s treasure remained secure, twenty feet from high tide, as it had for two centuries and more.