The writer who anticipated the sinking of the Titanic

We will talk about the Titanic again, but this time, we promise you, it is not to talk about the size of the board. Because as exciting as the controversy is, there is another that looks like a horror movie: under the pseudonym of Mayn Clew Garnett, the writer Thorton Jenkins Hains would have predicted the disaster of April 14, 1912 in a story published a week before the accident. Smithsonian Magazine returns to the intriguing story of a writer who is both assassin and prophet.

“The White Ghost of Disaster”, is the name of this short fiction that in many ways seems to have predicted the sinking of the Titanic. The author recounts the journey of a supposedly invincible ship that collides with an iceberg in the middle of the North Atlantic before sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Many details could have been taken from newspapers published after the sinking, since the similarities are so obvious.

The unsinkable ocean liner in Garnett’s version is called “The Admiral”. She is about 800 feet long, like the Titanic, and hits an iceberg after ignoring numerous warnings, moving too fast for the weather conditions. The captain of the ship, responsible for the accident, commits suicide with a pistol – in the same way that Captain Edward J. Smith is suspected of taking his own life aboard the Titanic (although there are other theories about it). Note: The admiral’s second mate is referred to in the tale as Smith.

the killer author

American newspapers quickly made the connection to the tragedy and even rumors spread that the author had the idea while traveling aboard the Olympic, a sister ship to the Titanic. Some headlines immediately reprinted the tale in its entirety although, of course, there are differences between the fictional plot and the real tragedy. While the Almirante sank in fifteen minutes, the Titanic lay in agony for nearly three hours.

The short story writer isn’t just known for this prophetic tale — he’s made headlines before for a much darker reason. At just 24 years old, he killed a friend of his with a bullet to the heart while they were sailing together near Hampton, Virginia. He got away with it thanks to the qualification of “self-defense” in the absence of witnesses.

However, this event resulted in social isolation and several years later, when his writing career was well advanced, he found himself at the center of a new and even more sensational murder case: he was accused of having intentionally incited his brother to kill a man to get revenge on his sister-in-law, who supposedly rebuffed his advances.

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The writer was also accused of plagiarizing another novel to write The white ghost of disaster. In fact, there are many striking similarities with futilitywritten in 1898 by Morgan Robertson and that recounts the sinking of an ocean liner because of an iceberg, for “a cold April night”. In this work, the name of the ship is none other than… “Titan”.

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