The Early American Legend Of Old Stormalong

Legends are stories about people that resemble folktales and tall tales, because they involve an individual that may possess extraordinary or even supernatural abilities. Some of these stories are based on real people that are usually connected to a particular place or location. Over time, the tales become embellished and the characters in them become exaggerated, per Britannica.

The United States has its own share of legends that include Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Rip Van Winkle (via Vox). One legend in particular includes a tale about Old Stormalong, a sailor known around New England for his larger-than-life adventures. Author Stan Hugill dates several shanties and poems about Stormalong to the 1830s and '40s. However, about 100 years later, the legend of the man known as Old Stormalong and his escapades was still alive and well. The press in Massachusetts even reported about Stormalong and his daring triumphs, according to Salem Ghosts.

Stormalong was a giant captain

Stormalong was known as Captain Alfred Bulltop, but some legends also refer to him as "Old Stormy," and "Old Stormalong." He was captain of the Courser, a ship so large that it wouldn't fit into Boston Harbor and even got stuck in the English Channel. Tales go that its masts soared to so high that they had to be lowered to avoid hitting the sun and moon at certain times of the day or night (via American Folklore).

But Stormalong's ship wasn't the only thing big — the captain himself was reported to be some 30 feet tall. Not only that, but he was a whopping 18 feet tall when he was born, per Salem Ghosts. According to legend, he left Cape Cod when he was 12, where he was hired to work on his first ship. As Stormalong grew older, he became the only person large enough to steer the Courser.

Stormalong battled mighty sea creatures

Like every mighty legend, Stormalong needed an adversary, and for this seaman, that was the notorious kraken sea monster. He was not successful in his first attempt to kill it — an event that drove him from the sea to the farm. However, the captain eventually returned to the sea, where he encountered the kraken for a second time, wrestling it to its death (via Salem Ghosts).

Another creature Old Stormalong encountered was a large octopus, which got hung up in the ship's anchor after a wave knocked it from the hull of the ship. Frustrated that he couldn't wrest the anchor free on board, he dove into the sea to solve the problem. Crewmen on board suffered tumultuous waves as the captain tried to free the anchor. Eventually, Stormalong surfaced and explained that he had to wrestle the anchor from an octopus that took hold of it as it dove to the depths of the ocean, per American Folklore.