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Frozen Alive

By Thomas D’Agostino

This strange tale took place in 1850 and was recorded thus. The characters led a normal life until this moment and the ending of the account will surely be a true-to-the-word example of New England’s strange occasions.

Richard Ingraham and his fiancé Lydia Dyer held up safely on their schooner accompanied by a seaman named Roger Elliott. It was December 22 and a storm suddenly struck the Maine coast. Bitter cold, violent winds and blizzard conditions blanketed the area around Rockland, where the waves could be heard booming mercilessly upon all in their path. The weather was so frigid that the waves turned to ice upon impact on the land.

The three held fast and safe in the cabin of the little schooner until around midnight, when the snapping of a cable could be heard and the ship began to race out toward the sea. The anchor cables had snapped and there was no stopping the vessel as it crashed on the ledges near Owl’s Head. In an instant, the three grabbed all the blankets they could and rushed to the deck but the driving blizzard and howling winds made it impossible for them to see anything, much less signal for help.

In a last-ditch effort to save their lives in the deadly storm, they huddled on the floor of the now exposed cabin and covered their bodies with blankets. The ice came quickly over them but Elliott, having a knife, was able to constantly cut a hole for them to breathe. They were confident the ice would insulate them and keep them alive until help arrived.

The storm soon let up enough so that Elliott, who had positioned himself on top of the couple, could cut through the layer of ice and scale the ledges for help. He made his way up the ledge, exhausted, frostbitten and bloody but undaunted. Soon he was spotted and rescued where he collapsed but not before letting the rescuer know there were two more on the wreck.

The rescue party arrived at the wrecked schooner where they saw the frozen bodies of the couple, motionless and covered in a tomb of ice. The tide began to rise and the rescue party knew they had but moments to remove the couple from the ship. They carefully removed the giant block of ice that entombed the couple and brought it to a nearby home. There they began to thaw the two out. As they chipped and peeled the ice from the lovers’ bodies, they could only fear the worst.

Once removed from the block of ice, the two were placed in a tub where cold water was poured over them. The warmth of the water was gradually increased and the rescuers softly messaged the lifeless bodies of the two in hopes of resuscitating them. All efforts seemed futile for the first few hours but then the most improbable happened: Dyer awoke from her frozen slumber. An hour later Ingraham’s body turned and moved with life. “What is all this?” he asked.

He looked over and saw his fiancé who smiled back at him. They were both alive. Within months, they had made a full recovery, married in June of 1851, had four children and went on to lead a normal, prosperous life together. Elliott, the man responsible for their safe return, never fully recovered from his injuries and died shortly after but still lived to tell his accounts of the tale.