J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement

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An engraving of the Mary Celeste as she was found abandoned.

"J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" is an 1884 short story by a then-young Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, loosely based on the real mystery of the abandonment of the Mary Celeste, published anonymously in the January 1884 issue of the respected Cornhill Magazine.


The story popularised the mystery of the Mary Celeste, and though he drew heavily on the original incident, the fictional elements Doyle introduced have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident. These elements include the accounts that the ship was in an almost perfect state when discovered (in fact it had been in heavy weather and was water logged), the boats were still present (the one boat was actually missing), and even the spelling of the ship's name, which Doyle changed from Mary to Marie Celeste.[1]


First printed anonymously in Cornhill Magazine, January 1884, illustrated by William Small, "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" has been reprinted a number of times. The Boston Herald reprinted it on 3 April 1885,[2] and it was anthologised in Dreamland and Ghostland (1887),[3] The Captain of the Polestar and Other Tales (1890)[4] and Tales of Pirates and Blue Water (1922).[5]


Published anonymously, one reviewer sought to attribute the story to Robert Louis Stevenson, while critics compared it to Edgar Allan Poe. Though fiction, it was presented as an eye-witness account of the end met by those on the mysterious "ghost ship"; much to Doyle's astonishment, some, including the Boston Herald, which reprinted the tale, took the story as a true account.

See also[edit]


  • Richard Lancelyn Green & John Michael Gibson, A Bibliography of A. Conan Doyle, First Revised edition, New York, Hudson House, 2000.
  1. ^ Macdonald Hastings, Mary Celeste, (1971) ISBN 0-7181-1024-2
  2. ^ Boston Herald (3 April 1885) "Strange Tale of the Sea. Remarkable Voyage of the Brig Marie Celeste. A Missing Crew and What Became of Them. A Mystery Explained After Many Years"
  3. ^ George Redway (1887) Dreamland and Ghostland vol. 2: Strange Stories of Coincidence and Ghostly Adventure
  4. ^ A collection of Doyle's short stories.
  5. ^ Another collection of Doyle's short stories, also called The Dealings of Captain Sharkey and Other Tales of Pirates.

External links[edit]