The Inspiration Behind “Hungry Masses.”
By Emmy Z. Madrigal
My story in Haunts and Hellions, “Hungry Masses” was based upon a real ship that was lost at sea. The SS Waratah (named after an Australian flower) was a passenger and cargo ship built in 1908 by the Blue Anchor Line. Its route was from England to Australia, and then back to Europe via Cape Town, South Africa. In July of 1909, it vanished with 211 passengers and crew aboard. It has never been found.
During my research of the SS Waratah, I discovered a lot of history. I combed through passenger lists and descriptions. I looked at the ports it stopped in and what type of people it may have picked up. Where did they come from? Where might they be going? Some of the characters in my story are based (loosely) on characters I read about. Some of the names I used are actual surnames of the passengers and crew. Because it was never found and passengers lists are very light, I had to fill in a lot of the details for myself. I was not on that ship when it met its fate, but then again, no one who was, is alive to tell about it.
I’ve always been interested in the lost ships of history. The Mary Celeste is one I love reading about. In the papers and articles written about the Mary Celeste, they speculate about why it was found, but without its passengers. What happened? Why did the people abandon the ship? Why were they never found, and what was that slimy muck that was found all over the deck? This got me thinking… What kind of creature might have attacked? Did a giant Kraken gobble up the crew and leave behind its slimy trail? Did a disease take hold of the passengers that manifested slime?
Mixing these two disappearing ships, and countless other occurrences like them, I wove a tale. “Hungry Masses” takes place on the SS Waratah and tries to explain what might have happened on that fateful journey. Who were the passengers on the ship really, and what illness might have overtaken them? And why wasn’t the ship ever found? If the boat had been struck by storm or breakdown, wouldn’t remnants have been found? What happened to the boat to make all traces of it cease to exist? Where are the bodies?
What would you do if you were on a ship and a sudden illness broke out? How would you protect yourself? Would you take the hero role and save others first? Or would you hide in your cabin until everyone was gone?
Emmy Z. Madrigal is the author of the Regency novella, Lord Harrington’s Lost Doe. Her previous works include the
Sweet Dreams Musical Romance Series and the novelettes Anime Girl and Anime Girl 2. Emmy has been praised for her realistic portrayal of modern female characters and their will to survive in a world of adversity, prejudice, and economic hardship.