Ghost Ship off The Outer Banks
Oriental plays a part in resurrecting the story
September 19, 2002

Oriental, the town named for a piece of shipwreck, has a similar stake in a newly-told story about another shipwreck.

The shipwreck in this case is the Carroll A. Deering, a 5 masted boat that went down off of Diamond Shoals on January 31, 1921. With almost all of its sails fully flown, the ship floundered in the swells off of the Outer Banks for a while before breaking apart. There was no sign of the crew or the captain, and that led to speculation about piracy. This mystery about the Deering attracted author Bland Simpson of Chapel Hill. After researching for years, he wrote "Ghost Ship" which has just been published.

As it turns out, a little bit of the Deering has been living on here in Oriental for the better part of a half century. Bland Simpson, who is also a member of the Red Clay Ramblers, says he came upon it by chance three summers ago while boating around the southern Pamlico Sound with his son, Hunter.

Author Bland Simpson shows off the model of the Carroll A. Deering

"We were Huck Finning it and stopped in Oriental. We walked in to the Ol' Store, and while it was taking my eyes a while to adjust from the bright light outside, my son was saying 'Dad, isn't that the boat you're writing about?’"

Above the TV in Lucille and Billy Truitt’s Ol’ Store was a model of the Deering.

Lucille Truitt says she bought the boat in the 1950’s from a woodcarver on the Hatteras Island named Dameron Gray, who said the hull of the model came from a piece of the original Carroll A. Deering.

"I’d seen a photo and article in the News and Observer about this model ship he had built. I wasn’t one for writing, but I wrote him a letter saying that I wanted to buy his ship. So for a whole summer I headed shrimp to pay for it."

Lucille Truitt

Lucille says she hadn’t heard back from Dameron Gray and so took a chance one Sunday when she and Billy rode their boat over to Hatteras and showed up on the island and made their way to Gray’s barbershop. She remembers that ‘he was taller than the trees." He was also surprised. "He’d gotten my note, but said he was expecting a much older woman." In the end, he sold her The Caroll A. Deering.

Asked how much she paid for it, Lucille Truitt says she "won’t say". But for years she treasured it. "I said, ‘Billy if the house catches fire, you get the young ones, and get that boat.’"

When Lucille closed the Ol Store on South Water Street after Billy died last fall, the Carroll Deering went to a familiar spot in her new home -- near the TV.

But it’s not there now.

A few weeks ago, Bland Simpson returned to Oriental --this time by land -- to move the ship to the UNC library in Chapel Hill.

Boxed up and ready to travel to the UNC library

With great care, he showed the model to "This is how it looked out there, except for this sail up here in the front. It wasn’t set that day."

For those who didn’t see it when it was in the Ol’ Store --or didn’t know its significance -- the Deering made from the Diamond Shoals shipwreck and preserved in Oriental for a half century can now be seen as part of a UNC-CH library exhibit about NC legends and mysteries.

It may not, however, be returning to Oriental for good. Lucille Truitt says that she wants to donate it to a shipwreck museum to be developed at Hatteras. "It just seemed right" she says, to return the model built of shipwreck to the place it became one.

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