When fiction becomes fact

When I was doing research for ‘The Girl Who Came Home‘ I came across some remarkable stories of chance, luck, fate and sheer unbelievable coincidence about the passengers and crew who sailed on Titanic.

For example, one of my characters Peggy Madden, who is based on actual passenger Delia McDermott, got out of a lifeboat to return to her cabin to fetch the new hat she had bought in Ireland before leaving home. Having got out of one lifeboat, she made it into another and survived the disaster, along with her hat.

There are the stories of passengers who were refused boarding as they failed to pass the Health Inspections, or those who were too drunk to be permitted to board. There was the ‘near miss’ in Southampton as Titanic pulled away from the dockside and nearly collided with another steamer, the New York, which slipped it moorings in the wake caused by Titanic’s mass.

But perhaps the strangest of the many mysteries and conspiracies surrounding Titanic are those based in fiction. Many years before Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage, several novels had been written which told the tale of a doomed ocean liner which sank after colliding with an iceberg in the Atlantic. Perhaps the most famous of these is Morgan Robertson’s novel ‘The Wreck of the Titan’ or ‘Futility’ as it is also known, written in 1898 which tells the fate of the ‘practically unsinkable’ liner Titan which sails to New York and hits an iceberg when travelling at the exact speed Titanic was travelling at. In Robertson’s novel, there are too few lifeboats for all the passengers to be rescued. There are many, uncanny similarities between this work of fiction and the fate of Titanic and other novels share similar, strange parallels.

They say that fact is stranger than fiction – but it would seem that sometimes fiction becomes fact.  Whether you believe in premonition and conspiracy, or whether you put this all down to sheer coincidence, Titanic and the stories surrounding her ill-fated voyage, still keep us wondering and talking one hundred years on.

For more about the novels written before Titanic, which seem to predict her fate, visit the Titanic Stories website.

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Researching the Past

Click on the link above to read my guest post for writing.ie where I share my recent experience at the fascinating London Metropolitan Archives.

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