But either way it sounds like grandpa was spinner of some good tales.
Yes, I'm afraid it was very much an old sailor's yarn as far as William Spanhake was concerned, but in all fairness to his family, my research suggests that they simply accepted his word for it. I have spoken to his grandson Chris Spanhake over the phone and while he admitted that grandpa Bill told him about his "Titanic
survival", Chris was not entirely convinced that it was true. I have also communicated with Richard Heppner, the archivist at of the Historical Society of Woodstock, NY (who kindly sent me the attached document) and John McCarthy, whose Facebook page also mentions it. I am still waiting to hear from the Daily Freeman
, the editor of which interviewed William Spanhake in 1975. At the time the Daily Freeman
article was published, Chris told me that 2 members of THS strongly disagreed with the story
It looks like Bill Spanhake (as he was known) had been claiming to have been a surviving Titanic
engineer for many years. In September 1975, Tobie Geertsema, the Editor of what was then the Kingston Daily Freeman
, interviewed the 94 year-old William Spanhake at the Ulster County Infirmary. Geertsema wrote an article about that interview which is the attachment below; it would have been poignant if it had not been so laughable. All this talk about "wild dark night with an ice-jammed ocean", how Spanhake 'guided' a lifeboat filled with weeping women and frightened children for 8 hours, "fires raging through coal bunker 8" etc sounds like after a while Spanhake started to believe his own fairy tales. I suspect that it started as a fireside tale to his grandchildren but somehow became public and when he realized that, Old Bill decided to play along.
The Historical Society of Woodstock, NY and John McCarthy at Facebook have now accepted that William Spanhake was never on the Titanic
and decided to edit their articles accordingly; I have suggested that they visit ET as Guests and check for themselves if they so wished. I have not yet heard from the Daily Freeman
; they might be a tad embarrassed by it because the late Tobie Geertsema had been one of their longest serving journalists who went on to become the editor.