Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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July 16, 2014

Life had not treated Raju kindly. He’d been sold as a baby fifty years ago and since then his life had been a living hell. He’d been taunted, beaten, starved, forced to perform tricks and had been reduced to eating scraps thrown at him by tourists. You might have read about Raju recently. He’s become famous for doing something remarkable, something extremely common in humans but never before witnessed in an elephant.


Raju was discovered in a small Indian village wearing tight spiked shackles and chained to a tree twenty-four hours a day, an act of intolerable cruelty. Tourists snapped pictures of him and tossed scraps of food in his direction. How long had he been there? No one seemed to know.


Raju was experiencing serious pain by the time he came to the attention of Wildlife SOS, established in 1995 to protect endangered wildlife in India. On July 2nd associates of Wildlife SOS entered the village to inspect Raju. After completing their examination, a team of veterinarians determined Raju was in poor health and severely undernourished.


Some of the villagers didn’t want Raju removed from the village and tried to make the elephant hostile to the veterinarians by shouting confusing commands, but in the end Raju was unshackled. This was when the world learned something astonishing.


We’re all familiar with images of circus elephants standing on platforms, rearing up on their hind legs and spinning around with performers on their backs. Raju did none of these things. Instead, when the ten foot chain was removed and he stepped a foot farther from that tree than he’d been in years, Raju cried.



Tears are a simple thing, but never before had anyone witnessed an elephant crying. I’ve seen pictures and they were streaming down his face. I’m not ashamed to say I also had tears running down my face when I read about Raju.


Not many stories about threatened wildlife have happy endings, but today Raju lives in an elephant sanctuary where he’ll never again be chained. After fifty years of isolation from his kind he’s now making elephant friends. He has more food than he can eat and can bath in a river whenever he wants.


It should go without saying that this planet belongs to our animal relatives every bit as much as it belongs to humans. Many species went extinct long before humans were walking upright, but what a tragedy it would be to witness the extinction of elephants, a hallmark species that has walked the earth for millennia, on our watch. Yet atrocities are visited by humans on animals every day, such as dolphin round-ups and murders in Japan, ivory poaching in Africa, wolf slaughtering in the USA, and shark and whale hunting by scores of countries.


For centuries we humans have considered ourselves superior to animals, yet it is animals who live in harmony with nature instead of destroying it. Animals never waged wide-scale wars of aggression or invented devices capable of destroying our planet. We could learn a lot from animals. Until then, let’s rejoice in the salvation of just one elephant who waited decades for freedom and cried when it finally came.


Wouldn’t you? 



Raju  takes his first steps as a free elephant.


this is such a touching story. Raju did what most sentient beings would do upon gaining his freedom and that is what so many humans miss in the equation.....animals have feelings. Thanks so much for sharing this "tear enducing" post. xoxo Oma Linda
By: omalinda on July 16, 2014
It's terrible the things people do to innocent animals. I hate those ivory poachers who kill elephants or rhinos just for the horns. That's just ridiculous.
By: PT Dilloway on July 16, 2014
Animals can be cannibalistic and will battle others for territory, and Lions will eat their young, but you are so right, we need to be better than animals and cruelty such as this is horrible,animals do have feelings. Besides, I really like elephants!
By: Cranky Old Man on July 16, 2014
Timely post Stephen- I totally agree with you. Humans, as far as I am concerned, are a scourge upon this earth. We do not care for our planet nor any of the other living creatures who live here also. We seem to think we have a manifest destiny to do what ever we please because we are supposedly superior . Well, surprise surprise- we aren't. My heart breaks for Raju and all other animals who suffer under the hands of humans. When will this madness end?
By: Kathe W. on July 16, 2014
i almost couldn't read this.
By: TexWisGirl on July 16, 2014
Believe me i'm with you on this, even if i am a crazy church lady. The fact is, i read in my Bible that we were put here to tend this beautiful garden, and then i look around at the shambles we've made of it, and i'm ashamed.
By: mimi on July 16, 2014
The story of this elephant appeared on my Facebook feed several times. It always makes me wonder how we, as humans, can be so cruel.
By: Pixel Peeper on July 16, 2014
I cried along with you & Raju!!
By: fishducky on July 16, 2014
This was a story that broke big on the international stage. Elephants are incredible creatures. Have you seen the video of the elephant doing a self portrait? It is fully aware of what kind of creature it is. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtQX9GHnOww
By: Michael Offutt on July 16, 2014
This is truly an awesome story. Thank you for passing it along to us. Oh, and our Heavenly Father is not well-pleased with what I would do to those Indian villagers, if my natural will would be done.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on July 16, 2014
Wow. How many tourists, over how many years, did nothing but take pictures? Why would you want a picture of such a sad sight?
By: Val on July 16, 2014
Nothing makes me angrier or sicker than stories that begin like this one. Nothing makes me happier than stories that end like this. Thank you for the happy ending.
By: Akansas Patti on July 16, 2014
Bravo! A wonderful and touching post. Your comments are right on target. I've always had a loving fascination for elephants. Seeing them in the wild in Africa remains one of the great joys.
By: Tom Cochrun on July 16, 2014
Humans have to stand back and take a very good look at themselves. We are not half as smart as we think we are.
By: red on July 16, 2014
I, too, saw the news story about Raju and shed tears. I agonize over the stories of circus elephants mistreated. Stop the world. I wanna get off. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on July 16, 2014
We have a LOT to learn from animals. They're often better teachers and students than we are. I have read about this amazing creature in a few places by now. It touches deeply.
By: Hilary on July 17, 2014
So heartbreaking and yet so heartwarming. Thanks for sharing this.
By: Mitchell is Moving on July 17, 2014
Well said, Stephen. We should respect our fellow animals, particularly the sentient ones. Uplifting story.
By: Bryan Jones on July 17, 2014
What a touching story! I've always said this and I'm not ashamed - I love animals more than I love people. And that's how it'll always be! I'm so glad Raju got his freedom!
By: Baiba on July 18, 2014
A heart rending story, thankfully with a happy outcome.
By: John on July 18, 2014
A happy ending.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 18, 2014
By: The Bug on July 18, 2014

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