The story of the ghost ship Mary Celeste is known to almost everyone. It is one of those spine-chilling stories that leave goosebumps on your skin the first time you hear it. The story goes like this: In November of 1872, a ship named ‘Mary Celeste’ was on its way from New York to Genoa. Less than a month later, Mary Celeste was found floating adrift in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship was completely intact with no serious damage done to it. But the whole crew was missing. According to some sources, the only lifeboat in the ship was also missing. According to other sources, the lifeboat was still there.
It’s a mysterious story. No one knows what really happened on board the Mary Celeste. What could have happened to make the whole crew leave the ship? Especially since the ship was in an almost perfect condition? These are questions that have no answers. Many theories and speculations have been made but the truth is beyond our reach. All we know is that the ship Mary Celeste was found abandoned and that the crew was never seen again. No message that would indicate as to what happened had been left either.
Over the years, countless people have attempted to solve the mystery of the Mary Celeste. But so far, no progress has been made. All we know is that the Mary Celeste was a cursed ship from the very beginning, causing much more loss and harm than good.
15. The Discovery Of Mary Celeste
The ship Mary Celeste left New York in 1872. Its aim was to reach the city of Genoa in Italy. However, Mary Celeste never did reach the port of Genoa. Instead, less than a month later, on December 4th (or 5th, depending on the sources), it was found floating adrift in the Atlantic.
The ship that discovered Mary Celeste was the British Dei Gratia. Dei Gratia’s captain, David Morehouse, was shocked to discover that the unguided ship was Mary Celeste. After all, Mary Celeste had left New York eight days before Dei Gratia and at this point, should have already been in Genoa. Mystified, Morehouse changed the direction of his ship in order to offer help. He sent a couple of members of his crew to the unguided ship…
14. The Mary Celeste Was Still In Good Condition But The Crew Was Missing
When Dei Gratia’s crew climbed on board the Mary Celeste, the mystery intensified. The crew members apparently found water in the bottom quarters of the ship, but apart from that the ship was in great shape. It did not seem as if the bad weather in which the Mary Celeste had set sail did much damage to the ship either.
However, below decks, the ships charts had been scattered all over the place, the ship’s lifeboat was missing (although in some reports it wasn’t missing) and one of the two pumps was disassembled. The barrels of industrial alcohol the Mary Celeste was carrying were still intact and the crewmen’s belongings were still in their quarters. A six-month supply of food and water was also found. However, there was no sign of any human presence. So what happened to the crew? And the Captain, the Captain’s wife and his infant daughter (pictured above)?
13. The Captain Of Mary Celeste Said He Would Not Abandon The Ship Unless He Absolutely Had To
The ship Mary Celeste was loaded with poisonous, denatured alcohol. In fact, 1701 barrels of this alcohol were loaded inside the ship before it set sail. Mary Celeste’s captain was the 37-year-old Captain Briggs (pictured above). He was a devout Christian and thus abstained from alcohol. Apparently, Captain Briggs took his job very seriously; he told the crew that he would not abandon the ship unless he absolutely had to. The only real reason to abandon the ship, according to Captain Briggs, was to save his life but other than that, the voyage was what mattered the most to him. Captain Briggs’ first mate was a man named Albert Richardson. Briggs picked Richardson himself because he wanted a first mate who could take on the responsibility of Captain should anything happen to Briggs or the crew.
12. The Theory Of Mutiny
One theory that tries to explain the mystery surrounding the ship Mary Celeste is that of a mutiny. According to some reports, when Mary Celeste was first investigated, strange marks that could have been caused by an axe were found. Traces of blood were also discovered. The attorney-general leading the investigation proposed a logical explanation. According to him, the crew got drunk on the alcohol that the ship was carrying and in a drunken haze had killed everyone that was aboard the ship. The crew had then sailed away on the ship’s lifeboat from the crime scene. However, this theory is not very plausible. It has been found that the “blood stains” were actually just marks caused by natural wear and tear. The alcohol was also not fit for drinking as it was poisonous, denatured alcohol.
11. Did Pirates Attack The Mary Celeste?
Another popular theory that aims to explain the disappearance of the Mary Celeste’s crew is that of pirates. According to some, the North African pirates attacked the Mary Celeste and killed its crew. However, this theory is also not the most plausible. Why would pirates attack and kill the crew and then take nothing from the ship? That would kind of defeat the purpose of attacking the ship in the first place. The theory just doesn’t add up.
Others say that it was in actual fact the crew of Dei Gratia, the ship that found the unguided ship, who attacked and killed the crew of the Mary Celeste. According to this theory, Dei Gratia attacked the Mary Celeste and then later claimed to have found the ship adrift so that they could claim money from the salvage.
10. Dei Gratia’s Salvage Hearing Resulted In Dei Gratia Being Suspected Of Foul Play
After Dei Gratia found the unguided ship Mary Celeste, it sailed the ship about 800 miles to Gibraltar. There, a salvage hearing took place. According to the law of the salvage, “the person who recovers another person’s ship or cargo after peril or loss at sea is entitled to receive a reward equal to the value of the ship or cargo saved.” Salvage hearings determine whether the salvagers are entitled to payment from the ship’s insurer.
The salvage hearing did not go as smoothly as the crew of Dei Gratia had hoped. The attorney general in charge of the enquiry, Frederick Solly-Flood, suspected foul play and made sure a thorough investigation was carried out. However, after more than three months of investigation, the court found no evidence of foul play. Dei Gratia received payment, but only one-sixth of the $46,000 for which Mary Celeste and its cargo had been insured. So perhaps the court did not truly believe in Dei Gratia’s innocence.
9. Was The Crew Of The Mary Celeste Abducted By Aliens?
As always, where there is mystery, there is a supernatural explanation. Some people believe that the ship and its entire crew were abducted by aliens. This explanation is understandable when you think that many stories told about the Mary Celeste mention “facts” such as that the Mary Celeste was found in perfect condition (even though it wasn’t really – it was quite waterlogged), that the last entry in the log was written right before the mysterious ship was discovered (even though the last log was written about two weeks before the ship was discovered) and that there was either half-eaten food on the table or that the dinner table was set out for dinner but remained untouched. Plus, according to most reports, the only lifeboat on the ship was missing. Thus, this theory is not very plausible.
8. Was Natural Disaster The Cause Of The Ship’s Mysterious Disappearance?
Still others try to explain the mystery of the Mary Celeste with more logical explanations, such as natural disaster. Those who believe that natural disaster was the cause of the ship’s demise say that one possibility is that the Mary Celeste got caught in a tornado at sea which whisked away the crew but left the ship practically intact. Another possibility is that Mary Celeste got caught in a seaquake. The seaquake could have caused superficial damage and waterlogging to the ship which might have scared the crew into thinking the ship was going to sink. Terrified of sinking with the ship the crew may have boarded the one lifeboat in a fatal attempt to survive and reach land. This makes sense when you think that the Captain said the only way he would leave the ship was if his life was in danger.
7. Was The Ship Attacked By A Giant Squid?
Another theory that aims to explain the peculiar disappearance of Mary Celeste’s crew is that the ship was attacked by a giant squid. For example, in 1875 the crew members of the ship Pauline claimed that they saw a sperm whale with a sea serpent wrapped around it and dragging it beneath the surface of the sea. The sea serpent they described was most likely the tentacle of a giant squid. Giant squids love the depths of the sea and are rarely seen out in the surface.
It is well known that sometimes giant squids mistake ships for whales and attack them. Some sailors have described cases where giant squids, with their tentacles that have plate-sized suction cups on them, have swept a crew member or even a couple of crew members from the deck of the ship.
6. The Most Likely Theory – Alcohol Explosion?
Another theory proposed is that of alcohol explosion. The ship Mary Celeste was carrying a large cargo of industrial alcohol and it has been proposed that the noxious fumes of the alcohol may have escaped either because of violent and unsteady movement or because of the ship’s porous barrels.
These poisonous fumes may have caused a small explosion or perhaps may have made the crew think that an explosion was about to happen. It has been proposed that the Captain may have ordered the crew to board the lifeboat and leave the ship for some time until the danger has passed. However, as they were waiting, the rope that attached the boat to the ship may have come undone, leaving the crew to battle the huge, dangerous seas in a small lifeboat.
5. Mary Celeste – A Cursed Ship
You’d think that after Mary Celeste’s crew disappearance the ship would have acquired a mysterious reputation that repelled anyone from setting foot on it again. But it wasn’t so. What really damaged the ship’s reputation was not the mysterious accident but the Gibraltarian salvage hearings which made the Mary Celeste widely unpopular. Nobody wanted the ship and in 1874 Mary Celeste was sold at a loss to a partnership of New York businessmen. Mary Celeste began sailing again, mostly in the West Indian and Indian Ocean routes, always losing money. In 1879, her new captain Edgar Tuthill fell ill at the Island of St. Helena (pictured above) and medical help had to be called to help him. However, he died on the island. He was the ship’s third Captain to die prematurely.
4. Mary Celeste Was Actually First Called ‘Amazon’
The ship Mary Celeste was built in Spencer’s Island in Nova Scotia. In 1861 the ship was launched under British registration as ‘Amazon’. Even when the ship was known as Amazon it was clearly very unlucky. During the first decade of sailing operations, Amazon was involved in a number of misadventures and accidents. It also had many changes in ownership.
Amazon’s first master, Robert McLelllan, became suddenly ill and died. On its maiden voyage, Amazon bumped into a fishing dam off the sea and had huge damage done to its hull. The ship needed major repairs done at a shipyard. Later, a fire broke out in that same shipyard. During the ship’s first Atlantic crossing, the Amazon collided with another ship and once again required repairs. Upon its return to America, the Amazon ran aground off Cow Bay, Nova Scotia. The ship was finally bought by an American man James Winchester at a New York salvage auction. Winchester had many repairs done and re-named the ship ‘Mary Celeste’.
3. New Captain’s Insurance Scam
A couple of years after Edgar Tuthill died, the ship passed to Gilman C. Parker. In 1884, Parker and a group of Boston shippers came up with a get-rich scheme. They filled the ship with worthless cargo but claimed that the cargo was actually more valuable and insured it for $30,000. Parker then set sail for the capital port of Haiti but on its way deliberately smashed the ship into a reef, wrecking the ship beyond repair (pictured above). Parker then sold the salvageable cargo for $500 to the American consul and began the insurance claim process.
However, the consul soon reported that what he had bought was completely worthless and a thorough investigation was initiated. In 1885, Parker and the crew were charged for trying to commit insurance fraud. In addition, Parker was charged with casting away the ship, a crime that at the time was punishable with death penalty. Nonetheless, Parker’s charge was deterred but his reputation suffered and he died three months later in poverty. Furthermore, one of his co-defendants went mad and another committed suicide.
2. Arthur Conan Doyle Wrote A Short Story About Mary Celeste
Before Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the widely popular Sherlock Holmes series, he actually wrote a story about the Mary Celeste. The story is called ‘J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement’. It appeared anonymously in the Cornhill Magazine in 1884. The story is that of a man named Jephson who is supposedly the sole survivor of the Mary Celeste.
J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement is said to be the earliest fictional response to the mystery of the Mary Celeste. Indeed, many credit Arthur Conan Doyle’s story as the source of many common misconceptions about the Mary Celeste, such as that the galley table was full of half-finished meals, that the coffee mugs were still lukewarm and that the Captain’s cabin still smelled like tobacco smoke upon the ship’s discovery by Dei Gratia.
1. Mary Celeste The Ghost Ship
The story of the mysterious ship Mary Celeste does not end here, however. As one can see, Mary Celeste is truly a cursed ship, bringing misfortune and accidents to all that come near it. And even though the ship had been wrecked to pieces by the cunning Captain Parker, many seafarers worldwide have claimed that they have seen the ghostly image of the intact ship of Mary Celeste floating at sea. The ship has been seen floating in the Atlantic Ocean on numerous occasions and by numerous eyewitnesses. The story of the ghost ship has become incredibly popular not only among seafarers but also among land dwellers. And until the mystery is solved (if it ever is), the mysterious story of the ghost ship Mary Celeste is here to haunt us.
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