The ocean is one of the largest and most unexplored features of our earth. In fact, the ocean covers up to 70% of the world’s surface. The ocean is so unexplored that, according to the website Scientific American, people have only just began to map out less than 0.05% of the ocean floor.
It makes sense that there are multiple stories about ships lost at sea, or simply one’s crew stumbling upon an empty ship drifting without aim and with no one aboard. This is known as a ghost ship. A ghost ship is a ship with no living crew aboard, found adrift, with its crew dead or missing without reason. Even today with all of the technological advancements available, there are still some mysterious disappearances that nobody can explain. Why would an entire crew abandon a ship that still floats, and where could they have gone?
Ghost ships of all types have been found, from old and rusty to ones in perfectly good shape, the ghost stories of these ships are completely unexplained. It’s possible that an unpredictable event such as an audacious storm or perhaps pirates raiding for loot, have left the ship empty inside. Many crews resort to a lifeboat when abandoning ship, and can be lost at sea or eaten up by the swelling waves of a storm. Many crews have mysteriously disappeared with no explanation.
The ocean claims many lives inexplicably and leaves the remnants of as to why these ships became abandoned in the first place. From the Flying Dutchman to the Mary Celeste, we are breaking down the top 15 ghost ship stories you didn’t know about.
15. The Ourang Medan
The SS Ourang Medan, a Dutch merchant ship, became known as a ghost ship in the late 1940s. The Ourang was said to be found shipwrecked in the Dutch East Indies by two American vessels, the City of Baltimore and the Silver Star, navigating the Strait of Malacca. The vessels had picked up an S.O.S. message from the Ourang, and routed directly to aid the ship in distress. When the crew of the Silver Star boarded the Ourang, they were surprised to find the ship unharmed and in complete tact. Though, upon further discovery, the Silver Star crew found that each of the Ourang crew members, including the captain, were scattered throughout the ship frozen and dead.
On the account of an article written later in the 1960s by the U.S. Coast Guard, the carcass of a dog was also found. There were no visible signs of injury upon the bodies discovered. Soon after, a fire broke out in one of the ship’s cargo holds. The cargo ship was reportedly transporting sulfuric acid, which was badly stowed. The Silver Star crew promptly evacuated. The ship then proceeded to explode, which resulted in the ultimate sinking of the merchant ship.
14. The København
The København was built in the 1921 for the purpose of training cadets who were in route to achieving an officer licence in the related field of sailing. Nicknamed ‘Big Dane’, this ship was known as one of the largest sailing ships on the ocean at the time. On one of its voyages, the København left from Nørresundby to sail to Buenos Aires to drop off commissioned cargo containing cement mixtures and chalk.
Ultimately, the ship would then sail to Australia, and then on to Europe to transport additional goods. However, there was a slight hitch. Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, there was a slight delay: the commissions needed to pay for the cargo to be transported were at a stall. The captain, Hans Anderson, made a decision to keep on track with timing and left the port in Buenos Aires to make for Australia without the cargo order from Buenos Aires. The trip was to take roughly 45 days to complete.
When the ship was to arrive in Australia, about 6 days away, the captain radioed in to a nearby Norwegian steamer, the William Blumer, during the morning that all was on schedule and the ship was well that all was well. Later in the evening, the Blumer sent radio signals to the København, but to no avail. A search mission ensued by a ship called The Mexico which was joined by the British Royal Navy. The rescue search went on for multiple months, though no sign of the ship was found — not even debris. The Danish government then declared the ship and its crew officially lost at sea.
13. The SS Baychimo
Built in 1914 from Swedish manufacturers, this cargo vessel was part of the Hudson Bay Company Fleet. Primarily, the cargo ship was used in trade routes for the remote Northwest Territories of Canada. The Baychimo became an official ghost ship in 1931 when it was trapped in the ice pack of Alaskan waters. For the crew to survive, the ship was abandoned.
Because of the quality craftsmanship of the vessel, the ship remained intact enough to drift for another 38 years, and has since been sighted floating aimlessly along the oceanic waves. Salvaging the ship has been made a bit impossible, as the weather has made it a challenge. In 1969, the ship disappeared completely. The ship has been searched for since its disappearance, but to no avail.
12. SS Valencia
The iron-hulled passenger steamer was built as a mini ocean liner by the company Red D Line for the transportation of passengers routing from Venezuela to New York City. Regarded by passengers as being a ship of too small in size to bare the oceanic elements, this ship was not a favorite. The SS Valencia was also very slow, traveling at a top speed of 11 knots.
In 1906, the vessel set sail with passengers aboard to make way for the Strait of Juan de Fuca. After passing Cape Mendocino, and sailing further out into the blue, the weather took a turn and the water became choppy and disruptive to the smooth sailing the crew had previously experienced earlier in the voyage. High wind from the southeast, and clouds rolled in. Land was nowhere in site. With low visibility, the crew could not make celestial observations to determine their position. The crew relied on a gut instinct to determine their position, and pointed the boat directly into a coral reef near Pachena Point on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. A large gash in the side of the boat was reported, and water began to flood. The ship was stranded on nearby rocks, and was separated by 50 meters of heavy surf from nearby land that was not visible due to weather.
Men, women, and children drowned in the icy waters, and only one rescue boat of 12 people survived and had made it to the shore. According to Flavorwire, the death toll was 137. Passenger ships nearby get an eerie feeling when sailing past that fateful location.
11. The Sayo: Manfred Fritz Bajorat
In late February of 2016, the body of captain Manfred Fritz Bajorat of Germany was found dead in his private yacht. He was immediately identified by the papers of identification in his yacht. His vessel was found upturned off of the coast of the Philippines, adrift in the Philippine Sea. He was slouched over a desk in the communications room of the yacht in a sort of preserved mummified state. The combination of the salty sea winds, oceanic humidity, and hot temperatures preserved his body. Findings show that on his desk he was writing a haunting love letter to his wife who passed away earlier in 2010 from cancer.
Reports had shown that Bajorat had not been seen since porting in Mallorca, Spain in 2009. A sailor named Dieter reported that Bajorat was a very experienced sailor, and that Bajorat would not have intentionally sailed into a storm or any sort of omniscient journey. An autopsy found that he died of a heart attack. Though, there is some conspiracy on his death, as some of his personal items abroad show damage by brute and intentional force. The mystery remains.
10. SV Lunatic
Age is just a number, and this couldn’t be more true for 70-year-old Jure Sterk. In 2007, Strek set sail around the world on his boat named Lunatic. Though, reports found that in 2009, his broadcasts ceased January 1st.
For two years, he traveled on his boat uninterrupted. Throughout his voyage, Sterk used his amateur ratio to communicate to nearby ships and ports. The first sighting of his ship, after his radio communications had ceased, was reported on January 26th 2009. Sightings happened off of the coast of the southern continent of Australia. Viewers estimate that the ship was approximately 1,000 nautical miles off of the coast.
The boat was in rugged shape, and appeared to be damaged. There was no sign of Sterk anywhere. Not even a note or captain’s log for the reason of disappearance, though the last log was January 2nd 2009. Fast forwarding to a couple months later, in late April of 2019, the sailboat was found adrift by the crew members of the scientific research vessel, RV Roger Revelle, approximately 500 miles from the Australian coast. Exact coordinates at the time were Latitude 32-18.0S, Longitude 091-07.0E.
9. The Flying Dutchman
This ghost ship tale goes back to the early 17th century. This ship is perhaps one of the most well known ghost stories of our current era. The ship is said to be commanded by a captain and his crew that are eternally condemned to sail the seven seas. This particular infamous ghost story has inspired multiple works of creative art in movies and in books. The captain is known to be Van der Decken, who is deemed a very determined and ambitious man who has survived a very tough and brash career of a sailor.
The Flying Dutchman ship is known to be cured after making a journey sailing towards the East Indies, and being caught in the adverse weather at the time of making their way to the the Cape of Good Hope. Allegedly, the captain cursed the gods and in return found himself and his crew to be eternally cursed as a result of his repercussions. Legend has it that since then they have been cursed to sail the oceans for eternity. To this day, hundreds of fisherman and sailors have claimed to have witnessed the Flying Dutchman continuing its never-ending voyage across the waters.
8. MV High Aim 6
This ghost ship is allegedly reported to have left the post of Liuchiu in southern Taiwan on the 31st of October 2002. Later on, on the 8th of January 2003, the ship was found drifting in the Australian waters. The captain was reportedly last in communication with the shipowner, Tsai Huan Chueh-er, in late 2002.
Strangely enough, the only member of the crew that could be tracked down had admitted later on that both the captain and the engineer had been murdered. The explanation for the mutiny is unclear. Initially, the entire crew was missing when the vessel was found. Upon investigation, no signs of distress were found upon the ship. However, there was rumor of the ship carrying illegal immigrants. The initial claim was dissolved when the investigation crew found rotting fish to be the main contaminants of the boat.
7. The Ghostly Galleon
The tale of this ship begins when it was first built in the late 1800s. The ship was reported to be made of wood. Caught in a sea of ice, the ship came to be part of a frozen iceberg. Eventually, the waters began to warm, and the weather became summer-like. The White Fleet began to look for the vessel during the winter, and incurred heavy fog for each night the ship came to rest. In the result of the warm weather, the ship melted away from the iceberg, and rose to the surface, to be found by the crew of the The White Fleet. Sadly due to temperatures and lack of sustainable food supplies, the crew perished. During the end of the departure, the White Fleet towed away the Ghostly Galleon to the Breaker’s Yard.
6. The Octavius
The Octavius became part of the ghost ship archives in the 18th century in 1775. The ship was found in the west shores of Greenland by the ship named Herald in 1775. The entire crew of 28 was found to be below the deck, dead and frozen, perfectly preserved. It was reported that the captain’s body was preserved perfectly with pen in hand in the communications cabin. The captain supposedly was attempting to write, before his death, with the pen in hand.
The last captain’s log was reported from 1762. Supposedly, the captain had set the ship for sail from England to the Orient, and arrived in 1961. After the departure from the orient, the vessel became entrapped in the sea of ice in the Northwest Passage in the waters near the coast of Alaska. Since the encounter of the Herald, the ship was never seen again, and perhaps sunk in the northern waters of Alaska.
5. Duc de Dantzig
This ship was launched in the early 1800s in Nante as a French vessel, and became a privateer. Due to the nature of this ship, she captured multiple vessels, and either plundered or let go of the ships she captured. After the capture of smaller ships, this ship left the captured in flames soon after taking control. Mysteriously, this ship was captured in 1812. Since then, this ship has become a legend.
It is believed that soon after the mysterious disappearance, this ship may have been cruising the Atlantic sea or perhaps in the Caribbean. Rumor has it that it may also have been encountered by a British frigate. Napoleon Gallegos later reported the sighting of this ship drifting at sea aimlessly, covered in red blood with the corpses of the crew scattered about. However, there were no outside signs of damage on the ship. The frigate found papers covered in blood from the captain’s log, and later set fire to the entire ship.
4. The Schooner Jenny
It is alleged that the Schooner Jenny, originally an English ship that had left port from its home on the Isle of Wight in 1822 for the antarctic circle, was soon part of a frozen ice barrier in 1823 when it entered the ice southern waters, and became part of the the Drake Passage. The last log was discovered to be from the 17th of January that year. The Jenny was then discovered frozen in the ice passage by in 1840 by Captain Brighton on a whaler ship called Hope. The prevailing ship boarded the Jenny and discovered frozen bodies that were preserved by the chilling cold climate in the Antarctic circle. Though the report has been deemed unsustainable, the ship was documented in a story in 1862 through an edition of the Globus, a popular German geographical magazine at the time.
3. SV Sea Bird
In the 1750s the SV Sea Bird was a merchant brig under the command of John Huxham. The merchant ship became grounded on the beaches of Rhode Island at the Easton Beach. The ship was abandoned with no crew member in sight, and her longboat rescue boat was missing. It was reported that the ship was returning from a voyage that had started from Honduras, bringing goods from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere, and was expected to be arriving in the city of Newport. Upon further investigation, the abandoned ship had coffee boiling on the stove, The abandoned ship, after the departure of the longboat, had drifted of course. The only living beings on the boat were found to be a cat and dog. The crew was allegedly never found or seen again. An account of the ship’s story was recorded in the Wilmington, Delaware news articles from the Sunday Morning Star in 1885. No additional account of crew members was ever found, nor was any member of the ship reported alive. All were lost at sea.
2. SV Mary Celeste
The Mary Celeste was an American merchant brigantine that began its launch in 1872. The ship was discovered wrecked off the coast of Haiti in 1885. The ship was found disheveled with her lifeboat missing and in partial sail by the Canadian brigantine Dei Gratia. The last log of this ship was found to be dated 10 days before its discovery by the former ship. The captain of Dei Gratia, Morehouse, had first sighted odd and erratic behaviors of the ship’s movements, and observed the sails were in odd shape; this lead the captain to believe something was wrong, and he soon boarded the abandoned ship only to to find no trace of crew members nor the captain. The single lifeboat for the ship was, however, missing, leading the discovery crew to believe the members of the ship had escaped. No record of why the ship was abandoned was ever reported.
1. USS Salem
The USS Salem is docked in Boston, MA at Quincy Harbor. Finally open to the public since September, people are actually able to experience this ship in real life from the inside. The USS Salem was a war ship built in the 1940s that was held in a museum until recently.
Boston, being one of the oldest cities in the United States, hosts a handful of frightening and haunted historical ships and buildings. This vessel, being an old war ship, represents handful of history — from the gruesome sights of warfare, to loss of life, this ship is available for tour to actually feel the thrills and chills of the haunted ship. This ship was nicknamed the “Sea Witch”, and is rumored to be a future boat of refuge if the human race comes tumbling down — it will hold a scanner to check your eyes to see if you are disease and virus free. This boat is creepy, and sends chill across the internet.
There you have it, the top 15 creepy ghost ship stories you didn’t know about. Be sure to set sail with these stories in mind, and make way for safe travels.