Ghost Ships - Doomed to Prowl the High Seas or Will They Someday Find Eternal Rest?


Originally published in Paranormal Pennsylvania Issue No. 4 April 2003



The world’s oceans and waterways have never given up their secrets and mysteries since man first set sail.


Sailors who spent many months at sea would come back and tell of their adventures while on the high seas.


Tales of mermaids, giant squids, sea serpents, sunken ships, and lost treasures have been reported for centuries and have always held a deep fascination with us.


Legends abound about ships that were lost at sea in mysterious storms that appeared out of nowhere, whether natural or supernatural they have sent many ships and men to a watery grave. Or have they?


Many witnesses claim to have had a sighting of a lost ship and her crew and some ships with no crew. There have even been reports of Ghost Ships being seen right before a storm or tragedy, perhaps to warn others of impending danger.


Are these Ghost Ships forever doomed to prowl the high seas and water ways or will they someday find eternal rest?


Perhaps we will never know since it is said the ocean never gives up its dead.


The Flying Dutchman


The Flying Dutchman was captained by Hendrick Vanderdecken. In 1641 he set sail from Amsterdam to Batavia. Encountering a severe storm believed to be a warning from God, Vanderdecken ignored the dangers of the storm as he was rounding the Cape of Good Hope.


As the ship hit a rock and started to sink, the captain screamed out a curse: "I will round this Cape even if I have to keep sailing until doomsday!"


Legend says the captain is condemned to sail forever for his vow to round the Cape if he had to fight God and the devil until doomsday. It’s also reported that whoever sights the ship will die a terrible death.


Recorded in the log of H.M.S. Leven twice in 1823, a phantom ship was sighted and attempted communication by lowering a boat. The Captain did not respond fearing danger.


In a severe storm in 1835 a captain and crew of a British ship saw a ship approaching. Fearing a collision between the two ships the ghost ship had simply disappeared.


Records of the Royal Navy tell of mutineers being terrified by a real ghost ship after rigging their ship to appear as the Flying Dutchman.


The steamer S.S. Pretoria in 1879 changed course after the crew and passengers saw lights thought to be a distress signal from a sailing ship that was seen. When the steamer approached it had vanished.


Two crewmen of the H.M.S. Bacchante in 1881 saw The Flying Dutchman. One of those men died the next day after falling from the rigging.


An American whaler in 1911 almost collided with the ghost ship, off the Cape Peninsula The ghost ship vanished into thin air in 1939 off the coast of South Africa after it was seen by dozens on the beach who provided descriptions of the ship.


Off the coast of Cape Town in 1942 witnesses saw the Dutchman sail into Table Bay and disappear.


Off the Cape Peninsula in the 1940’s U Boat crews had logged sightings of the Flying Dutchman, and during storms she was often seen by the Cape Point lighthouse.


A near collision with the Flying Dutchman in 1959 was reported by crew of the freighter Straat Magelhaen.


The Mary Celeste


The crew of the Dei Gratia, in 1872 found the Mary Celeste and its man less crew about 600 miles west of Portugal.


The ship had its sails set and its cargo was intact, the crew’s meal had been half eaten, and their belongings remained on board. The Captain, his wife, daughter, and crew of seven were gone.


It is said that the ship's lifeboat was missing, though others believe it was still in place. The ship's logs last entry was November 24 and gave no indication of any distress. If after this entry in the log and abandoning the Mary Celeste, she would have been drifting for more than a week. The crew of the Dei Gratia said this was impossible, because of the way the sails had been set and the ship's position.


Who or what could have worked the ship for over a week after the final log entry remains a mystery as well as the fate of the crew.


The Western Reserve


The schooner Western Reserve went down in 1892 in Lake Superior. To this day there are reports of this ship being sighted


SS Edmund Fitzgerald


The freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in 1975 with a load of iron ore and crew of 29 men in a severe storm in Lake Superior. Witnesses have reported to have seen the SS Edmund Fitzgerald still sailing on Lake Superior. Gordon Lightfoot paid tribute to the ship in a song named "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"


Erie Board of Trade


The schooner Erie Board of Trade disappeared in Lake Huron in 1883 and is believed to have been wrecked by a ghost. The ghost, who had been seen on the deck and in the cabins, was that of a crewman on the ship who had fallen to his death from the main mast.


It was on the ships next journey that the ship had disappeared and was never heard from again. Witnesses have claimed to have seen the spectral ship still sailing.


The Griffon


After leaving Green Bay on Lake Michigan in 1687 the supply ship Griffon had simply vanished. Sailors over the years have reported to have seen her still sailing on the lake.


The Emperor


Exploring the wreckage of the Emperor on Lake Superior in 1988, a diver saw the ghost of a crewman lying in a bunk turn and look at him.


S.S. Iron Mountain


Leaving Vicksburg Mississippi in 1872 with its load and barges in tow the S.S. Iron Mountain headed towards Pittsburgh. Strangely that same day another steamship the Iroquois Chief had come upon the barges floating down the river with their towlines cut. After securing the barges, the Iroquois Chief waited for the S.S. Iron Mountain to return, it never did.


It was never seen again, no trace of the ship its crew, or cargo, were ever found.


Lady Luvibund


Every 50 years the Lady Luvibund is said to appear after being wrecked in 1748 near the Goodwins. It was seen in 1798 and again in 1848 by fishermen who saw the ship breaking up and went to the rescue only to find nothing was there, it happened again in 1898. No reports were made in the years 1948 or 1998. Perhaps in the year 2048 the Lady Luvibund will once again appear.