Do you believe in ghosts? Ever encounter an other-worldly spirit who just couldn’t resist scaring the bejessus out of you? Some scientists say hauntings are very much real and that they are done either by a soul who has a message for us, or someone who has difficulty crossing over to the other side.
And if you think hauntings are just for landlubbing ghosts and spirits, you better fasten your seatbelts. Well, better make that your life vest because you’re about to be thrown feet first into the sea of the supernatural.
Take the Ourang Medan, a Dutch freighter haunted by mystery as it floated near the Strait of Malacca sometime in the nineteen forties. When the City of Baltimore and the Silver Star picked up an SOS on their radios, they responded. But it was the Silver Star that arrived first. What their boarding party discovered, shocked even the most hardened seaman.
Disfigured corpses littered the deck everywhere. Even the carcass of a dog was found. On their faces were the most hideous expressions as if what they had just witnessed was too horrible to speak of. Was it Pirates? A mutiny? Not a trace of violence could be found on any of the sailors. No stab wounds. No blood. Nothing. Just the mangled corpses of the entire crew.
Before the boarding party could investigate further, a screaming explosion ripped the ship’s hull apart, and crew members were forced to return to their ship. Some authorities hypothesize that the ship was carrying sulfuric acid and when water finally came in contact with it, it exploded. Continue reading →
The world is obsessed with otherworldly things. Vampires and zombies have been with us a long time. In fact, one of your neighbors might be one and you don’t even know it. I have my own suspicions about one on my street.
The world of mariners is no different.
Ghost ships, sometimes called phantom ships, are a very real phenomenon, and you don‘t even have to believe in things that go bump in the night to realize this is true. They aren’t exactly the same thing as haunted ships though more than one sober and sensible salt would give me a hell of an argument about that.
In the nautical world, ghost ships are defined as vessels out on the sea that have no crew or passengers. Drifting with winds, currents, and tides, they harbor not one living soul. Because no one is left to tell what happened, the circumstances surrounding everyone’s disappearance are always fraught with mystery and fright. While the sober-minded amongst us rationalize the events, it’s possible we have entered that nether region known as the twilight zone. Since these occurrences defy explanation, even a master story teller like Rod Serling would be baffled.
Since the history of ghost ships goes back centuries, I could write a book about all of them, but I’m going to share with you just three.
The first story has been embedded in the subconscious of mariners for centuries. The Flying Dutchman is no stranger to anyone familiar with sea lore.
According to one account, the ship was captained by a Dutchman, Bernard Fokke. Because of the speed with which he traveled from Netherlands to Java, many believed he had sold his soul to the devil. His crew, because of their nefarious ways, were condemned to the same fate as their captain. To sail the seas for eternity.
Yet another account names the captain as Van der Decken who made several attempts to round the Cape of Good Hope off South Africa. He obstinately refused to put into port and swore to the devil himself that he would sail all of eternity if necessary in the ferocious storms.
The story of the Flying Dutchman was given further credence when Prince George of Wales, later to become King George V, swears he and thirteen others saw the Dutchman glowing off their bow. The next day the sailor who first spotted the phantom ship fell to his death from the ship’s main mast.
The poet Sir Walter Scott perceived the crew as pirates who committed unspeakable acts. Their punishment is to sail endlessly without ever touching land again. To see the Flying Dutchman is to portend disaster.
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