Last week I had the chance to tour the St. Augustine Lighthouse and climb the 219 steps all the way to the top! Once we made it back down and happily purchased COLD water from one of the workers, she thoughtfully advised us that the most air-conditioned spot on the lighthouse grounds was the second floor of the Keeper’s home. So, with no further ado, we quickly toured the Keeper’s house and were delighted to find that the second floor was all that was promised.
Along with ship models, air-conditioning, a ship-building display, air-conditioning, a model of the lighthouse, air-conditioning, and some interactive displays (did I mention air-conditioning?), there was also a monitor set up in one corner that was displaying a series of interviews of fishermen from the area. And they were talking about ghost ships.
One older man said that he’d seen many things out on the open seas that science could not explain, but that didn’t mean it didn’t happen.
So, for today’s Freaky Friday, I thought we’d talk about ghost ships.
Ghost Ship spotted off St Augustine Beach by Eric L Landreth (Brevard, North Carolina)
“We were staying at the St Augustine Resort the week of June 19th. My husband took our camcorder out and was filming some shrimp boats. He told me to come over and look at the film. He said that to the naked eye he could see 2 shrimp ships but in the viewfinder of the camcorder a third ship that looked like a Spanish Galleon with 3 masts showed up. This ship looked like it was turning into the shrimp ships. We were shocked. We looked up and could not see this with just our eyesight but when we viewed it in the viewfinder it was there and remained there for a long time. It would move and turn in the viewfinder. It was weird and unexplainable.”
I love things that are weird and unexplainable. Here are some more ghost ship stories from Listserve that fit in that category:
The Sea Bird
The Sea Bird was a 1750 merchant vessel that grounded herself against Rhode Island. The ship was devoid of all humans, but it still contained a dog and a cat, which happily greeted those who investigated the ship.
After the ship was investigated, several clues were discovered. Coffee was boiling on the stove, breakfast was laid out, tobacco could be smelled, and coins were visible on tables, but there was no crew. The ship was still in perfect condition, with no signs of disaster or mutiny. The only clue to the crew’s disappearance was the ship’s most recent log: “Branton Reef sighted.” The ship’s emergency longboat was gone, but both the longboat and the crew never turned up again.
Discovered in August 1884 by the sailors of the HMS Mallard, the Resolven was found drifting at sea. The Mallard signaled to the crew but received no response, so they decided to board the ship.
On the ship, there were no signs of trouble; in fact, it looked as if it had been recently lived in. The galley had a fire lit and food was ready on the tables, but nobody was around to eat it. There were no obvious signs of structural damage or a fight. The only clue as to what happened to the Resolven was that the captain’s entire stash of gold coins was gone, and the lifeboat was also missing. The Resolven was taken in and refitted with a new crew, but its old one was never found again.
Two of the more famous ghost ships were the Mary Celeste and the Flying Dutchman.
The ship that would be known as the Mary Celeste was built in 1861 in Nova Scotia, the first of her kind the country had seen. At 103 feet in length and more than 282 tons, the brigantine was to be used for moving large amounts of cargo across the ocean. She was, however, the type of ship that seemed born bad. During her maiden voyage, her captain died. She had run-ins, literally, with other ships, lending more to her dark reputation. When she was run ashore a mere six years after her construction, her owners wanted nothing more than to be done with her.
The new owners didn’t care about her reputation, but to be on the safe side, changed her name to the Mary Celeste. A scant three years after her purchase and rebirth, the ship was taken out by Captain Benjamin Briggs, a seaman of the highest regard, and his first mate Albert Richardson. The hold was loaded with 1,701 barrels of alcohol, and all seemed business as usual. However, there was one thing the superstitious sailors hadn’t counted on. According to the lore of the sea, the ocean is a bitter and jealous mistress, as are ships. Bringing a woman on board is to tempt the ire of the sailor’s first love, the sea or his ship. On board, the captain brought not one woman, but two in the form of his wife, Sarah, and his daughter, Sophia.
On November 25th, 1872, she made port in the isle of St. Mary in the Azores. Ten days later, one of the greatest mysteries of the sea was born.
On December 5th, 1872, the Mary Celeste was spotted by the crew of the De Gratia, who signaled to the captain. The ship moved under full sail, but seemed to have a drunk at the rudder. Two hours of trying to hail someone onboard yielded nothing, so the captain of the De Gratia boarded a dinghy and made to board the Mary Celeste. What he found haunted him for the rest of his days. On board the ship was…
All seven of the crew were missing, as was her captain and his family. There were no signs that anything was wrong onboard, and even half-eaten meals still sitting on the table. Personal items and valuables were left, and, according to some tales, there was even a cat left dozing atop a locker. The chronometer and the sextant were missing, and the compass was found smashed. She had a full larder, and aside from a bit of water in the hold, the ship was in excellent shape. In fact, even its cargo was intact. So where did they go?
Piloted into port by crewmen of the De Gratia, the accursed ship was sold. Over the course of twelve years several tried to sink her to get insurance money, but like a stubborn lover spurned, she refused to sink. Her final voyage came in the early 1880’s when she simply disappeared. It wasn’t until 2001 that author Clive Cussler discovered her remains off the coast of Haiti.
There are many who claim to have seen the Mary Celeste, her sails still billowing, traveling the straights of Gibraltar, her deck empty. To see her is, according to some, a bad omen. What happened to her crew, they say, will happen to yours. Most often she’s seen in a mist, ethereal and lost, sailing close enough for the crew to see that no one mans her wheel. Then the mist closes behind her and she is gone.
The last reported sighting of the Mary Celeste was in 2000, just prior to the discovery of her remains. It begs the question, is the original ghost ship finally at peace? Has she finally been laid to rest? Many sailors would like to think so, yet whenever there is a mist on the water, they hold their breaths, their faces tighten, and they peer through the cloud, expecting to see the haunted ship with no crew.
According to legend, the Flying Dutchman is a phantom ship doomed to sail the open seas and oceans for infinity, never being able to return home. The myth can be traced back to 17th-century nautical folklore that was heavily nurtured by superstitious beliefs of all sorts among sailors.
Early written accounts of the Flying Dutchman are dated to the 18th century and alleged sighting of this otherworldly vessel was well reported through most of the 19th and 20th centuries, too.
The majority of reports have further claimed that the ship looked most unusual as it was always glowing in a sort of ghostly light. In nautical lore, the sight of this phantom ship was regarded as nothing but the worst omen of all, and that belief persisted for quite a long time. Had a vessel crew member seen the Dutchman, they most certainly feared that one way or another misfortune will soon come after them.
The first print reference to the notorious ship can be seen in Travels in Various Parts of Europe, Asia and Africa During a Series of Thirty Years and Upward, published in 1790 and attributed to John MacDonald, where a passage in one of the chapters reads: “The weather was so stormy that the sailors said they saw the Flying Dutchman. The common story is that this Dutchman came to the Cape in distress of weather and wanted to get into harbor but could not get a pilot to conduct her and was lost and that ever since in very bad weather her vision appears.”
Another reference in literature can be checked in A Voyage to Botany Bay from 1795, written by a notable London socialite of the 18th century known as George Barrington. He recollects a similar story as MacDonald, adding that he most often heard of this superstition from sailors who were prone to put their faith in doom and apparitions. As Barrington retells the story of a lost Dutch frigate off the Cape of Good Hope, he concludes that the narrative was quite quickly spread and known among mariners.
The legendary ship can be found also in Scenes of Infancy, written by the Scottish orientalist John Leyden, a contemporary of Barrington, who would depict the Flying Dutchman as a “common superstition of mariners.” His accounts affirm the phantom ship was most frequently spotted on the southern coast of Africa, where “hurricanes are frequently ushered in by the appearance of a specter-ship, denominated as the Flying Dutchman.”
Many have tried to find a logical explanation behind the entire story of the Flying Dutchman, and why this vessel was even doomed. Some have explained that the crew on the vessel was cursed because of severe criminal actions conducted aboard her, including murder and piracy.
Historical accounts suggest the captain was a 17th-century Frisian-born Dutch captain named Bernard Fokke, who sailed the seas for the Dutch East India Company. He was well noted for the incredible speed by which he completed his journeys from the Dutch harbors to Java, Indonesia. In one instance in 1678, he reportedly traveled this distance in not more than 3 months and 10 days, to deliver a stockpile of letters to the Dutch governor. Such fast trips led some people to suspect that the captain was helped by the Devil.
There have been many supposed sightings of this doomed vessel. Writer Nicholas Monsarrat, noted for his book The Cruel Sea from 1951, apparently witnessed the phenomenon in the Pacific, while serving as a Royal Navy officer during World War II.
Perhaps one of the most prominent reports of all was made by Prince George, the future King George V, as he was completing a three-year-long journey in his youth, accompanied by his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor, known as David, the future King Edward VIII. The log of the royals dates the event of seeing the Flying Dutchman on July 11, 1881. The occurrence reportedly happened off the Australian coast, amid the Bass Strait in between Melbourne and Sydney.
As described in their log, the phantom ship appeared in an unusual glowing red light. As the ship of Prince George approached the place where the mysterious vessel was supposed to be, there was no trace left of it in any direction, although the night was clear and the sea was at peace.