7 Mysterious Legends Of Famous Ghost Ships That Still Haunt The Seas

Ghost ships are a bad omen, materializing out of thin air and disappearing just as quickly. Narrated and retold and embellished over the years, stories of these spectral phantasms have sailed the sea for almost as long as ships have.

Although these legends leave much room for doubt, here are 7 haunted ships that continue to provoke curiosity and fear:

1. The Flying Dutchman

It seems appropriate to start with the most famous entry on this list. Many have claimed to see the ghostly vessel of Captain Hendrick van der Decken since 1641.

As the story goes, after purchasing lucrative goods like spices, silks, and dyes in the East Indies, Captain van der Decken set out for home.

Seeking to make a settlement with his employers, the Dutch East India Company in South Africa, he began to round the Cape of Good Hope in earnest, even though a terrible storm threatened to capsize the ship. Terrified, the crew mutinied. But Captain van der Decken killed the rebel leader and threw his body overboard.

The moment his body hit the water, however, the vessel spoke to the Captain asking him if he did not mean to go into the bay that night.

Van der Decken replied: “May I be eternally damned if I do, though I should beat about here till the day of judgment.”

The voice then spoke again, saying, “As a result of your actions you are condemned to sail the oceans for eternity with a ghostly crew of dead men bringing death to all who sight your spectral ship and to never make port or know a moment’s peace. Furthermore, gall shall be your drink and red-hot iron your meat.”

At this, Captain van der Decken cried, “Amen to that!”

Since then, the Flying Dutchman has sailed the world over, bringing a gruesome death to whoever catches sight of it.


2. The Mary Celeste

The Mary Celeste was found floating adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in December 1872 with all its sails still up. She had left New York City eight days before and should have already arrived in Genoa, Italy.

Everything on board, including the crew’s belongings, six month’s worth of basic supplies and the cargo of 1,701 alcohol barrels was undisturbed. The last entry in the logbook was dated November 25th and the only thing missing was a single lifeboat.

The crew simply vanished and were never heard from again.


3. The Ourang Medan

Depending on which report is accurate, a series of SOS distress signals were received by numerous ships travelling along the Straits of Malacca in either June 1947 or as late as February 1948.

“All officers including captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.”

After a burst of indecipherable Morse code, there was one final message:

“I die.”

The signals were traced back to a Dutch freighter known as the SS Ourang Medan.

The rescuers found the ship unharmed but the entire crew, including the dog, dead with terrified expressions on their faces. But before they could investigate any further, they noticed billows of smoke emanating from the lower decks and soon after, the abandoned ship exploded.

Truth or fiction, you decide.


4. The Octavius

Loaded up with cargo from China, the Octavius set sail for London in 1761.

The Captain thought it’d be a great idea to shorten the journey back by making the Arctic passage – a trip that had never before been made successfully.

So the ship sailed northward, only to go missing for 13 years.

Finally, in 1775, the Octavius was spotted floating in the icy waters off Greenland by a whaling ship called Herald.

The crew of the Herald boarded the ship and found its frozen crew below decks. The Captain of the ship was at his desk, frozen to death while in the middle of penning a log. Nobody has seen the ship since.


5. The Eliza Battle

On March 1, 1858, steamboat Eliza Battle was engulfed in flames on the Tombigbee River. 33 people died.

The ship had been loaded with over 1,200 bales of cotton that somehow caught fire during the night. Years later, there are still occasional sightings of the Eliza Battle wreathed in fire, accompanied by the sounds of people screaming in pain.


6. The Carroll A. Deering

When this commercial schooner was discovered in 1921 with its hull run aground on the treacherous rocks of Diamond Shoals, speculation ran wild.

Its crew, their personal belongings, the key navigational equipment and anchors were all missing. Red lights were run up the mast which suggested that somebody tried to signal for help.

An investigation by the U.S. Government wound up in 1922 with no answer and there have been claims that the ship was a victim of the Bermuda triangle. For the safety of other passing ships, the wreck was destroyed and sunk using a dynamite.


7. The Lady Lovibond

On February 13th, 1748, Captain Simon Reed brought his new wife, Annetta, onboard the Lady Lovibond for a honeymoon voyage to Oporto, Portugal. 

Everyone on deck was celebrating except for First Mate John Rivers, who was also in love with the beautiful bride. Envious, he decided to take action. Rivers intentionally steered the Lovibond into a notorious stretch of the English Channel called the Goodwin Sands (a virtual ship graveyard of sorts).

The ship was destroyed, and everyone aboard was killed.
Apparently, every 50 years, the ship is seen breaking up in the very same area with no shipwreck in sight.


These seafaring ships are just too much of an enigma to not be curious, right?

Images are for representational purposes only.

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Posted by

Amanda Francesca Mendonça

After spending pretty much all of my teen years waiting for a Hogwarts letter that never came, I gave up and settled for being a wizard with words instead. A hopeless romantic, when I’m not penning down short stories, I’m busy imagining my own happily ever after.

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