They’ve inspired folk tales, books, and movies. They’ve kept us both entertained and scared. We all know that in the world of ghost ships reality often leaves fiction in the dust. The following ghost ship mysteries continue to baffle even the most skeptical minds.
1. The Mary Celeste
The Mary Celeste, often dubbed the original “Ghost Ship,” is one of the most famous naval mysteries in history. The ship was originally launched in 1861 as the “Amazon” and underwent several name changes and ownership transfers before it became the Mary Celeste. On November 7, 1872, the ship set sail from New York City to Genoa, Italy, under the command of Captain Benjamin Briggs. The ship was carrying a cargo of alcohol, which was not uncommon for the time. On December 5, 1872 it was found drifting in the Atlantic, completely abandoned. No Captain Briggs, no crew, just eerie emptiness. Was it a mutiny, ghostly abduction, or just an unfortunate combination of circumstances? We may never know, but it kicked off the ghost ship craze.
2. The High Aim 6
In 2003, the Taiwanese fishing vessel High Aim 6 was discovered drifting near the Australian coast. That’s precisely what happened when the Australian authorities encountered the High Aim 6. Upon boarding, they made a chilling discovery: the ship was fully stocked with rotting fish, but there was not a soul to be found. Among those missing were the captain, an engineer, and a crew of eight people. To add to the mystery, local police claimed to have found a man that was onboard claiming that some of the crew killed the captain and the engineer only to leave the ship afterwards. What could have driven the crew to desert their ship, leaving their valuable catch to rot?
3. The Octavius
Octavius left England in 1761 with a cargo of goods with one destination: China. However, it never reached its destination. In 1762, the ship was declared lost at sea. Fast forward to 1775, and there it was, trapped in the ice with no signs of life on board. The entire crew was found dead inside the ship, their faces contorted in expressions of pure terror. They seemed to have frozen to death. Did they stumble into a time warp, or was something more sinister at play?
4. The Ourang Medan
In 1947, a distressing SOS message was received from the Dutch cargo ship Ourang Medan somewhere in the waters of the Strait of Malacca. The message was brief but sent shivers down the spines of those who received it: “All officers, including the captain, are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.”
A nearby vessel, the Silver Star, immediately rushed to the Ourang Medan’s location to provide assistance. Once they boarded the ship they discovered the entire crew of the Ourang Medan was dead, their faces twisted in expressions of sheer terror. Even the ship’s dog was found lifeless, with its teeth bared in a snarl.
As if this wasn’t eerie enough, the ship’s cargo of highly flammable materials caused the ship to mysteriously catch fire and explode, sinking beneath the waves and taking its secrets with it.
5. The Lady Lovibond
Next we have a legendary ghost ship with a tragic tale. This time it’s all about the ship Lady Lovibond, named after the captain’s beautiful bride, Annetta Lovibond. It was all meant to be some sort of honeymoon, from London to Portugal, a journey that would celebrate their love.
On February 13, 1748 the ship set sail with the newlyweds on board, but things took a dark turn. A jealous crew member, supposedly in love with Annetta, deliberately steered the ship onto the Goodwin Sands off the Kent coast, leading to its untimely demise.
The ship was wrecked, and all on board, including the newlyweds, tragically lost their lives. The Lady Lovibond was said to have broken into three pieces, with her spirit forever bound to the sea.
6. The Baychimo
It was a cargo vessel, originally built for trading in the Arctic, but fate had something else in mind for it. Here’s the twist: the ship got stuck in pack ice in 1931, and the crew, led by Captain Hugh Polson, abandoned it, expecting it to sink. But the Baychimo was made of tougher stuff and refused to go down. It floated ghostly through the Arctic Ocean for nearly four decades, sometimes being sighted but never successfully boarded.
7. The Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman is one of the most enduring and famous ghost ship mysteries in history. This phantom ship is said to be cursed, condemned to sail the seas for all eternity, never finding safe harbor. Here’s the gist of it: Captain Hendrik van der Decken, sometimes referred to as Captain Vanderdecken, was the captain of The Flying Dutchman, a Dutch East India Company vessel. According to the legend, he’s said to have been a headstrong and proud captain who dared to challenge the elements by trying to navigate the perilous Cape of Good Hope in the midst of a ferocious storm. He vowed to conquer it, no matter what it took, and is famously rumored to have exclaimed “I will round this cape even if I have to keep sailing until Judgment Day!”
Legend has it The Flying Dutchman was condemned to sail the seas forever, never able to make port. Sightings of The Flying Dutchman are thought to be ominous, often foreshadowing disaster or death.
Recommended reading next: The 10 Weirdest Mysteries That Are Unsolved From Around The World
How many ships go missing?
Between 2013 and 2022, around 807 ships were lost at sea, most of them cargo ships. An insane stat if you take in consideration the fact that all the vessels had crew onboard.