Top 11 Mysterious Ghost Ships and Haunted Stories of the Maritime World

Mystery, fear, and enigma encompass the seafaring ghost ships’ or phantom ships’ tales that have been passed around throughout centuries by sailors, anglers and others.

These mysterious ships are fantasied as spectral phantasms that materialise in the middle of the sea and disappear quickly, apparently a bad omen.

In addition, abandoned ships, which are found adrift, and left desolated under fearsome and cryptic circumstances, are included in this category.

Albeit these all being marine legends and sometimes lacking authenticity, some of these haunted ships continue to provoke speculation and fearful anticipation.

We present you with ten such mysterious ghost ships of the maritime world that would surely give you an eerie feeling and goosebumps.

Flying dutchman

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11. SV Kaz II

SV Kaz II was found adrift, 88 miles off the coast of Australia, near the Great Barrier Reef, just five days after it set sail from Airlie beach towards Townsville, Queensland, in April 2007. As per investigation reports, the 12 m catamaran was sailing with a three-person crew who were not experienced, sailors. However, what happened to them remains a mystery to this day.

Their disappearance without a trace has been compared to the crew of Mary Celeste, another ship whose crew went missing under mysterious circumstances. Many believe rough weather conditions could be a reason; others blame pirates or even communists for the same.

Strangely, the vessel was found in perfect condition, except for the one sail, which had been shredded to pieces. The three men were never discovered. According to investigators, they might have drowned while trying to untangle a fishing lure caught in the vessel’s rudder. It is also envisaged that a sea monster could have swallowed them.

10. The Caleuche

It is a legend of the Chilota mythology, where it is described as a ghost ship which comes into being every night near the island of Chiloe. It says the vessel carries the spirits of all the people who have drowned at sea.

The Caleuche is strikingly beautiful, bright and gay, always surrounded by party music sounds and laughter.

Caleuche
Image for representation purpose only

However, it only stays for a few moments and then suddenly disappears or submerges itself under the water. Three Chilota’ water spirits’ – the Sirena Chilota, the Pincoya, and the Picoy – who resemble mermaids, summons the spirits of the drowned.

9. The SS Valencia

In 1906, the SS Valencia sank off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, after encountering bad weather near Cape Mendocino and became a subject of mysterious ghost stories.

Eventually, 37 of merely 108 people were saved using lifeboats, among which one disappeared.

Since then, many fishermen have claimed to witness ghost ship sightings with human skeletons even after many decades post sinking.

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8. The SS Ourang Medan

In 1947, while passing through the Strait of Malacca, two American ships went off on a rescue mission after receiving a distress call from Ourang Medan.

The caller claimed to be a crewmember and conveyed the message of the death of everyone else on board. His words weirdly ended with “I die”. The rescuers found the ship unharmed, but the entire crew, including the dog, dead with terrified faces and expressions.

Before the further investigation, the abandoned ship caught fire and exploded. The probable reason could be over-exposure to nitroglycerin, which it was carrying illegally. The other mystery revolves around the story of paranormal activities and alien invasion.

7. The Carroll A. Deering

This ship ran aground in the notorious Diamond Shoals near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, in 1921, where it was stuck for several days before any rescue team could arrive. After unloading a coal shipment, the vessel was travelling from Rio de Janeiro back to Norfolk, Virginia.

Later, the Coast Guard found that the navigational equipment, logbook and two lifeboats were missing from the abandoned ship, otherwise undamaged.

Investigation showed that a few other ships had also disappeared under mysterious circumstances around the same time, which could be the pirates’ barbarity, crew mutiny, or extraterrestrial activity around the infamous Bermuda triangle.

6. The SS Baychimo

Built in the early 1920s, this is one of the real-life ghost ships which was, in 1931, trapped in the pack-ice near Alaska, leaving no hopes for the owner Hudson Bay Company but to abandon it.

However, it remained adrift for the next 38 years and was frequently sighted floating aimlessly in the waters off Alaska.

SS Baychimo ship
Image for representation purpose only

Weather conditions had always made it impossible to salvage, but since 1969, it has disappeared completely. A few expedition programmes had since been launched to trace back this mysterious ghost ship.

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5. The Octavius

The Octavius became more than just a legend in 1775 when a whaling ship named the Herald found it aimlessly drifting off the coast of Greenland with all of its crew frozen dead by the arctic cold.

To add to the spooky environment, the ship’s captain was found sitting at his desk, with a logbook in front of him, and finishing a log entry from 1762.

This could mean that the Octavius had been floating for 13 years and completed its passage to the Atlantic while returning to England from the Orient via the Northwest Passage as a ghost ship.

4. The MV Joyita

In 1955 this fishing and charter boat was found abandoned in the South Pacific, five weeks after it had been reported overdue. The air-search mission could not trace it until a merchant ship found it drifting almost 600 miles off its source with no sign of passengers, crew members and cargo. The liferafts were missing, including the firearms and other equipment onboard.

There was a doctor’s bag and several bloody bandages on the deck, and the broken radio was tuned to the universal distress signal. Still, what happened there was never revealed as none of the crew was ever seen again.

3. The Lady Lovibond

An exciting story of love, jealousy and rage complements the tale of this haunted ship. In 1748, the day before Valentine’s Day, it was set to sail as a celebration of the ship’s captain’s wedding.

Nevertheless, his friend, who was too in love with her, out of vengeance, steered the ship into the notorious Goodwind Sands, sinking it and killing all on board.

Since then, it could be seen every fifty years sailing around Kent. 1798, 1848, 1898 and 1948 witnessed this ship’s sightseeing, and some boats had sent out rescuers, assuming it was in distress, but later could not be found. Albeit there was no confirmed spotting in 1998, this famous ghost ship continues to be a legend.

2. The Mary Celeste

British Ship Dei Gratia found the Mary Celeste on 4th Dec 1872, near the Strait of Gibraltar. It was weird as the latter had left New York eight days before the Dei Gratia and should have reached its destination, Genoa, Italy, by now. However, the boarding party from the British vessel discovered that below deck, things looked pretty standard with no signs of any attack.

Probably the most famous real-life ghost ship’s story embraces the Mary Celeste, found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872 in a completely unharmed condition with all its sails still up, the crew’s personal belongings intact and a cargo hold of over 1500 alcohol barrels untouched.

The only things missing were the lifeboat, the captain’s logbook and most importantly, the whole crew. Since pirate attacks could not be held responsible for such a phenomenon, theories of crew mutiny, waterspout killing, and consumption of poisonous food leading to madness came into being.

However, the most reasonable explanation could be a storm or technical issue, compelling the crew to immediately abandon the ship in the lifeboat and die later at sea. Apart from these, the mystery of this haunted ship surrounds by ghosts and even sea monsters and alien abduction theories.

Captain Morehouse of Dei Gratia knew Captain Briggs of Celeste to be a capable sailor, leading to more suspicions about what actually happened. However, the poor fate of Mary Celeste and its souls has been immortalised in Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story written in 1884, J Habakuk’s Jephson’s Statement.

1. The Flying Dutchman

In maritime folklore, this ghost ship has left the maximum impact like no other by inspiring numerous paintings, films, books, operas, etc. The Pirates of the Caribbean, the Dead Man’s Chest features the story and is the most popular movie made on this legend.

Van der Decken, the captain, on its way towards East Indies, with sheer determination, tried to steer his ship through the adverse weather condition of the Cape of Good Hope but failed miserably even after vowing to drift until the doomsday. Legend says that since then, they have been cursed to sail the oceans for eternity.

To this day, hundreds of fisherman and sailors from the deep sea have claimed to have witnessed the Flying Dutchman continuing its never-ending voyage across the waters.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ghost Ships

1. What is the meaning of the term ‘Ghost Ship’?

Ghost ships are those sea-going vessels that are associated with some supernatural activity or unexplained powers. Those vessels that have been abandoned by crew and passengers, or have drifted away from their docks or while at sea, are also called ghost ships. Ships still in operation, might also be reffered to as ghost ships, as stories of paranormal activities or eerie experiences spread through the crew and passengers of the vessel.

2. Which ghost ships are currently sailing on the oceans’ unmanned’?

There are many examples of ghost ships sailing without a soul. One such vessel is the MV Lyubov Orlova, an erstwhile Russian cruise ship carrying tourists around the Arctic. Today, its guests are only rats. The vessel was found adrift near the coast of Ireland and will be dismantled soon.

3. When was the last Ghost Ship found?

The last ghost ship was found in 2018 on the coast of Ireland during the Dennis Storm. The MV Alta ran aground close to Ballycotton, County Cork. It was found adrift and unmanned in the Atlantic by the HMS Protector after it became disabled, and the US Coast Guard rescued its crew.

4. What causes the mirage of ghost ships?

Our brain interprets that light travels in a straight line. However, other factors at sea, including refraction, temperature, climate and light waves, creates a mirage of a ship floating above the horizon. Sometimes it may look distorted and above the water surface. The actual ship might be below the horizon or on the other side.

5. How many abandoned ships are in the ocean?

In 2020, the IMO Database mentioned about 438 ships abandoned worldwide. It also listed 5767 crews abandoned since 2004. However, since not all missing cases are brought to the IMO, the number of missing and abandoned vessels is much bigger.

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Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used in the article, have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.

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11 Comments

  1. Don’t forget about the Queen Mary. You can read about her haunted past in Fatal Return
    Roger Weston- author of Fatal Return

  2. Thanks for providing this amazing article. I loved to read blog on historical places and ghosts.Keep doing good work.

  3. I just love to read and experience the ghost stories and this blog is very well written and it is interesting too, never felt a bit boring on your article, looking forward to read more articles from you

  4. The Lady Lovibond…. dont forget the Lady Lovibond story.. wt a story mind blocking…. fasakkkk…

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