Spooky stories from the seven seas have been around longer than anyone can remember. To get into the spirit of Halloween, we’ve decided to count down the scariest sea stories that have haunted the ocean throughout the years…
5. SS Baychimo
The SS Baychimo, a ‘real-life’ ghost ship, was a cargo steamer built in 1914. In 1931 it became trapped in drift ice due to an unexpected storm near Alaska, USA. The crew was forced to temporarily abandon the ship and take shelter until the weather blew over. By the time they returned, nearly a month later, the ship had broken free of the ice and disappeared following another fierce blizzard – the Baychimo was presumed to have sunk at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Amazingly, the Baychimo did not sink – it remained adrift for the next 38 years and was frequently sighted floating aimlessly in the waters off Alaska. The last recorded sighting was by a group of Inuit in 1969 – 38 years after she was abandoned. The Baychimo’s ultimate fate still remains unknown…
The SS Baychimo stranded in the drift ice. Image credit: Historic Mysteries.
4. The Lyubov Orlova
Built in Yugoslavia in 1976, this unlucky vessel was abandoned in a Canadian harbour in 2010 after its owners were involved in a debt scandal and refused to pay the crew. Authorities attempted to tow the hull for scrap to the Dominican Republic but cut their losses when its tow line snapped on the way due to a storm – presuming it would sink in the horrific weather.
No such luck. Instead, the Lyubov Orlova simply floated away and became overrun with disease-ridden rats that were forced to eat one another to survive. Ever since, there have been alleged sightings, including a recent panic in Britain that the ghost ship would drift ashore and unleash its contents onto the UK. The Orlova is now presumed sunk; but there’s a possibility that the ghost ship is still out there, perhaps with a surprise in store for whoever salvages it…
Lyubov Orlova has been drifting without a crew in the North Atlantic since 2013. Image credit: Jerzy Strzelecki.
3. The Ourang Medan
True or not, the next of our spooky sea stories – involving a Dutch ship called the Ourang Medan – is spine-chilling. According to the story, on a chilly morning of February 1948, ships near the coast of Indonesia started receiving distress calls from the Dutch freighter.
Soon after the distress message, a Morse code was sent from the ship; the message was almost entirely indecipherable except from the message “I die.” The rescuers found the ship completely unharmed – ruling out the possibility of a shipwreck – but found the entire crew, including the dog, dead with terrified facial expressions.
Before further investigation, the abandoned ship caught fire and exploded – taking the mystery of the ship to the bottom of the ocean with it. No one has ever come close to an explanation for the story, but many have speculated at ghosts, dangerous chemicals and even aliens causing the bizarre incident.
A vessel believed to be the Ourang Medan whose crew suffered a terrible fate. Image credit: © Historic image.
2. The Flying Dutchman
Despite being a myth, you’ll struggle to find other sea stories that have inspired as many paintings, films, books and even an opera. The Flying Dutchman is a legendary ghost ship doomed to sail the oceans forever – since its captain, with sheer determination, tried to steer the ship through an apocalyptic storm but failed miserably. The oldest version of the story dating to the late 18th century.
To this day, hundreds of fisherman and sailors have claimed to witness the Flying Dutchman glowing with a ghostly light, continuing its never-ending voyage across the waters. Legend has it that the sight of this phantom ship is a sign of impending doom…
The Flying Dutchman by Albert Pinkham Ryder c. 1887.
1. The Mary Celeste
Top of our scary sea stories list is arguably the world’s most infamous real-life ghost ship. The Mary Celeste was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872 in an untouched condition with all its sails still up, the crew’s personal belongings intact and a cargo hold of over 1500 alcohol barrels. The only things missing were the captain’s log book, the lifeboat, and – most importantly – the entire crew! None of those who had been on board were ever seen or heard from again.
Since a pirates’ attack could not be held responsible for such a bizarre circumstance, theories of crew mutiny and even consumption of poisonous food leading to madness emerged.
It’s generally agreed that the most reasonable explanation is that a storm damaged the boat, leading the pirates on board to panic about being caught with alcohol since these were prohibition times. In their panic, they immediately abandon the ship in the lifeboat, only to die later at sea.
The true fate of the Mary’s Celeste’s crew still remains a complete mystery, and probably always will be.
The Mary Celeste has become one of the greatest mysteries of maritime history. Image credit: © Historic image