The Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman is without a doubt the most well-known of all ghost ships.
Although much of its story is legend, it is based on fact.
A ship captained by Hendrick Vanderdecken set sail in 1680 from Amsterdam to
Batavia, in the Dutch East Indies. Legend has it that, Vanderdecken’s ship
encountered a severe storm as is was rounding the Cape of Good Hope. Ignoring
the dangers of the storm Vanderdecken pressed on. Battered by the storm, the
ship foundered, all aboard died. As punishment for his arrogance, Vanderdecken
and his ship
were doomed to ply the waters near the Cape for eternity.
The Flying Dutchman –was being seen even into the 20th century. One of the first
recorded sightings was by the captain and crew of a British ship in 1835. They
recorded that they saw the phantom ship approaching in the shroud of a terrible
storm. It came so close that the British crew feared the two ships might
collide, but then the ghost ship suddenly vanished. It was again seen by two
crewmen of the H.M.S. Bacchante in 1881. The following day, one of those men
fell from the rigging to his death. In March, 1939, the ghost ship was seen off
the coast of South Africa by dozens of bathers who provided detailed
descriptions of the ship, although most had probably never seen a 17th century
merchantman. The last recorded sighting was in 1942 off the coast of Cape Town.
Four witnesses saw the Dutchman sail into Table Bay... and disappear.
UB-65 - A German Submarine
January 1918 the German U-Boat UB65 sailed into the English Channel looking for
potential targets. The 'boats starboard lookout, standing on the conning tower,
saw an officer standing on the deck just below him, even though all the hatches
were shut apart from the one on the tower. He was about to shout a warning to
the officer when the figure turned to face the lookout, revealing himself to be
the ship's former second officer, killed in an explosion on UB65's maiden
journey. His shouts brought the captain to the tower, and he also witnessed the
apparition before it disappeared.
UB65 was built in 1916, but only a week after work started on her, things
started going wrong. A steel girder was being swung into place when it suddenly
broke its chains and went crashing to the floor, killing one worker outright and
badly injuring another, who died in agony two hours later.
Things seemed to go well after that, but just before the ship was finished,
three men were overcome by fumes in the engine room and died before rescuers
could reach them. On her maiden voyage, UB65 ran into a storm, during which one
man was washed overboard. Later, whilst undergoing diving tests, one of the
ballast tanks sprang a leak, leaving the crew without any means of replenishing
the air. Repairs took 12 hours, by which time the men were half dead with
suffocation. On their return to port, the sub was taking on a supply of
torpedoes when one of them exploded, killing the second officer and badly
damaging the ship, which had to return to the dockyards for repair.
A few weeks later, just before the sub was due to sail, a crew member ran into
the wardroom shouting that the dead officer had just come aboard. Thinking the
man was drunk, the captain and another officer ran onto the deck, where they saw
another crew member cowering near the conning tower. In a quiet voice, he told
the captain that the dead officer had walked up the gangplank and went to the
bows. He had then stood there for a few seconds before vanishing into thin
The ship soon got a reputation for being haunted, and nobody wanted to serve on
her. Eventually the German authorities decided to put a stop to the stories and
sent a commodore to investigate the matter.
Sceptical at first, he questioned the entire ship's company, during which he
became convinced that the stories were real and not just fancies. The sub was
withdrawn from service, and whilst in dock in Belgium, a Lutherian pastor
exorcised the ghost. UB65 then went back to sea with a new captain and crew. The
captain refused to tolerate any talk of ghosts, threatening the crew with severe
penalties if the ghost was even mentioned. The ship completed two tours of duty
without trouble, but after the captain was replaced, the hauntings started
During May 1918 the sub was cruising up and down the channel, and later the
coast of Spain. A petty officer claimed to have seen an unfamiliar face enter
the torpedo room, but when he went to investigate there was no-one else there.
On one occasion, the torpedo gunner went insane, shouting that the ghost would
not leave him alone. He jumped overboard and was never seen again.
On July 10th, an American submarine spotted the UB65 on the surface and prepared
to attack. Just prior to the torpedoes being launched however, UB65 blew up in a
devastating explosion. When the smoke had cleared, all that could be seen was
She sank with all hands 34 souls.
In this programme they identified the wreck by the markings on the props as the
The craft was intact, all hatches were open except the forward hatch, suggesting
it had flooded at the time of diving and the hatches were opened for the crew to
try and escape.
Paul Giuffrida -
Swansea Wales UK
In December 1924 James Courtney and Michael Meehan died and were buried at sea. The
following day the ships captain seen the faces of his two dead crewmen in the
ships wake. He took six photographs nothing showed in five of the photos but the sixth
revealed these two faces.
Are they the faces of James Courtney and Michael Meehan?
The Queen Mary
One of the most famous of all cruise ships, the Queen Mary – now a hotel and
tourist attraction – is said to be host to several ghosts.
One may be the spirit of John
Pedder, a 17-year-old crewman who was crushed to death by a watertight door in
1966 during a routine drill. Unexplained knocking has been heard around this
door, and a tour guide reported that she saw a darkly dressed figure as she was
leaving the area where Pedder had been killed. She saw his face and recognized
that it was Pedder from his photographs.
A mysterious woman in white has been
sighted near the front desk. Typically, she disappears behind a pillar and does
not reappear. Another ghost, dressed in blue-gray overalls and sporting a long
beard, has been spotted is the shaft alley of the engine room. Ghostly voices
and laughter have been heard by the ship’s swimming pool. One employee saw the
wet footprints of a child appearing on the pool deck... with no one there.
A Vengeful Ghost or Coincidence?
1908 the British warship Gladiator sank in Portsmouth Harbour after colliding
with the American steam liner St Paul, with the loss of 27 lives.
Incredibly 10 years later to the hour, the St Paul inexplicably capsized in the
Hudson River in New York and sank with the loss of four lives. Claims of
sabotage were rife but because of the amazing coincidence of the date and time,
many believed that the ghost of a dead seaman from the Gladiator was
In 1895, Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail round the world single handed,
claimed to have been rescued by a sixteenth century ghost. Taken ill during a
ferocious storm in the Azores, the American seaman collapsed on his bunk. When
he woke, Slocum saw at the helm of his ship, the Spray, a seaman who said he was
the pilot of the Pinta. a caravel, that had sailed with Columbus in 1492.
The apparition could be dismissed as delirium, except that the Spray had
remained precisely on course for some 90 miles (144 kms).
S.S. Iron Mountain
It’s understandable how a ship could be lost in the vast, deep, and volatile
oceans, but how could a ship completely disappear without a trace in a river? In
June, 1872, the S.S. Iron Mountain steamed out of Vicksburg, Mississippi with an
on-deck cargo of bailed cotton and barrels of molasses. Heading up the
Mississippi River toward its ultimate destination of Pittsburgh, the ship was
also towing a line of barges. Later that day, another steamship, the Iroquois
Chief, found the barges floating freely downriver. The towline had been cut. The
crew of the Iroquois Chief secured the barges and waited for the Iron Mountain
to arrive and recover them. But it never did. The Iron Mountain, nor any member
of its crew, were ever seen again. Not one trace of a wreck or any piece of its
cargo ever surfaced or floated to shore. It simply vanished.
Not a Sea Ghost
But a little story by a very fine artist who paints tall ships and sea-scapes.
Subject: Re: Wonderful
I found your site to be extremely interesting especially the section relating to
ghosts at sea.
Personally I never believed in ghosts until one rainy night driving through
France at about 2.30am we passed thro' a village. The village was in darkness
with the usual minimum of street lighting. As we crossed over a pedestrian
crossing there, right in front of us was an old lady, dressed in black and
carrying an umbrella. She actually turned her head to look at us.
I ran over her...there was no way she could be avoided. I braked as hard as I
could and went back....there was nothing there. Both myself and my wife saw this
person and it was some time before I could carry on driving. The mystery
was....if she was a real person, on such a wet night why was she carrying the
As you will appreciate this is not a tale I recount in the normal course of
conversation....and it still causes a chill.
Visit Bryans website and take a look at some of his wonderful ships.