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8 Chilling Tales of Ghost Ships to Lull You to Sleep Tonight

The sea can be a scary place.

Pirates, mutiny, murder, oh my! The ocean has set the stage for some pretty terrifying legends — many, of course, being tales of ships with the workings of some of the best horror films. Try making it through these eight ghost ship stories without having to leave the light on at night.

1. The Mary Celeste

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Honor Pellegrin

Perhaps the unluckiest ship to ever sail the seven seas, the infamous tale of the Mary Celeste is one that only gets weirder with time. The ship had set sail out of New York for Genoa, Italy, on November 7, 1872, with Captain Benjamin S. Briggs, his wife, their 2-year-old daughter and eight crewmembers on board.

Less than a month later, it was spotted in perfect condition — and at full sail — near Portugal, only the entire crew was nowhere to be found. Theories for the ship’s abandonment included mutiny, a pirate attack and sea monsters, but its true fate is still a mystery to this day. Spooked yet?


2. The Flying Dutchman

With appearances in books, art and “Spongebob Squarepants,” no ghost ship is quite as well-known as the Flying Dutchman. Reports of the vessel started in the 18th century, where it’s said that a phantom ship flew through the air with the smell of death and misery. King George V and countless others since his time have told tales of encounters with the ship. Sailers, beware.


3. The Ourang Medan

Photo Credit: Flickr/arquivopolemico

This tale is only known through word-of-mouth without actual credibility, but it’s as disturbing if not more cringe-worthy than the rest of them. In 1947, two American ships received a distress call from a Dutch cargo ship near Indonesia with the last words supposedly being "I die."

When they arrived, they found a calm vessel that was seemingly abandoned. Upon boarding the ship, however, they found corpses in every room and walkway, both fresh and decayed with horrified looks on their faces. (Is it just us, or does this sound like an episode of “Fringe?”) To make matters worse, a fire broke out while American crews investigated, forcing them to abandon the sinking ship.


4. The Lady Lovibond

This ship has more of a classic tale with the makings of a great period/thriller movie. Sailing in celebration of the captain’s recent marriage, the Lovibond reportedly wrecked on Goodwin Sands in the English Channel in 1748, after the captain’s first mate flew into a jealous rage over the bride.

It is said the glowing ghost ship has appeared every 50 years after the incident, with reports from 1798, 1848, 1898 and 1948. However, no sighting was noted in 1998, so maybe after some 200 odd years, we’re finally in the clear.


5. The Lyubov Orlova

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Jerzy Strzelecki

The fate of this vessel is super creepy and also very real. A once luxury cruise-liner, the Lyubov Orlova was seized by Canadian authorities to pay off the owner's debts a few years ago. Unable to sell the ship, the authorities let the ship drift away in an apocalyptic storm thinking it would sink. To their dismay, it didn't.

Presumably overrun by diseased, cannibal rats, the ship has reportedly been spotted on several occasions. Most recent was January 2014, when experts worried the cruise liner would drift onto British shores and release its deadly contents on the English. Some say it has sunk since then, but you never know with these sorts of things. Here's hoping for the former.


6. Kaz II

Photo Credit: AP

This one gives us a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. In 2007, Australian authorities came across a catamaran drifting near the Great Barrier Reef. Following suit with the creepiest of ghost ships, the boat was in good condition, with food on the table, water in the sink and a video camera used 90 minutes prior.

The seas were calm, the weather was good and the three sailors who were supposedly aboard the boat were gone. It is still unknown what happened to the crew, but theories include a freak wave, tragic accident, pirates or even alien abduction. All reasonable explanations, of course.


7. SS Baychimo

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Aldus Books London (1931)

This former cargo ship has made quite a reputation for itself as an apparently unsinkable vessel. Abandoned during an Alaskan blizzard in 1931, the ship continued to haunt the seas around Newfoundland until it was seen caught in ice by a group of Inuit in 1969.

Becoming a tourist attraction of sorts, today it's thought that the ghost ship now lives beneath sea level, even though all attempts to locate the "sunken" ship have been unsuccessful.


8. SS Valencia

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This steamer ship sank off the coast of Vancouver in 1906 after drifting off course due to bad weather and eventually striking a reef. The crew attempted the rescue of people on board in lifeboats, but only 37 of the 180 people managed to survive.

Five months later, a fisherman claimed to have found a life raft with eight skeletons, sparking speculation that sailors could see the specter of the steamer near the reed in Pachena Point. In fact, 27 years after the wreck, one of the Valencia's life rafts was found floating calmly in nearby Barkley Sound in great condition with most of its original paint.

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