Ghosts from the depths
Early one morning a long time ago, according to the tradition, a ship sailed in to land at Īle-de-Batz at Bretagne. The crews on the local fishing-boats looked up from their nets and recognised it as a familiar boat. They heard voices from it who gave orders and calls in towards land. Then, to their surprise, the boat disappeared. It was gone as fog in strong sunlight. Later they heard the boat had sunk several miles away just as that moment it had showed itself at the harbour.
Sailors have told legends about such ghostships ever since man started to sail the seas. Some of these phantom ships - the most famous being The Flying Dutchman - is said to have been seen several times. Such ships can haunt a stormy part of the oceans and can be seen in the waters where the accident struck them. Or maybe they show up just about anywhere as a sign of a forecoming danger. Others - as the one at Batz - just show one time and that is at the moment as the ship is sinking with the crew and everything. Sometimes a ship can be haunted and be known to accommodate ghosts.
Sceptics come with explanations. They say a normal ship can look as a phantom ship when it is exposed to a light phenomenon which is called St. Elmo's fire. And changes of the temperature can create refractions which makes it seem as a ship is very close, when it in reality are beyond the horizon. And sailors are known to be superstitious, since they live a dangerous life. But some stories about hauntings at sea, like the ones to be told here, can't be explained in a scientific way.
A burning phantom ship
With a cargo consisting of three hundred immigrants the Dutch ship Palatine sailed out from Amsterdam in 1752, heading for America. After a terrible and stormy voyage the ship met its horrible destiny around Christmas outside Block Island at the mouth of Long Island Sound.
According to a story it was wreckers who, with misleading torches tricked the ship up on the cliffs, plundered it and put it on fire. The passengers were brought to land, but while the fire consumed Palatine a scream made the plunderers to stop with their business. Through flames and smoke they saw a lonely woman crawl over the burning deck whitout a chance to save herself.
Around Christmas a year later and during the following years inhabitants on Block Island said to have seen the burning ship returning. Year 1869 an old man, by the name Benjamin Corydon who had lived on the mainland across the island, assured he had seen the burning ship at eight or nine occasions.
All the sails were set and the flames were high.
He also said her visits ended when the last one of the wreckers died, but maybe he said that to early, because it's been reported to have been seen as late as year 1969.
A ghostly crew
A stormy day year 1869 the schooner Charles Haskell from Gloucester in Massachusetts found an anchorage for the night, among other ships which were pressed together at Georges Bank, an Atlantic fishing place. When the darkness had fallen the storm made Haskell's anchor to lose its grip and the boat drifted in to another fishing boat which sank so fast with all on board that Haskell's captain and crew didn't found out until later that it had been Andrew Jackson from Salem.
According to the legend, that same week, a sailor were standing guard at midnight on Haskell and he saw a movement on the fore deck. While he looked one shadowy figure after another climbed onboard over the ship's rail in dripping oilskin clothes. It was a phantom crew, probably the men from Jackson, who set invisible sail and hauled in just as invisible fishing net under death silence.
The legend says they returned every night until Haskell returned home. When they came to Gloucester the whole crew refused to sign on again. Haskell were sold to a a man from Nova Scotia after a few months in harbour, and he decided to never sail her to Georges Bang. It is said the phantom fishermen never showed again.
A haunted giant
The huge ship Great Eastern, with an iron body five times as big as any other ship at that time, were calamitous already from the start. Five men were killed while she were built and another one, a riveter, just vanished. There were rumours that his colleagues accidentaly had walled him in between the ships double hulls. When Great Eastern went on its maiden trip in 1859 a boiler broke and killed five crewmembers.
The captain soon complained he were often brutally wakened by "a neverending hammering" from the ship's inside. The sailors meant it was the walled in riveter's spirit. The hammering were reported over and over while Great Eastern continued its unlucky route. Not enough passenger tickets were ever sold to make a profit and she suffered from storms and misfortunes.
In year 1862 she hit an underwater rock outside New York. The workers who mended the hull got terrified when they heard a knocking sound, but soon it was discovered the banging noices came from some equipment which were moving with the ship.
In 1865 the colossus got a job laying the Atlantic Cable, a work of disgrace for a luxury steamboat. 1887 - her career were over and she almost went under when she were dragged in to a shipyard in Liverpool after it was said that the hammering had been heard again. The spirit which were said to have infested in her finally got its rest year 1889, when the shipyard workers who cut her body to pieces found a human skeleton next to a tool-box with rusty tools.
When the big passenger ship Queen Mary in October 1942 were used as a troopship and went zigzag to avoid enemy submarines she ran into an escourting cruiser, HMS Curacao. The enormous ship of 84 000 ton went straight through the 4 200 ton ship Curacao. Over 300 sailors met death in the ice cold water.
More than forty years later, when the old Queen were laying at the docks as a tourist attraction in Long Beach, California, a timberman, by the name John Smith, reported he had heard voices and sounds of splashing water when he worked at the ship's bow. It was that part of the ship which had crashed into the side of the cruiser. Smith said he did not know about the accident during the war, when he first heard the noices.
William G. Roll, the famous parapsychologist, investigated the ship in 1988. At the bow Roll heard voices, which he could not find an explanation to. A tape recorder, which started when noices were heard, catched voiced and "a sound, sounding like running water". Roll meant he could not be certain if the sounds were an echo of the accident which had occured in 1942, but thought the phenomenon should be studied more.