The sea has always been a prime spot for terrifying tales. From the monstrously beautiful creatures that lurk in the depths of the ocean (think mermaids) to the countless people who have vanished at sea without a trace, this large body of water is as scary as it is stunning. And it’s not just human spirits that you’ll come across on the water, but also ghost ships. These urban legends have been told for centuries, with stories of sailors who disappear and mysterious ships that quite literally go passing in the night. Flying Dutchman is a classic ghostly vessel that you may have heard about at a bonfire or two, but do you know about the spirit ships that sail along the West Coast? From Washington to Alaska, here are the spooky mariner tales that will keep you away from the water.
Formerly used to trade provisions for pelts in Inuit settlements, this ghost ship cruised along the Alaskan coast for nearly four decades. There have been countless sightings of the SS Baychimo since she broke free of the ice, and her crew, in 1931… always sailing with no crew in sight. The scary part? Quite a few people have managed to board the ship, but have been unable to salvage her due to intervening factors – like the creeping ice floes that stopped Captain High Polson or the freak storm that trapped a group onboard for 10 days in 1933. It’s almost like supernatural factors always help her escape, right? The last known sighting of the SS Baychimo was in 1969, around 38 years after she initially went missing. The Alaskan government has been unsuccessfully trying to find her since 2006, and we’re sure that she’s still cruising along the ice somewhere!
There are some tales about ghost ships that are simply low-key, with the vessel escaping its crew and calmly sailing the seas solo for decades. The story of Squando is not one of them. In fact, it’s downright brutal. This Norwegian ship docked in San Francisco back in 1890, and took a violet turn when the Captain and his wife decided to murder and decapitate the first mate. The reasons for the killing vary by telling, but one fact remains the same – the headless corpse was discovered in the San Francisco bay some time later. As a result, the Captain and his wife were captured and executed. While the ship found a new crew shortly afterwards, they eventually murdered the new Captain… and the next two were also killed in violent ways. By 1893, the Squando’s reputation as a cursed ship preceded it, and the entire crew decided to desert the vessel in the Bay. However, that hasn’t stopped its legacy from sailing on. Over a century later, there are still stories about the Squando, and how you can still make out the ghostly outline of the ship sailing off the Embarcadero along the San Francisco coastline.
Siletz Bay Ship
Does the fact that this ghost ship has no name or backstory make it even scarier? Quite possibly. Siletz Bay is a scenic area in Oregon composed of gorgeous blue waters, and it’s been said that you might just get another view on foggy days: a phantom ship. Many guests have reported seeing a ghost ship sailing away at a distance, only for it to disappear within seconds. It’s quite literally a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment. Not much is known about the ship or why it was seemingly abandoned, but the spiritual vessel has created quite the buzz in Oregon. It’s a top location in many haunted tours within the state, and guests arrive from all over the world to catch a glimpse of this ghostly ship.
Lost Ship of the Desert
Spanish treasure galleons and riches buried deep beneath the desert grounds of Coachella? That’s what the urban legends say. The Lost Ship of the Desert has been a subject of folklore for centuries, with people saying that an ancient vessel is buried along the Colorado Desert in California. People have tried to dig up the remains to no avail for years, while others claim to have seen the ghostly ship in either its full or deteriorated form. Whether you believe the legends about Spanish explorers, think it’s Viking ship (many people do!), or have doubts about whether it’s there at all… the Lost Ship of the Desert will have a place in folklore for years to come.
The Queen Mary
This legendary vessel gives a new meaning to the term “ghost ship.” The ship itself isn’t a ghostly apparition that you need to stretch to get a sight of – in fact, it’s one of the top landmarks in California. What makes it ghostly? The countless spirits and haunted experiences that happen within the halls of this 80+ year old ship. Time magazine named it one of the top 10 haunted places in America back in 2008, and people flock in from all over the world to stay in the haunted rooms and participate in the hotel’s many ghostly encounters. From the well-dressed man who appears at the end of the hall to the little girl who supposedly drowned in the pool many years ago, the spirits have made a home for themselves at The Queen Mary. And they’re dying for you to come and visit this ghostly ship.
Another infamous ghost ship we just added to our encyclopedia of supernatural horrors is The Ghost Ship Jenny and it might be the most terrifying yet.
I am a lifelong pop culture junkie with immense passion for all forms of art and entertainment. On a typical weekend, I can be found at a concert or musical, chasing ghosts on the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, or watching way too many makeup tutorials on YouTube.