Ghost Ship Jenny & The Frozen Crew

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Born of the eerie and enigmatic nature of the sea, ghost ships have been objects of fascination for centuries. Many of the stories behind phantom vessels have historical evidence, explanations—or at least theories—of how they came to be abandoned and what happened to their crew. The legend of the ghost ship Jenny and how it came to be the Ship of Icy remains shrouded in mystery centuries after it was discovered.

“May 4, 1823. No food for 71 days. I am the only one left alive.” – Was the captain’s last entry in the ghost ship Jenny’s log book. Jenny was an 1800’s English schooner that became frozen in ice crossing the Drake Passage in 1823.

Captain Brighton writing his last journal entry for the cursed ghost ship Jenny

Ghost Ships: A Common Thread

A sketch of the ghost ship jenny
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

One of the earliest substantiated claims of a phantom vessel is one that ran aground on Easton’s Beach in Rhode Island, between 1750 and 1760. The SV Sea Bird is well-known through a fictional account, but historical records also exist.

Another well-researched and factually interesting instance was the disappearance of Sir John Franklin—a British Royal Navy Officer and Arctic explorer who, after serving the crown in wars against Napoleonic France and the United States led an ill-fated expedition in search of the Northwest Passage in 1845 (Ray 2023). Countless stories are associated with Franklin’s vanished expedition. Two centuries later his disappearance is just as fascinating and inexplicable now as it was at the time (Schuster 2)

Karl T. Andree a German geographer and publicist, is well-known for linking the story of Franklin and the ghost ship Jenny. As the editor of the Globus, he purportedly brought the two stories together first. In his excitement of the first edition of his geographical journal, he wanted to create interest. His enthusiasm stirred from introducing the general public to the exciting side of geography (Schuster 2).

Watch the Ghost Ship Jenny on Puzzle Box Horror’s YouTube channel

Jenny of the Isle of Wight

Ghost ships are clearly not an impossible concept. The events that surround the ghost ship, Jenny, however, are most unusual and highly unsettling. Bohemia, boasts a narrative that is simultaneously more believable and different than popularly cited sources. Regardless of these differences, the story remains an eerie example of the destructive capacity of Mother Nature.

The ghost ship Jenny was, allegedly, an English schooner that hailed from the Isle of Wight. She would come to be the subject of a legend that remains unproven to this day. The Jenny left its home port on the Isle of Wight, and made a successful journey all the way to the port of Callao, Peru—the main port just outside of Lima. With one-half of their journey completed, the crew of the Jenny would have to sail their vessel through the treacherous waters of the Drake Passage once again. The Jenny’s return trip would end in the Drake Passage—but what caused the ship’s voyage to end so abruptly?

The Drake Passage: The Roughest Seas in the World

The Drake Passage has the roughest seas known in the world. This is largely due to the fact that the Pacific, Atlantic, and Southern Oceans all converge into this one passage. With no landmasses to create resistance, the winds can reach incredible speeds. All of this adds up to rocky waters that only the most robust of vessels can withstand. Throughout maritime history, the Drake Passage has claimed more than 800 ships and with them, the lives of approximately 20,000 sailors. (Andrews, 2015)

The Story of the Ghost Ship Jenny

Little to nothing is known about what Jenny and her crew endured during their travels. Countless versions of their story have been published and since speculated upon. It is believed that Jenny began her journey in England. She left her home port on the Isle of Wight approximately a year before the last entry in her logbook. The intended voyage and where Jenny ended up is vaguely mentioned. However, it is known through each rendition of her story that she navigated the Drake Passage. Her last port of call was Callao, Peru—the de facto port of the city of Lima.

From Peru, Jenny traveled back through the Drake Passage but this is where her journey, as we know it, ended abruptly. It would be quite some time before the fate of Jenny and her crew would be discovered and no evidence of her expedition has been uncovered outside of the stories of her rediscovery. Regardless, any theories surrounding her disappearance would be pure speculation.

Did the Ghost Ship Jenny really exist?

Upon further research, neither the ghost ship Jenny, the whaling vessel Hope nor Captain Brighton could be found among any official documentation of Andree’s sources for the 1862 edition of Globus (Schuster 2). The story that appeared in Globus in 1862 was, however, traced back to the original publication which had been anonymously printed in Bohemia on February 14, 1841. In fact, the story had not only been printed in Bohemia but at least nine other magazines and newspapers within the same year. The only significant difference that could be cited was the year Brighton was said to have found the ghost ship Jenny, but whether it was 1839 or 1840 really made no difference to the readers.

It is assumed that since none of the publications cite a source for their information, the initial journalist likely believed the information was authentic and happened upon it from an oral source since no documentation of an English source has ever been discovered (Schuster 3).

There are theories that suggest that the ghost ship Jenny story is actually an Antarctic retelling of the Octavius which had not only happened on the opposite side of the globe, but almost an entire century prior (Schuster 3). It’s curious, but true that many renditions of the legend include details identical to those of the Octavius. The cargo ship turned ghost ship allegedly vanished off the coast of Greenland in 1761. The story tells us of its miraculous discovery fifteen years later. The crew froze in their agonizing final moments. The Captain, pen still in hand, froze at his desk.

The Ship in the Ice

In an effort to consolidate the details into one manageable story, we have taken the multitude of sources we found and created our own version of the story, just as the storytellers of our past might have done.

That was the story. Question the manner of telling
But be sure at least of ice and pain and silence.
Of Time? Well, there one can never be certain —
For you a thing to be measured, perhaps — for me, a searching,
And for seven alone on a frozen ship? I wonder.
However it was, is beyond our chance of knowing.

— from The Ship of Ice by Rosemary Dobson.
September 22, 1839

Captain Brighton of the whaling ship the Hope, entered into his logbook the sighting of a whale. When their chase drew them close to the ice barrier, they lost sight of the whale. In an effort to find the safety of calm seas, Brighton and his crew found themselves in the middle of a chain of icebergs. Around nine in the evening, a storm was upon them, despite the situation Brighton was more annoyed than afraid since they had chanced into a basin of calm waters. He alerted his crew to remain awake so that they might catch a favorable midnight breeze and navigate out of the basin. If they didn’t turn back, then they risked becoming stuck in the ice for the entire winter.

As the midnight winds hit…

They brought with them a flurry of snow and thunderous cracks that left the crew filled with dread. Brighton knew this sound was an indication that the icebergs surrounding them were breaking apart and his fears were confirmed when tremendous shock waves rocked the Hope from all sides. Escaping the basin proved to be impossible, as did finding a safe place to pass the rest of the night. Anxiety persisted amongst the crew, but they managed to stay afloat through the night. Morning light brought a calm over the crew when they saw their ship had taken no significant damage. An astonished crew noted that the mountainous bergs that had closed them in the day before now lay shattered around them. The icy waters that surrounded them bore a resemblance to a desert archipelago.

Around midday…

The sailor at the watch in the masthead cried out that he had spotted a ship at sea. Persistent icebergs blocked Brighton’s line of sight for a time, but when the hull came into view he stood aghast. The sails faced in strange directions and the ship’s rigging was wholly miserable. They watched as the vessel sailed feebly under the persuasion of the wind before it finally came to rest upon an iceberg. Captain Brighton, along with a few of his men boarded their ship’s jolly boat and quickly rowed over to the derelict vessel which had so piqued their curiosity. A more intimate view of the ship revealed a slew of impacts against the ice that the hull had withstood.

From their vantage point in the jolly boat, they could see no one on the deck. A blanket of snow that reached an incredible height covered the ship’s deck. Still, Brighton called out to the ship several times and received no answer. Just as they were about to make their way up to the deck, an open gate caught Brighton’s attention. Twilight permitted him to see the silhouette of a man sitting in a chair at a desk. He could just make out writing instruments and an open book in front of him. Brighton and his men hesitated no longer. Once on deck, they shoveled away the high blanket of snow that covered the trapdoor to the cabin.

Consumed with anxiety…

The men descended into the depths of the ship. Together they headed to where Captain Brighton had seen the man sitting. They trembled in anticipation as they came face to face with the stranger, who sat unresponsive in front of them. Brighton took a few steps closer to him and observed that the man was dead. Upon closer inspection, he noted something disturbing. A thin greenish mold covered the man’s forehead and cheeks. What was worse, was that it clouded the man’s eyes as well. The ship’s logbook lay open in front of him. It was open to the last entry and a quill lay aside the dead man’s hand. The man had succumbed to the elements shortly after penning the final log.

“January 17, 1823. Today it is seventy-one days that our ship has been trapped in the ice. All our efforts were in vain — last night the fire was extinguished, and all our captain’s efforts to light it again failed — this morning his wife died of hunger and cold, as did five of the sailors from the crew. No more hope!”

Next, the men…

Ventured into the Captain’s quarters, wherein they found the corpse of a woman on the bed. Her features remarkably preserved by the cold, she still held the appearance of life. However, her torment-twisted limbs told the story of the pain and suffering she had endured in her last hours. They next searched the crew’s quarters at the front of the ship. There they found several sailors lying dead in their hammocks. Even the dog lay frozen to death under the stairs in the corner. Out of all the things the men found in their search, food, and fuel were not among them.

Little by little Brighton’s men lost their mettle. Their fears and superstitions prevented Brighton from investigating the ship as thoroughly as he would have liked. Saddened by what they had discovered, Brighton took the ship’s logbook. Noted in the logbook was the ship’s last port of call—Callao, Peru. On the cover of the logbook, Brighton saw the name Jenny of the Isle of Wight. Brighton resolved to return the logbook to the ship’s owner. When he returned to his ship, he did so with renewed conviction. Any ship which ventured too far into these inhospitable waters faced incalculable dangers.

Fact or Fiction: The Jenny’s Mystery Persists

Outside of the legend, there are very few references of the Jenny in fictional works. Both of the works we found through our research were published within the last century. Rosemary Dobson wrote the poem “The Ship of Ice” in 1948. Her poem won her the Sydney Morning Herald award for poetry that same year. In her poem, she mentions that the discovery of the ghost ship Jenny happened in 1860. She cited the information she pulled from the anonymous report The Drift of Jenny, 1823-1840. She cited an English translation of the story from the Globus in 1862.

In 2018, Michael Wilkinson published a short story, entitled “The Drift of the Jenny”. It was a dramatic rendition of the story from the article found in the Globus in 1862. He included elaborate details and perspectives that otherwise would have been unknown. The retelling of this story by new authors truly inspires creative minds to keep old legends alive.

The truth behind the ghost ship Jenny continues to elude us, but our sources remain. The legends as they appeared in both Bohemia and Globus have been included below in their English translations. We hope that you, the reader, will conduct your own investigation. Ascertain the details for yourself and draw your own conclusions. This centuries-old mystery may simply be the evolution of a sailor’s yarn into an urban legend or, this seemingly tall tale may have been birthed from true events. New and substantial developments are unlikely to be found. That doesn’t mean that a dilapidated ghost ship Jenny and her crew aren’t still sailing the haunted inhospitable Antarctic waters.


The Original Tales, Translated

The following article appeared in Bohemia, ein unterhaltungsblatt on February 14, 1841. It is the earliest printed source of the legend for the ghost ship Jenny.

What follows is a direct translation of the story as it was printed in the Bohemia magazine in 1841:

The Ship in the Ice.

A true story.

The ship the Hope, Captain Brighton, equipped for whale fishing beyond Cape Horn in the calm sea, found itself in the middle of a chain of icebergs on September 22nd, 1839, at 9 o’clock in the evening, just as stormy tides were setting in, which formed a wide bay, so to speak. Not half an hour from his ship the captain noticed another long line of ice cliffs of wonderful height and completely covered with snow. All space through which the eye could pass was filled with enormous masses of ice, which showed that the ocean was closed in this direction.

Captain Brighton, however, found his situation more difficult than dangerous, for there was complete calm in the large basin. He was not afraid of being thrown against one of those ice rocks that lay motionless. He therefore limited himself to the exact vigilance that his position required of him; the whole crew remained awake on deck to catch the breeze which usually rises after midnight; in this case, he wanted to turn the ship around immediately because if he had ventured any further he would have to fear being surrounded by ice for the entire winter.

At midnight…

A strong wind arose and brought a flurry of snow. A thunder-like crack, a terrible roar, filled the crew with terror. It was a sign that the ice was moving. The Hope received tremendous shocks from the floating ice masses; it was impossible to find a safe place. The night passed with anxiety difficult to describe. In the morning the storm calmed down and the crew was pleased to see that the ship had not suffered any significant damage. The sailors were astonished to see that the icy mountains that had been so tightly closed yesterday had been shattered, and the entire sea had taken on the appearance of a desert archipelago.

Towards midday, the watch in the masthead shouted: “A ship at sea! At first, some icebergs floating between this ship and the Hope prevented the captain from seeing more than the mastheads, but soon the hull came into view, and Brighton was amazed by the strange direction of the sails and the miserable appearance of the ship the rigging was astonishing. The vessel sailed fleetingly before the wind for a distance of a few cable lengths and finally hit an iceberg.

Soon the crew…

Of the Hope noticed that the strange ship was abandoned. But Captain Brighton let out a boat. He boarded it with a few sailors and quickly rowed over to the ship whose appearance had so excited his curiosity. As he got closer, he saw the ship’s hull, as it were, gnawed by time or by countless impacts against the ice. No one was on the deck, which was covered in snow to an incredible height.

Brighton called the strange ship several times, but there was no answer. He was just about to climb up when an open gate caught his attention. Through the window panes, he saw a man sitting on a chair in front of a table on which there was a kind of register, writing utensils, and pens. The twilight in this room prevented the captain from seeing more.

Brighton and the sailors…

With him did not hesitate to climb the deck. Here they first had to shovel away the high blanket of snow that covered the trapdoor of the cabin. Here they descended with a mixed feeling of anticipation and secret horror. First, they went to the room where the captain had seen the man sitting. When they entered they couldn’t help but tremble. The unknown sat there, didn’t move, and didn’t return the greeting of his guests. The man took a few steps closer to him and saw that he was without life. A thin, greenish mold covered his forehead and cheeks and clouded his eyes. He was a man about thirty years old. A feather lay next to his hand on the table, and the ship’s book was open in front of him.

The last passage in this journal read as follows:

“17. January 1839. Today it is seventy-one days that our ship has been trapped between the ice. All our efforts were in vain — last night the fire was extinguished, and all our captain’s efforts to light it again failed — this morning his wife died of hunger and cold, as did five of the sailors from the crew. No more hope!”

Captain Brighton and his sailors were forced to leave the horrible place after such a sight. When they entered the main façade, the first thing they noticed was the body of a woman on a bed. Her features had retained all the freshness of life, only her limbs, through their twisting, indicated the terrible torments under which the poor thing had died. At her side was sitting on the floorboards a lifeless young man, holding a steel in his right hand and a flint in his left, next to him was a can of tinder.

From here…

The captain went to the front of the ship to the crew’s quarters; several sailors lay dead in their hammocks. A dog was found frozen to death under the stairs in a corner. There was no food or fuel anywhere.

Captain Brighton was prevented by the superstitious fear of his sailors, from searching the extinct ship with as much detail as he would have liked. Meanwhile, he took with him the ship’s book, in which was recorded the entire route the ship had taken since it had sailed from Lima. In front of the diary was the name of the ship, Jenny of the Isle of Wight. At last Captain Brighton returned to his board, deeply saddened by the sad spectacle he had just seen, and by his examination convinced anew of the incalculable dangers to which all ships are exposed if they venture too far into the inhospitable Arctic Ocean.


The following article appeared in Globus, Illustrated Magazine for Countries and Ethnography. It was also a self-proclaimed Chronicle of Travel and Geographical Newspaper. This version of the story wasn’t printed until sometime in 1862. This article remains the most cited source of this legend.

What follows is a direct translation of the story as it was printed in the Globus in 1862:

A Ship in the Ice of the Southern Polar Sea.

Mac Clintock’s report on the trip to find Sir John Franklin is read with keen evaluation and not without emotion. At Victoria Point, on the northwest coast of King Williams Island, where Bad Bay lies, the first written record of the missing sailors was recovered; It was dated May 28, 1847, and at that time everything was fine. But there was a postscript in the margins, according to which the ships Erebus and Terror were abandoned on April 22, 1848, having been encased in ice since September 12, 1846. Franklin had already died on June 11, 1847, and the total death toll already amounted to 9 officers and 15 men from the remaining crew. On April 26th the survivors wanted to escape to Bad’s Fish River.

On May 30, 1859, Mac Clintock found a large boat on the west coast of King Williams Island, not far from Cape Crozier (latitude 69° 8′ north, longitude 100° 8′ west), at a point where the coast bends to the east his companion Hobson had been examined a few days earlier. It was 28 feet long, flat-built, and carefully prepared for travel on the large fishing stream, and consisted of a very strong sleigh. In this boat lay two human skeletons; One had been chased home by wolves, and the other was still covered in clothes and belts. Beside these unfortunates were five rifles, and on the side were two double-barreled shotguns, each of which had a barrel loaded.

Next to various…

Autochthon* books was a copy of the eulogist from Wakefield. Mac Clintock also found an astonishing array of clothing, nails, files, all sorts of implements, some tea, forty cans of chocolate, some tobacco and firebolt. The Eskimos had already told us that many white men had fallen on the way to the great Fish River; A skeleton partially covered in snow had been found at Cape Herschel. An old Eskimo woman hunted: “They fell down and died while they were running.”

Mac Clintock’s report reminded us of a funny one we once read about a dead ship in the southern Arctic Ocean.

It must be a terrible fate to be surrounded by icebergs in the gray polar cold, to be pinned down and to be wiped out by cold, hunger, terror, and doubt, and to say to yourself that you have disappeared without a trace.

In September 1840, the whaler Hope, Captain Brighton, cruised beyond Cape Horn in the southern Arctic Ocean. One September evening the wind drove him to ice fields and mountains, which formed a wide road. About half a nautical mile away, an indistinguishable chain of high, snow-covered Spitsbergen** was visible; Everything was covered in ice and in that direction, the ocean was visibly closed. In the wide basin, however, the sea was rough and the Hope was in no danger of strolling towards the ice coast; Nor were there any icebergs floating around, as they all formed one continuous body of water. However, the captain was always vigilant and the crew was ready to take advantage of the first favorable wind, which usually blows around midnight in September.

If you explore…

This ice base for a long time, a terrible event could occur that the icebergs become mobile, fold together, and wedge the whaler until mild bitterness sets in or for eternity.

The wind really picked up at midnight and at the same time, there was a heavy snowstorm. Soon afterwards a thunder-like sound rang out and the terrible crash of the icebergs filled the crew with fear and horror. The previously rigid masses of ice began to move. The floes also began to drift rapidly and collide against the ship, and Brighton barely had any hope of finding a way out of the billowing ice labyrinth.

The terrible night passed away amidst people who didn’t give in to gossip. The storm subsided as day appeared and was considerably busy. The ice masses, which in the evening had formed an impassable, mountainous mainland, now dissolved into countless floating islands and formed, as it were, a mobile archipelago.

A ship in sight! About midday the sailor on duty called Go from the masthead. The captain, who was on deck, could only see the tops of the masts because of the icebergs between the Hope and the indicated ship, but he soon noticed the strange condition of the rigging. The ship drifted downwind against an iceberg and then came to a standstill.

There was now…

There was now no longer any doubt that the team had deserted. The captain put a boat out to sea and went to the wreck. It soon became apparent how much it had suffered. There was heavy snow on the deck and not a living creature was to be found; There was no answer to repeated calls. Brighton docked and boarded with three sailors. Not a soul moved. When he entered the cabin, what did he see? A man sat on a chair in front of a table on which a logbook lay. Everyone’s hair stood on end because the man remained motionless and the greeting that was called out to him remained unanswered. The man was a dead corpse; He still had a pen in his hand and the last word in the logbook read:

“January 17, 1823. Today is our seventy-first day since we were surrounded by the ice. Despite all our efforts, the fire went out yesterday. His wife is sick today died of hunger and cold; no more hope!”

That’s how it was in the helmsman’s cabin. In the captain’s room, the corpse of a woman lay on the bed; Her face still bore almost all the expressions of life, and only the cramped appearance pulled together limbs suggested the battle she had fought with death. A man sat next to her; On the ground next to him lay firesteel, stone, and a lighter filled with burned canvas. Several sailors were found frozen to death in the hammocks, a dead dog lay in front of the stairs and there was no trace of food anywhere.

The Fear and…

Superstition of the sailors did not allow further investigation, but Captain Brighton took the logbook with him to give to the shipowners. The ship was the Jenny and was based on the Isle of Wight; It had last been in the port of Callao near Lima and had lain in the Antarctic ice for a full seventeen years. Captain Brighton returned happily to Europe with the Hope.

*/ôˈtäkTH(ə)n, ôˈtäkˌTHän/ noun. an original or indigenous inhabitant of a place.

**Dutch for jagged peaks or pointed mountains

Books About Ghost Ship Jenny

Works Cited

Andrews, Candice Gaukel. “Travel Tale: Rite of Passage—Crossing the Drake.” Good Nature, Natural Habitat Adventures, 18 June 2015, https://www.nathab.com/blog/travel-tale-rite-of-passage-crossing-the-drake/. Accessed 1 Oct. 2023.

“Aus dem Seeleben.” Gemeinnützige Blätter zur Belehrun und Unterhaltung, 22 April 1841, p. 3 https://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno?apm=0&aid=gop&datum=18410422&seite=3

“Das Schiff im Eise.” Bohemia, ein unterhaltungsblatt, 14 February 1841, pp. 2-3. https://kramerius.nkp.cz/kramerius/PShowPageDoc.do?id=9246294

“Das Schiff im Eise. Eine wahre Begebenheit.” Brünner Zeitung der k.k. priv. mährischen Lehenbank, 6 March 1841, p. 4. https://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno?apm=0&aid=bru&datum=18410306&seite=4

“Das Schiff im Eise.” Der Bote von Tyrol, 1 March 1841, p. 4. https://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno?aid=bvt&datum=18410301&seite=4

“Das Todtenschiff.” Der Siebenbürger Bote, 12 March 1841, p. 2. https://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno?apm=0&aid=dsb&datum=18410312&seite=2

Dobson, Rosemary. “The Ship of Ice.” Sydney Morning Herald, February 22, 1947, p. 9. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/rendition/nla.news-article18016498.3.html?followup=48bf054771775a7bb3c63808df2dde96

“Ein Schiff im Eise des südlichen Polarmeeres.” Globus, Illustrierte Zeitschrift für Länder und Völkerkunde, Hildburghausen Verlag vom Bibliographischen Institut, 1862. pp. 60-61. https://ia600409.us.archive.org/15/items/bub_gb_vn_lAAAAMAAJ/bub_gb_vn_lAAAAMAAJ.pdf

“Ein Schiff im Eismeer.” Didaskalia. Blätter für Geist, Gemüth und Publicität, 16 March 1841, p. 2. https://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno?apm=0&aid=did&datum=18410316&seite=2

“Ein Schiff im Eismeer.” Oesterreichischer Beobachter, 22 March 1841, p. 4. https://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno?apm=0&aid=obo&datum=18410322&seite=4

Jeans, Peter D. “The Schooner Jenny.” Seafaring Lore & Legend: A Miscellany of Maritime Myth, Superstition, Fable, and Fact, International Marine, Camden, ME, 2004, pp. 272–273.

Schuster, Frank M. “In search of the origin of an Antarctic ghost ship: The legend of the Jenny re-evaluated.” Polar Record, 58(e13), 2022, pp. 1-9.

“Sir John Franklin.” Edited by Michael Ray, Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 30 Sept. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Franklin.

“The Drift of the Jenny 1823-1840.” The Polar Record. 12 (79). pp. 411-412. 1965. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/polar-record/article/abs/drift-of-the-jenny-182340/8FA2957ADD4D0964DFFAC2357A201C30

“Vermischte Nachrichten.” Laibacher Zeitung, 2 March 1841, p. 5. https://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno?apm=0&aid=lbz&datum=18410302&seite=5

“Vermischte Nachrichten.” Wiener Zeitung, 19 February 1841, p. 4. https://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno?apm=0&aid=wrz&datum=18410219&seite=4

Wilkinson, Michael. “The Drift of the Jenny.” Stew and Sinkers, edited by David Vernon, Stringybark Publishing, 2018, pp.

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Ghost Tales of the Arctic: The Frozen Spectre

Categories
Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore
Haunted Boardwalk
Haunted Boardwalk

One Halloween night, as the sun slipped beneath the horizon, the young children were coming back from their rounds through the little Yup’ik village on the tundra in Southwest Alaska. The teenagers had waited their turn and eagerly squeezed out of their home, as their mother told them they were allowed to leave. They raced through to each of the small houses that dotted the dark, decrepit, and narrow boardwalks that snaked through the village. Not all of them donned costumes and there was still not yet a flake of snow on the ground, a rare occurrence for such a chilly autumnal night. The tall grass line the boardwalk like two moving walls that whispered with the winds that rushed through the spaces between the houses. They grabbed candy within the first house, then came back out and started back off; at each of the doors, they held their plastic grocery sacks aloft, and they became more heavily laden with candies and treats.

After coming out of the fourth house they spotted something strange emerging from the tall grasses onto the boardwalk behind them—it was a traditional Yup’ik parka, the hood was up and the ruff obscured the view of the face within. It wouldn’t have been strange except for the fact that it had no visible feet or hands. The teenagers sprinted to the next house, scared to death and unsure of what the seemingly floating parka had really been, but they were unwilling to say anything about what they had seen to the adults that were now handing them candy.

Ghost Parka
Photography by Joe Leahy

Between each and every stop for candy, the teens stepped outside and the floating parka had appeared again, as if it was just waiting to scare them. They had all grown up hearing the traditional stories of ghosts and ghouls—all meant to teach them to be cautious in one way or another, as a way to keep them safe in their unforgiving lands. They had a sense that they were being pranked—as if to test their knowledge and preparedness, but not a single one of them could muster up the courage to approach the floating apparition or to try to figure out who was toying with them.

The far north side of the village is where the last batch of houses resided—the travel between where the teenagers were and where their last glimpse of the prized sweets laid was a lengthy weaving, dismally unlit sprawling boardwalk. This path took them directly past the hauntingly abandoned teacher’s quarters that the entire village regularly avoided being near and even speaking about in passing. They made their way down the boardwalk towards this last remaining treasure trove of candy, when the little parka appeared behind them once again. One of the teens looked behind them as they crawled into the artic entry of one of the houses and saw its silhouette looming alone between the spirit-infested teacher’s quarters and the house they entered, blocking their dark and dreadful passage home.

The teenagers reappeared cautiously from the house, but the little parka was nowhere to be seen–each house they exited they huddled together in fear that the ghostly figure would leap out of the shadows and attack them from the front or back, but it didn’t. Then one of the teens gasped and pointed, there it was in the darkness beneath a building, huddled behind one of the steel posts that propped it up from the permafrost–it sat upright, waiting for them. All at once, it sprang up toward them with a hideous scream and chased the teenagers down the boardwalk, growls emanated from the unending abyss of the hood. As the spirit overcame them, they recognized the dead black eyes that sat deep in his sunken frostbitten features; it was the village boy whose snow machine had broken through the ice on the river. The boy had then managed to climb out from what would have been a certain death only to succumb to the elements before anyone could find him, only a year prior.

Broken Ice
Photography by Eberhard Gross-Gasteiger

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Ghost, Demon, or Poltergeist?

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore
Silhouette Behind the Door
Photography by MontyLov

Haunted by Ghosts

As was discussed in our article Ghosts Can Be More Than Just Dead People, ghosts are generally the spirits of humans and animals that have passed away. What people assume or claim are ghosts are not necessarily fitting of their description, but it’s easy to understand why the whole thing might be a little bit confusing. The truth is, is that ghosts, demons, and poltergeists are often mislabeled and it, therefore, makes it more difficult to really know what kind of being the evidence acquired actually points to. Ghosts, spirits, and apparitions all point to the same thing—the spirit or soul of a human or animal that has passed on. These spirits haunt locations, objects, and most importantly other living creatures. Haunting living creatures is not to be confused with possessing living creatures, not to say they are unable to possess, but not all possessions are ghostly in nature—and this is an important distinction to be made.

Possessed by Demons

A lady screaming in the dark
Photography by Camila Quintero Franco

Another topic for confusion is how demons are perceived, this is unfortunate because much of the evidence for demons seems to simply be cases of malevolent ghosts and not entities that are truly demonic in nature. One such misinformed definition, from Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, is that demons are, “a type of spirit that may be either good or evil that allegedly has the ability to intervene in the affairs of humankind.” While it’s true that many cultures perceive some demonic entities to be good, the word spirit was a poor choice in attempting to define what a demon actually is.

Religious definitions, such as the one from Christianity, assert that demons are evil minions of Satan and that their sole purpose is to torment people, then inevitably lead them into sin. The strategic takeover of pagan cultures turned their deities into demons in Christianity. Other religions, however, suggest that demons can be good or evil entities—or indeed have a dual nature like human beings. Regardless of the nature of the entity, good or evil, demons quite often exercise their ability to possess or inhabit living creatures. There are instances reported where demons have possessed inanimate objects, but this can be chalked up to another case of a ghost that has been mislabeled as a demonic entity.

Terrorized by Poltergeists

Demons and poltergeists are also quite frequently confused for one another—the main reason for this is because Poltergeists are mischievous and often malicious spirits or energy. Ghosts and poltergeists also confused for each other, but poltergeists, in particular, are entities or energies identified by their consistent abilities to interact in a vigorous way with their environment. It would be unfair to say that poltergeists are not, in fact, a type of ghost or spirit, but if they are to be classified as ghosts in any sense, they are in a league of their own entirely.

The earliest reports of poltergeists tell of the different types of interactions they have within the environment that they inhabit. These interactions include, but were not limited to, throwing rocks or other objects, loud noises (such as shrieking, and knocking or rapping), inexplicable lights and apparitions, as well as in rare cases sexual assaults. Later cases would grow to include technology-related events, such as phone numbers being dialed repeatedly or televisions turning on. The speculation that remains with poltergeists relates to the scientific data that has been collected in pursuit of evidence of their existence—many cases of poltergeist activity have clear indications of mental problems within the agent (or the primary person being affected) that even support theories of psychokinesis.

Some examples of poltergeist activity caught on camera.

Hopefully, this helps answer an age-old question we often see: “What is the difference between a ghost, a demon, and a poltergeist?” Below are a few scary movie recommendations related to ghosts, demons, and poltergeists.

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Ghosts of the Ancient World

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore

Although the trend of ghost hunting only seems to have gained popularity in more modern times, the phenomena of ghosts, as well as the belief in their existence has been around since ancient times. Just like the belief in a higher power, the details may vary from culture to culture, but across all of them one thing remains consistent—the existence of a realm where the human soul survives after death. This isn’t so much an evaluation on whether or not ghosts exist, so much as an acknowledgement that cultures across the world place value in the idea that death is not the end for the soul. In Christianity, depending upon the lifestyle that the individual led, the soul either spends an eternity with a benevolent god, or in perpetual torment. In Voodoo, veneration of ancestors plays a large part in religious practice and different pagan religions have different ideas of the afterlife and where their soul will go once they have passed. Another commonality between all of these cultural beliefs is that the human soul, once having passed into the realm of the dead is that the soul would invariably remain in this next realm, unless authorized by the governing entity of the realm. That is to say, there has to be a reason for which the soul is released back to the plane of the living, this could be due to a variety of different reason, such as improper or nonexistent burial and funeral rites, most of these are due to a body having never been recovered. Another common reason behind a soul returning is to resolve unfinished business, whether this is to give an account of the true events surrounding their death, or to give a message to a loved one who is experiencing an inordinate amount of guilt. Even in modern times, the occurrence of encountering a ghost, no matter what the circumstances, is very rarely an experience that one wishes to have. So what did these modern beliefs and experiences evolve from?

How Cultures Viewed the Afterlife

image of an ancient ghost

An unexpected visit from the dead has always meant in one way or another that something was wrong—this meant that whatever message the ghost had to deliver, or business it had to resolve needed to be taken care of in order for the spirit to ever obtain peace and be able to rest for eternity. This was such a common theme across ancient cultures that stories can be compared from across regions of India, China, Greece, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome, Ireland, and Scotland, with similar depictions regardless of origin.

Mesopotamian Land of the Dead

Although known by many names, the land of the dead in Mesopotamia was a realm from which there was no return—Irkalla, was the realm of the dead, where they dwelt in darkness and lived in the muck and mire that was provided for them, regardless of their social status or moral fortitude during their lifetime. Souls weren’t given permission to pass back to the world of the living unless they had been given a special mission to attend to, such as righting a wrong.

Egyptian Land of the Dead

In ancient Egyptian lore, passing into the land of the dead was an enormous trial—where the soul would go through the Hall of Truth to be judged by Osiris and the forty-two judges. The white feather of truth was deemed the way in which all souls were judged, whereupon weight the feather and the heart of the human who had passed, only those whose hearts were lighter than the feather would pass to the afterlife. Those who were found to have a heart heavier than the feather would have their soul eaten by a monster—so to pass into the afterlife, there was a necessity to live in truth and purity. This afterlife was known as the Field of Reeds, where the soul would enjoy all of the favorite things that they knew in their lifetime, which meant that the soul would not return to the plane of the living unless they had an important reason to do so.

Land of the Dead in Ancient Greece and Rome

In the ancient societies of Greece and Rome, the pagan culture that surrounded daily practice embraced a more complex theory of the afterlife, where the souls of the dead were assigned to a specific realm depending upon their life and how they lived it. Warriors had their own realm, good people had the second, and bad people had the third realm, into which they went to atone for their wrongdoings. No soul was ever condemned to an eternity of damnation, it was more considered penance that could eventually be fulfilled, at which point they would be sent to the realm for those who had lived a good life. Before being sent to their designated realm, Greek and Roman culture dictated that they would be given a drink to forget about their former lives and only know the realm to which they were assigned—this made it clear that ghosts had little to no reason to ever return to the land of the living. That being said, ghosts would occasionally return, but only for good reason, usually to fix an injustice brought upon themselves or a family member, once justice was served the soul would “die” a second time and return to the plane they had been sent to.

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