Ghost ships, or phantom ships, make up a big part of the seafaring lore that has been passed down by sailors and fisherman throughout the years. The ships are said to be spectral apparitions that materialize on the horizon before quickly disappearing, and they are believed to be a sign of bad things to come.
The term is also used to describe abandoned vessels that are found adrift with no crew or passengers, often under frightening and mysterious circumstances. Whether real stories of these derelict ships or legends about phantom craft trawling the seas, the following are the ten most famous ghost ships that continue to provoke speculation and mystery in the sea world.
The story of the Flying Dutchman is probably the best known ghost ship. As the story goes, the Flying Dutchman was a vessel out of Amsterdam that was captained by a man named Van der Decken. The ship was making its way toward the East Indies when it encountered dangerous weather near the Cape of Good Hope. Determined to make the crossing, Van der Decken supposedly went mad, murdered his first mate, and vowed that he would cross the Cape, “even if God would let me sail to Judgment Day!” Despite his best efforts, the ship sank in the storm, and as the legend goes, Van der Decken and his ghost ship are now cursed to sail the oceans for all eternity.
To this day, the Flying Dutchman continues to be one of the most-sighted of all ghost ships, and people from deep-sea fishermen to the Prince of Wales have all claimed to have spotted it making its never-ending voyage across the oceans.
The ship was first mentioned in the late 1700s in George Barrington’s seafaring book Voyage to Botany Bay, Richard Wagner wrote a play based on a legend that says the Captain is allowed to go ashore every seven years in order to redeem himself by winning the hand of a maiden. It is said that the appearance of the Flying Dutchman is an omen of disaster and that it is seen most often during stormy weather.