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Tales of the unexplained: Spooky ghost ship stories from around the world

Tales of the unexplained: Spooky ghost ship stories from around the world

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SS Ourang Medan

The mysterious demise of the ship's entire crew

Tales of ghost ships are legion and have had a particular hold on the public imagination — even causing some to cling to strange sailor superstitions — down the years. Most involve the absence of crew, thus heightening the mystery, though there are instances where some poor souls are aboard and there is no apparent reason for their untimely demise.

One of the most notorious ghost ship stories, the tale of the SS Ourang Medan is shrouded in mystery. The legend goes that in 1947 a cargo ship off the coast of Indonesia put out a distress call with the words: “All officers including captain are dead lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.” Before help could arrive, a second message was radioed in with just two words: “I die.”

Rescue workers who boarded the ship discovered to their horror that the crewmembers were indeed deceased with their bodies contorted and arms outstretched as if fending off an attacker, but without any signs of injury. An engine room fire then caused the ship to be abandoned and eventually sink, taking its ghastly secret, and any chance of an autopsy investigation, to Davy Jones’ locker.

Later reports contradicted this supernatural tale, however, with a 1948 newspaper article citing a survivor who blamed the deaths on a leak of its deadly cargo — sulphuric acid. What’s more, there is no record of the SS Orang Medan in Lloyd’s Registry, leading some to conclude that this ghost story is pure fabrication.

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