What are ghost ships? They are empty vessels that have been found abandoned at sea. Often, the crew’s disappearance is mysterious. There is no obvious evidence left on board to explain what happened to the boat or its passengers.
So are ghost ships real? Have people really seen ghost ships? Definitely. While there are some purely mythical tales of specter-like ships like The Flying Dutchman floating on the dark sea, most ghost ship stories are all too real.
This list includes stories of real ghost ships that were found floating on the open ocean without their crew. Sometimes there’s an explanation for what happened, but many times there isn’t. If you’re afraid of the ocean, you should probably steer clear of this list, it’s going to absolutely terrify you.
The Mary Celeste
On November 7, 1872, the Mary Celeste left New York for Genoa, Italy. On December 5, 1872, the ship was found abandoned near the coast of Portugal. Everything on board, including the cargo and the crew’s belongings, was undisturbed. The last entry in the log book was dated November 25 and the only thing missing was a single life boat. Ten people had simply vanished, leaving behind no trace of what happened to them.
A sounding rod (a device that measures how much water is in the ship’s hold) left behind on the deck led some to speculate that perhaps the crew mistakenly believed the boat was sinking and they abandoned ship. But whatever happened to them remains a mystery, because they were never seen or heard from again.
The Lunatic Piran
Jure Šterk was an accomplished sailor who had completed a solo trip around the world between 1991 and 1994. In 2007, he set out from New Zealand on another journey. At 70 years old, he was looking to become the oldest man to ever sail around the world without touching land. In April 2009, his sailboat, the Lunatic Piran, was found adrift off the coast of Australia. Its sail was torn to shreds. The last entry in the log book was from January 1, and Šterk was nowhere to be found.
The Carroll A. Deering
The first half of the Carroll A. Deering’s last journey went smoothly. The schooner delivered its cargo of coal to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, without a problem. It was the journey back to North Carolina that went wrong.
On January 31, 1921, the boat was spotted after it ran aground off the coast of Cape Hatteras, NC. The water was too dangerous to approach at the time, but when rescue crews arrived on February 4, they found the ship abandoned. The crew’s belongings were gone, along with the ship’s navigation equipment and logs. Its two lifeboats were missing. An investigation was launched by five federal government departments, but no one ever figured out what happened aboard the ship.
The MV Joyita
The trip from Samoa to Tokelau was only supposed to take 48 hours. The MV Joyita was carrying twenty-five people, and somehow, over the course of two days, they all disappeared.
There were signs that something was wrong on October 6, 1955. The merchant vessel was due in Tokelau on October 5, and when it didn’t arrive, the Royal New Zealand Air Force began a search and rescue operation. But by October 12, there was still no sight of the ship. The rescue mission was called off.
Five weeks later, the captain of another ship spotted the Joyita off the coast of Fiji. It was more than 600 miles west of Tokelau. It was practically laying on its side: thanks to its cork-lined hull, it was nearly impossible to sink, but the ship was clearly wrecked. There was no sign of the captain, crew, or passengers. There were blood-stained bandages found on the deck, and it was clear that the boat had sprung a leak, but no one could figure out why everyone abandoned ship. To this day, it’s a mystery that remains unsolved.