The legend of the Ourang Medan may be one of the creepiest maritime ghost stories ever told. It goes as follows: sometime in the 1940s, ships near the Strait of Malacca received a signal from a Dutch cargo ship, the S.S. Ourang Medan, in distress. When the rescuers boarded the ship to save the crew, they made quite a grisly discovery. The entire crew was dead, without any signs of foul play.
It is said that terror was frozen on the faces of the corpses, which lie all throughout the ship, many with their arms reaching out for help. Before an investigation could get under way, the ship burst into flames, burning any evidence which may have helped solve the mystery of the Ourang Medan.
Legend has it that the Octavius traveled from England to the Orient in 1761 and made it there the following year. However, on the trip back home—while traveling through the Northwest Passage—it became lodged in ice, and its crew members died. The Octavius was found drifting off the coast of Greenland by a whaler in 1775. The crew members were still below board, frozen to death more than a decade after their disappearance.
In 1872, after just one month at sea en route from New York to Italy, the Mary Celeste was discovered sailing aimlessly near Portugal. Curious, the discoverers boarded the ship, only to find the lone lifeboat was gone and the ten-person crew was nowhere to be found.
Piracy and mutiny were ruled out—there weren't any signs of violence aboard the ship, and the crew's belongings were left untouched.
Over the years, people have both theorized that the crew abandoned ship, or that the Mary Celeste succumbed to the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle. Either way, legend has it that every time the ship changed hands, bad luck seemed to follow. In the end, the boat was purposefully destroyed by its owner.
"May 4, 1823. No food for 71 days. I am the only one left alive," reads an ominous entry of the Jenny's captain's logbook after his ship became trapped in ice. When whaling boat Hope came upon the Jenny in 1840, they supposedly found the captain and his crew aboard, frozen to death.