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What is a Ghost Ship?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A ghost ship is a ship which has come to associated with some sort of supernatural occurrence. As long as people have been sailing the seas, legends about ghost ships have been told and re-told, and some of these mysterious and doomed ships have become widely famous. The story of the Mary Celeste, for example, is one of the most enduring and mysterious legends of the high seas.

There are several different versions of the ghost ship. In the simplest version, the story involves a ship which people claim is haunted or cursed. A cruise liner, for example, might be plagued with incidents involving mysterious passenger deaths or illnesses, or reports of supernatural activity in particular areas of the ship. In some cases, repeated claims that a ship is haunted or cursed have led to a decision to scrap it, rather than perpetuate the legend.

In another version of the ghost ship legend, a ghost ship is an apparition of a ship which has been sunk or lost. The Flying Dutchman is an example of a ghost ship of this type, doomed to sail for the rest of eternity. Some sailors have claimed that they have seen ghost ships in regions where ships have supposedly gone down, and that these illusory ships have caused paranormal manifestations on the real ships which pass by them.

The two types of ghost ships listed above are fanciful and legendary, and some skeptics scoff at their existence. The third type of ghost ship, however, is a very real phenomenon which is sometimes difficult to explain. In this type of ghost ship, a derelict ship is discovered floating somewhere in the ocean, sometimes empty and sometimes with the bodies of the crew, with no obvious clues as to what happened on board. Sometimes, logical deduction can be used to determine that the ship ran out of fuel, hit a spot without any winds, or was attacked by pirates, but on occasion, logic cannot rise to the challenge.

There have been several instances of mysterious derelicts floating far from the point they were last seen, such as an empty yacht discovered off the coast of Australia in 2007 with no signs that the boat had been abandoned, or that those on board had been attacked, given that a partially-completed meal was sitting at the galley table and all of the lifesaving equipment was intact. Satisfactory explanations for the fate of these ships and their crews cannot be presented, with investigators usually attributing the incidents to “misadventure.”

Sailors are famously superstitious individuals, and it is perhaps not surprising that legends about ghost ships have endured so long. The ocean is a large and sometimes lonely place, which invites speculation and legend from people who spend much of their lives at sea.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By dill1971 — On Oct 22, 2010

@alex94: Some people believe shadow people are related to supernatural shadow figures. The figures are believed to be part of paranormal popular cultures and modern folklore. They are mostly described as dark see-through human forms.

Shadow people are known as ghost or demons. They are said to be seen in places where physical or emotional trauma has taken place.

Scientist explains reports of shadow people as optical illusions or hallucinations. They also believe that people who see them are psychological circumstances or drug use.

By alex94 — On Oct 22, 2010

Has anyone ever heard of shadow people, if so what are they?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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