Maritime Folklore, Legends, Mysteries, Monsters and Curses

Forever in the minds of sailors, stories of ghost ships have lived. It happened in the year 1872. Captain Benjamin Briggs ordered his crew to make anchors and set the course towards Genoa, Italy.

He was accompanied by his wife Sarah, his two-year-old daughter Sophie and seven sailors. They left New York aboard the ship Mary Celeste. At that time, none knew that their trip would be one of the most remembered enigmas of maritime folklore.


The most impressive maritime mystery is the story of Mary Celeste and the disappearance of its crew. Other legends talk about the Octavius, which is a ghostly vessel with all its crew frozen onboard.

Strange Disappearance

It had been a relatively quiet tour across the Atlantic. On November 25, the Mary Celeste made landfall in the Azores. It’s a Portuguese archipelago 1,500 km from Lisbon. They did it before resuming its route to Genoa, Italy.

But the ship and its travelers never reached their destination. On the 5 (others say that the 4) of December, the ship appeared sailing aimlessly in the middle of the ocean. No one could explain it.

There was a group of sailors from another vessel, the Dei Gratia. They also left New York. They spotted him and approached to investigate. Great was his surprise at not finding anyone on deck.

After assuming the worst, they boarded and began looking for the crew. They quickly explored the 30-meter-long boat. They saw the cabins and kitchen. They say the cockpit, but there was no trace.

Not one of the 10 passengers of the Mary Celeste was on board. There were no signs of a fight or a pirate attack. Instead, they found clothes hanging. They found the belongings of the navigators.

The tea was still hot served. Its full load of 1,701 barrels of industrial alcohol and the supplies course towards Genoa was there. It was as if Captain Briggs and his wife had evaporated in the middle of the sea.

Maritime Folklore, Legends, Mysteries, Monsters and Curses
Mary Celeste Ghost Ship


The circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the passengers of the Mary Celeste are peculiar. It is not the only ghost ship that has crossed the seas and caught the imagination of the curious.

The simple name is suggestive. It invites one to think of spectral visions that vanish or huge ships that float in darkness. This nickname has also been used for those royal ships left adrift in the middle of the immense ocean. They were sailing without anyone to direct them.

Situations of this kind are common even in our days. In ancient times the fate of overseas travel has given rise to innumerable legends. Thus, a ship is overtaken by a storm. Over the years, people’s ingenuity becomes the victim of some so-called water monster- Perhaps it’s a terrible ancestral curse.

It is possible to find legends about these in almost all fishing populations. Most of the stories are local. There are some whose fame has crossed physical and cultural borders. It is the case of the most famous of them:

Dutch Errant

Of Vliegende Hollander , or the “Flying Dutchman”. The name refers to its captain, the Dutchman Hendrik van der Decken. He is said to have made a pact with the devil so that no phenomenon of nature could sink his ship.  

Many versions of the legend are calculated to date from the 17th century. They were popularized during the 18th century. It is a ship condemned to travel until the end of time, without the possibility of touching any port.

The sightings of the spectrum have been diverse, which is said to shine amid storms supporting its curse. Even the British monarch Jorge V claimed to have seen him during adolescence.

Even into the 20th century, his alleged appearances were frequent. It was a terrible omen for those who had the misfortune to witness it in all cases.

Maritime Folklore, Legends, Mysteries, Monsters and Curses
The Flying Dutchman

Lady Lovibond

Another fabulous vessel was the Lady Lovibond. It was a sailboat that was shipwrecked off the coast of Kent in February 1748. It happened southeast of England. According to the story, a hasty action crashed the ship against a sandbar, drowning everyone on board.

Fifty years later, many sailors saw an accident in the same place where the Lady Lovibond rushed. When they reached the point with lifeboats, they found nothing. Since then, it has been said that the ship runs aground every half-century and gives off a greenish light.

Maritime Folklore, Legends, Mysteries, Monsters and Curses
The Lady Lovibond


There is also the legend of the Octavius. It’s the ghostly vessel found by the whaling ship Heraldoff the coast of Greenland in 1775. The sailors got a terrible surprise on board. The inclement cold froze all the crew and passengers inside the ship.

According to the story, the last entry in the captain’s logbook dates from 1762. It was 13 years before it was found. The lone ship had sailed for more than a decade. It had managed to cross the dangerous passage from the north, from the east to the Atlantic Ocean.

Maritime Folklore, Legends, Mysteries, Monsters and Curses
The Octavius


But not all ghost ships are products of maritime inventiveness. The tendency of seafarers to believe in superstitions is well known. Their fears are often based on the difficulties of traveling through this medium.

Each year hundreds of boats succumb to the adversities of the ocean or get lost in its immensity. We must remember that the water surface on the planet far exceeds that of the Earth. It multiplies the chances of getting lost.

This is how reality surpasses fiction on occasions. There are notable cases. One is the lifeboat that was found floating quietly 27 years after the steam to which it belonged. It belonged to the SS Valencia that sank off the coast from Vancouver.

Or there’s the one of Carroll A. Deering. She’s the schooner that ran aground in 1921 near North Carolina. They found themselves empty after passing near the famous Bermuda Triangle. It’s a place that many believe to be the true cause of the disappearance. Ghost ships are not just a matter of the past.

In 2003 and 2006, two ships were found sailing aimlessly near Australia without anyone to man them. All these disappearances give rise to different theories. Some are plausible, others incredible.

Piracy and even extraterrestrial abductions have been shuffled among the possible explanations of what happened in each case. It includes everything from marine monsters to mutinies.

Maritime Folklore, Legends, Mysteries, Monsters and Curses


Many have tried to unravel the mystery of Mary Celeste. In 2001, the American journalist and writer Brian Hicks claimed to have found the remains of the mythical ship near Haiti. The news caused a stir.

Years later, he published “Ghost Ship: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste & Her Missing Crew.” It’s where he presented his hypothesis regarding what happened in 1872. The industrial alcohol that he transported could have evaporated and leaked out.

Without fearing for his daughter, Briggs preferred to vacate the ship and stand next to it in a lifeboat. When leaving the sails open, the wind picked up quickly. It moved his crew’s ship, being adrift.

Shortly after the discovery of Hicks would be refuted, researchers found something out. They were at the University of Arizona and the Geological Survey of Canada. They analyzed a sample of wood from the ship.

It did not match with what was supposed to be built the ship. In the end, it seems that these ships or ghostly chimeras are not willing to reveal the mysteries that they contain.

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