Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Can Ghosts Haunt Shipwrecks?

(Side note: We're having big geomagnetic storms yesterday and today so if last night and tonight you have strange dreams--chalk it up to that. It's a great time to ghost hunt right now!)

On November 10, 1975, while traveling on Lake Superior during a gale, the Fitzgerald sank suddenly in Canadian waters approximately 17 miles (15 nmi; 27 km) from the entrance of Whitefish Bay at a depth of 530 feet (160 m). Although she had reported having some difficulties prior to the accident, the Fitzgerald sank without sending any distress signals. Her crew of 29 perished in the sinking with no bodies being recovered. When the wreck was found, it was discovered that the Fitzgerald had broken in two. The sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald is the most famous disaster in the history of Great Lakes shipping. Once Anderson noted the loss of Fitzgerald, a search was launched for survivors.

The initial search consisted of the Arthur M. Anderson, and a second freighter, SS William Clay Ford. The efforts of a third freighter, the Canadian vessel Hilda Marjanne, were foiled by the weather. The U.S. Coast Guard launched three aircraft, but could not mobilize any ships. A Coast Guard buoy tender, Woodrush, was able to launch within two and a half hours, but took a day to arrive. The search recovered debris, including lifeboats and rafts, but no survivors.

The wreck was first located by a U.S. Navy aircraft with on-board magnetic anomaly detector equipment, normally used to detect submarines. The wreck was further surveyed using side scan sonar on November 14 to November 16 by the Coast Guard. The sonar revealed two large objects lying close together on the lake floor. A second survey took place from November 22 through November 25 by a private contractor, Seaward, Inc.

In 1976, from May 20 to May 28, an unmanned U.S. Navy submersible photographed the wreck. This submersible, CURV III, consisted of an underwater vehicle connected via umbilical control to a surface support ship. On-board imaging equipment included one 35 mm still and two black-and-white video cameras. It found Edmund Fitzgerald lying in two large pieces in 530 feet (160 m) of water. The bow section, approximately 276 feet (84 m) long, lay upright in the mud. The approximately 253 feet (77 m) stern section lay 170 feet (52 m) away, inverted (face down), at a 50-degree angle from the bow. Metal and taconite heaps between the bow and stern comprised the remnants of the mid-section. (Wikipedia)

I’ve been fascinated with this story since I was a kid, but my father was a Navy man for 20 years in the South Pacific and got me into a love of stories of peril on the sea including when he was in on the search for Amelia Earhart. I also was a big fan of Jacques Cousteau’s shows and a lighthouse addict, so the sea was always a romantic subject in my mind. We often discussed the Bermuda Triangle around the supper table. My father had a good friend in the squadron that went down there and he always felt bad for talking him into not taking his leave and running that exercise. When Gordon Lightfoot (my most heartthrob favorite singer as a kid) came out with a song dedicated to the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, it started a family discussion around the table. We often times picked a subject and all five kids would debate about it while father moderated. I always liked to take the contrary position to bait my siblings into making better debates for their sides. However, the night we talked about the Fitzgerald I went completely quiet. I didn’t care so much how it sank or how it could have been prevented. I was focused on the obvious question in my mind:

Can ghosts haunt underwater wrecks???


  1. That is a good question.....I often wonder if there are ghosts hanging around the Titanic too. I think that the souls that died there just might still be there. It is creepy seeing a ship wrecked underwater lying on the bed of the ocean. The added bonus would be if they are haunted as well. Maybe GH or better yet DT, should do an investigation of the wreck.

  2. Now that'd be good--someone give Josh Gates a call! The hard thing would be knowing if it's haunted. I mean, people scuba dive in wrecks but aren't there so long and fish dart in and out. How would you know if it's haunted? You couldn't use your sense of hearing so much or smell and you wouldn't know if you're getting goosebumps. If ghosts can attach to objects, though...it seems a possibility. I think it was my brother at the table who said that they'd just wash away in the currents but if a ghost could truly move through walls, then a wave should just pass right through it. That's how I presented it to him at the table, much to his frustration. I think he threw a biscuit at me after I said that.

  3. I don't see why not...assuming you believe "ghosts" are tied to physical locations or objects, the bottom of the ocean in a shipwreck is perfectly acceptable. Unless "ghosts" require oxygen, heh heh. :)

  4. Nate;
    Touche! I think the reason we'd say they aren't haunted is by the simple fact that we would have a helluva time discerning it on the bottom of the sea. I'll tell you a weird story. I have premonition dreams about plane crashes. I was having one about the TWA flight that went down over the ocean. I saw it all happening--my perspective is always on board the plane, but while it's happening, no other passengers see me or know I'm there and I feel no personal threat--which is amazing because I hate flying and to see a plane go into a fall is pretty horrifying, but somehow I know I can't be killed. In this particular dream, I went to the bottom of the ocean where I saw a part. I think it was a significant part in respect to the accident, but I also looked up and saw the other passengers sitting up and looking around. Now, I know they weren't alive on the bottom of the ocean, but they appeared to have life of some form. I still get shivers when I recall that because it was like we all woke up from a sleep and sat up and looked around. And everyone was whole.

  5. Of course ghosts can haunt underwater. I believe ships are perfect for hauntings. Many people together on a small space(their piece of land) only to die all together, a horrifying death!
    17 and diagnosed with cancer and yet you become this beautiful optimistic person. I love that about you(the optimistic part, not the cancer part!).
    Brightest blessings,

  6. Hey Georgina;
    I'm actually glad I got the cancer at 17 and not at this age. I had no clue how dangerous my situation was and just handed it over to the doctors to deal with. I never heard of other teens with cancer, so I never considered it could kill me. To me, it was something old folks died of. It definitely made me appreciate everything, especially the one child I was able to have that was healthy and happy, in spite of the odds of me getting and keeping a pregnancy. I'm all about miracles!

  7. oh yeah! I am just loving these subjects on this blog..

    I definitely believe ghosts could be attached to shipwrecks, or to the area they wrecked, if close enough to land. The jersey shore area is full of legends and ghost stories about some of the more famous wrecks along our coast back in the days of sail. I have heard that at any given time back then, if walking along the beach, especially during the rough weather seasons, you would see burned out hulks of ships wrecked out on the sandbars, before the ocean pounded them to bits. I have a big "coffee table" book on the subject. Locals built furniture and houses from salvaged wood, and there is one story about a haunted piece of furniture built from wrecked ships.

    As for those sunken ships, just the atmosphere alone makes me think it would be a perfect place for ghosts, and if I remember correctly, there are stories from divers about strange things happening when they dove certain wrecks. I hear the great lakes wrecks are in awesome shape from the fresh water, some even still have their figureheads.

  8. Jennifer;
    Yes--Jersey shore does have some good ones. Isn't there one near Barnegat? I would so love to have one of those figureheads!

  9. I have looked into the figureheads, if you are lucky to find one now, they are very expensive! Most are in museums. In the 1800s there was an eccentric old guy who lived in Barnegat Light who had his whole yard decorated with things he salvaged from the wrecks on the beach, name plates from the ships, figureheads etc...supposedly it was a sight to see. Years later after he died, his family sold or trashed everything. My only claim to the island's history is that when I lived there, one of my carpenter boyfriends built me some tables out of old cedar he salvaged from some of the older island homes that were knocked down ( to make way for the big ugly McMansions that are sadly taking over the area )

    There are a few legends surrounding Barnegat Light, one has to do with the Revolutionary War, and the ghosts of the militia from a battle on the beach are still said to be lurking there. The beaches are kind of scary at night at the lighthouse end of the island, because the dunes are so wide. In most of the shore towns the houses are built right up to the edge of the beach, with a few hundred yards of dunes separating the homes from the sand...But in Barnegat Lt the dunes are a half mile wide, so when you are on the beach, you feel very isolated from the rest of the town. Kind of creepy at night, esp with the foghorn that goes off at intervals. I lived on 11th street one year, and there in the dunes is the mast of a ship still sticking out of the sand, a wrecked fishing boat is buried there. Seeing that mast sticking up is really cool.

  10. If you talk to anyone who goes out on to the great Lake Superior, they will say that they saw something they couldn't explain! Yes, ghosts of sailors can haunt anyone! I've been unlucky enough to have seen a ghostship. It gave me chills!