If you’re familiar with the paranormal, you’re probably familiar with this ghost ship (as well as the Mary Celeste). It isn’t exactly Americana, but it did have an almost global impact, including finding its way into American publications.
So, the interesting thing about this story is that it was initially reported by the Associated Press (AP), a pretty reputable source, when it apparently first happened in 1940. However, after that, it was reported in several different publications and the story was warped and became more and more macabre as most urban legends do. The tale basically says that this Dutch-Indonesian ship was heading to Indonesia when an American ship, the Silver Star, was contacted with a rather distressing message. The message was as follows:
“S.O.S. from Ourang Medan * * * we float. All officers including the Captain, dead in chartroom and on the bridge. Probably whole of crew dead * * *.”
and then, simply:
That’s pretty spooky in and of itself. But apparently, when the crew of the Silver Star located the Ourang Medan, they found all the crew dead in a quite gruesome state: eyes and mouths open in terror. So, you know, the crew of the Silver Star were pretty wigged out when they couldn’t find any explanation for the state of the crew and resolved to tow the ship to the nearest port. But, apparently, before they could even get that far, the Ourang burst into flames.
Sounds pretty spooky, right? It makes for a good story. But it might not have happened. The Ourang Medan may not have even existed. Due to the multiple reports, including Dutch articles published 8 years after the supposed incident and American Coast Guard publications 12 years after the supposed incident, research has been conducted as to the veracity of this tale. No one has been able to find any documents proving the existence of the Ourang, though they have been able to confirm that the Silver Star did exist.
So, if the ship didn’t exist where did this tale come from? How did it come to be so widely publicized and found plastered all over the internet? We have no photographic evidence of the ship yet there’s that one black and white photo of what looks to be a steamer. We don’t even really know what sort of ship it was supposed to have been. What is up with this ship?
(The above newspaper article is supposedly from the November 21, 1940 edition of the Yorkshire Evening Post found on theBritish Newspaper Archive, though it requires a subscription so this blog could not verify this source. If anyone wants to buy a subscription and check it out or just do your own digging, let us know!)
Source 1, Source 2 | Original Tumblr Post