Monday, May 2, 2016

Ghosts Ships - A Sort of Book Review

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I have been reading all of the true ghost story collections I mentioned a few posts ago, and find it somewhat ironic, being high and dry in the Midwest, that the book that is frightening me the most is the one about ships. Really.

I read the books about Washington, DC, Florida, and Philadelphia before picking up the one concerning ghosts stories known throughout the Navy. The ships covered in this collection go all the way back to the Revolutionary War and so do some of the spirits. But the ones that are freaking me out the most are from the WWII era. There are stories about quite a few haunted battleships. This would make sense, since any ship seeing battle -and every ship mentioned here did- would have numerous deaths and tragedies included in its history. And some of those histories are pretty long.

There were tales of the usual sorts of haunting: footsteps when no one else was on board; doors opening and closing by themselves, including heavy iron hatch-type doors; faces peeking through port holes; voices coming from empty rooms-everything from screams to arguments to simple statements. One of the ships is haunted by a malevolent presence that announces itself with bone-chilling cold and then a feeling of dread and terror that forces anyone present to leave immediately. There was mention of at least two different tour guides, dressed as sailors from the past, who evidently were not on any current staff list but who certainly knew a great deal about the ships that they guided unsuspecting tourists through; and there were the inevitable reports of touches, tugs, strokes, and pats from unseen hands. 

Almost all of these ships are museums, now, so you can always go and check them out for yourself. The Lexington is at Corpus Christi, Texas, and saw action in the Pacific during WWII. The Yorktown is at Patriot's Point in Charleston, South Carolina, and also fought in the Pacific during WWII. It remained posted to that area long enough to have served during the Vietnam War as well. And then there's The Sullivans, the ship named for the five brothers who served on the light cruiser The Juneau, also during WWII, and also in the Pacific. All five lost their lives after their ship was first shelled and then torpedoed. The Sullivans was commissioned in their honor and sent into action within months of their deaths. It remained on active duty through Korea and the Cold War (including the Cuban Missile Crisis), and is now a museum at Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.

 Navy bases also have their fair share of ghostly visitors but are not necessarily as accessible to the general public. Actually, I think the haunted ships would be enough for me; I don't think I'd be wandering the haunted bases as well, even if they were open for that.

The history is fascinating, the stories of restless spirits and ghosts that range from friendly to flat-out malevolent, and the compelling way the book is written, are enough for me to highly recommend the book that is my source for all of the above information: Eric Mills' The Spectral Tide: True Ghost Stories of the U.S. Navy. 

I have a fascination with ghost and haunted ships, so it should come as no surprise that I am devouring this book. Even if you aren't necessarily a fan of the same but do like ghost stories, you might want to give this book a try. I live nowhere near any ocean, but the stories have lingered around me like a sea mist every time I close the covers on another chapter that I've finished. It's a great book for the close of day when the sunlight is fading and the darkness is creeping in.

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