CREEPY CORNER: "Zombie Cruises" and Ghost Ships

Nothing good happens on boats.
Publish date:
July 2, 2015
fears, mysteries, creepy corner, cruise ships, zombies, ghost stories

When I was 13, the whole Hung family — my family, the extended family, some random aunts and uncles — went on a Carribean cruise.

For five days, our clan of loud, Chinese Americans stuffed all the food in our fanny packs, sailed the seas, and refused to set foot in the onboard swimming pool. Because of pee.

The adults sang karaoke in the "Ocean Echoes" lounge, the older teenagers found pre-Titanic romance at the teen club called "Club Teen," and I, being awkward, shy, and judgmental, wandered the ship alone wondering when not if the ship was going to sink. Thirteen-year-old Louise was a JOY to vacation with.

I hated the cruise. Obsessed with disasters and bizarre tragedies, my biggest fears at the time were dying in the lava flow of an erupting volcano (I read A LOT about Pompeii), and drowning. A giant boat in the middle of the ocean full of drunken party people? We were doomed.

These days, a cruise still isn't at the top of my vacation list. I admit I'm still afraid of drowning in the middle of the ocean (due less to Titanic, more to Open Water), but if given the opportunity to hang out at a ship's midnight buffet until they run out of cheese-related items, I might reconsider.

But have you heard about this "Walker Stalker Cruise"?

It's a three-night, zombie-themed cruise, that specifically caters to fans of The Walking Dead. Brought to you by the folks behind zombie convention, Walker Stalker Con, everything I've read seems to indicate a high seas horror convention complete with the makeup and special effects crew from The Walking Dead.

You can get your zombie cosplay on, attend panels, meet cast members (Norman Reedus, among others, has signed on), and participate in onboard zombie "survival activities" — all while sailing from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas on the Norwegian Pearl. Nothing says "the undead" like umbrella drinks.

Creepy Corner Confession: Zombies aren't really my thing.

Yes, I've watched a lot of zombie movies. Yes, I watched The Walking Dead. Yes, I do fear the day I will have to stab my husband through the skull because he has has risen and wants to eat my tasty brains.

But aside from the creep factor that those suckers are always...walking...never...ceasing, I don't find them all that scary. Honestly, I imagine the whole cruise will smell like the Halloween aisle of a Wal-Mart (sweat, latex, grease makeup). That's scary enough for me.

But I wanted to tell you Creepy Corneristas about this, because I'm sure there are zombie fans out there, and this might be your (brain) jam. Go book your cruise for January 2016, and tell us all about it!

Zombies may not be my thing (OK, these Chinese zombies are), but you know what is? Creepy, mysterious, abandoned ships — or "ghost ships".

Not only do ghost ships play into my fear that NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS ON BOATS, but they also blur the line between fact and folklore.

So to satisfy your eerie appetite, and to get your mind off a "Cheeses of the World" cruise buffet, here are a few ghost ship tales that might make you rethink your next voyage.

The SS Baychimo

The SS Baychimo is the ship that wouldn't die.

Launched in 1914, the Baychimo was a cargo ship that served a German shipping company. After World War I, she was acquired by the Hudson Bay Company in Scotland to carry furs, pelts, and provisions to ports in Alaska and British Columbia.

On October 1, 1931, the Baychimo got trapped in ice off the coast of Alaska during a blizzard. Fearing the ship may sink and seeing no way to dislodge her from the ice, the crew of the Baychimo abandoned ship and trekked to the town of Barrow, Alaska.

Two days later, when the blizzard had cleared, the crew went back to where they had left the Baychimo only to find her freed from the ice and adrift. The crew made camp on the ice, hoping to regain control of the Baychimo once weather conditions improved. However, by October 8, the blizzard did not let up and the Baychimo was stuck in the ice again.

The captain and 14 crew members stubbornly refused to leave the ship's side, despite the Hudson Bay Company sending a rescue team. However after a huge storm on November 24th, the Baychimo vanished.

Assuming the ship had sunk, the captain and crew finally gave up and left the camp. But the Baychimo wasn't done for yet! A week later the ship was spotted by a seal hunter 45 miles from its original location. The crew boarded the ship, and finding it to be too damaged by the blizzards, left it to drift, assuming it would eventually sink.


The Baychimo was seen mysteriously navigating without a crew all over the North Atlantic for over 37 years. The ship would appear as if from nowhere, and when approached actually appeared to flee from capture. Though she had no crew, her "behavior" seemed to the contrary.

If tow lines were attached, they would snap. Bizarre circumstances would befall those attempting to apprehend her, even resulting in some deaths. Storms would, without warning, swell up when the Baychimo was close to being caught, even trapping crews inside her decaying hull. The Baychimo came to be regarded as a bad omen.

Last seen in 1969, the Baychimo is assumed to have sunk. Yet, even after a revitalized effort to find her in the 2000s, the Alaskan government has been unable to locate her wreckage, let alone any physical evidence of her existence.

So the next time you're on an Alaskan cruise, keep your eyes peeled for the elusive SS Baychimo.

The Schooner Jenny

When I was in third grade, Mr. Hayes (the same teacher who introduced me to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) taught a unit on seafaring history. Basically we learned about pirate lore, sang sea shanties, and discussed his favorite topic: schooners.

The story of the Schooner Jenny was my favorite story he told. What information I could dig up on her story, or the roots of her story, don't really seem to confirm much. But to me, it's that mysterious mix of truth and hearsay that make spooky stories like this fascinating.

In 1840 Captain Brighton, aboard his ship the Hope, spied the Jenny frozen between two icebergs in the Antarctic Drake Passage.

From a distance, men could be seen on deck, but when signaled nobody responded. As the Hope pulled closer, Brighton and his crew realized in horror that the Jenny's crew was frozen solid at their posts — like statues.

The Hope's crew and Brighton boarded the Jenny to look for survivors but what they found was a ship literally frozen in time. Seven men, one dog, and one woman were found throughout the ship, all preserved by the cold.

When Brighton entered the Captain's Quarters, he was met with a chilling sight: the Jenny's captain at his desk, pen in hand, frozen mid log entry.

His final entry read: "No food for 71 days. I am the only one left." The entry was dated May 4, 1823 — 17 years earlier.

U-Boat 65

You'll never get me on a submarine.

Built in 1916, UB65 was built by the Germans for battle in World War I. UB65's construction started tragically when a giant girder mysteriously broke free and crushed a worker under its weight. Many deaths continued to plague UB65 leading up to its official launch, causing her crew to consider her cursed.

Among them, a sailor was washed overboard during test maneuvers, the interior flooded causing a dry-cell battery to fill the engine room with poison gas, and a torpedo exploded onboard killing the second officer. Soon after, the crew and captain, complained that the ghosts of the dead officers were walking the halls.

One such sighting occurred when UB65 was out at sea. Due to rough water, UB65 surfaced. As it broke the water, a crew member opened the top hatch to check the weather, and was met with the sight of the dead second officer standing on the deck amidst the choppy waters, completely unaffected.

When the captain went above to dispel the crew's fears, he too saw the second officer. Within seconds, the officer disappeared.

Though UB65 was exorcised and a new "no-nonsense" captain was assigned, reports of seeing ghosts, such as the second officer walking through walls, continued.

UB65 came to a rather strange end in July of 1918. An American ship caught sight of UB65 quietly bobbing on the surface of the water. As the Americans prepared to torpedo the submarine, it exploded without warning. No explanation was ever found for UB65's destruction.

Some say it was the curse coming "full circle."

What are your feelings on ghost ships? All folklore, no fact? Are zombies more your thing? Would you go on the zombie cruise? I want to know all about the buffet.