One of the most infamous and confusing maritime tales is the legend of the SS Ourang Medan, a ghost ship that—according to some—mysteriously claimed the lives of an entire crew under extremely suspicious and inexplicable circumstances. The Dutch ship was found adrift in the near Indonesia in 1948, but modern research questions whether it ever existed in the first place.
In 1952, the United States Coast Guard mentioned the Ourang Medan, a name that translates to “Man from Medan” in the Malay language, in the publication Proceedings of the Merchant Marine Council.
The legend goes that two American ships caught onto a distress signal from the Dutch merchant ship. The haunting message, transmitted in Morse code went as follows:
“S.O.S. from Ourang Medan. We float. All officers including the Captain dead in the chartroom and on the bridge. Probably whole of crew dead. I die.”
The message was then completely cut.
When the ships finally located the Ourang Medan, it appeared undamaged. However when a rescue crew went on board to find survivors they allegedly were met by the most gruesome sight.
Everyone on board was dead, with no apparently cause of death. The corpses didn’t appear to have injuries or visible maladies. The only thing wrong with them was—aside from being dead—that they were all on their backs, with eyes and mouths wide open, staring with faces of fear and shock.
Then the story goes that somehow a fire broke out on board which sunk and destroyed the ship. No further investigation could be conducted.
These reports caused numerous theories about how the crew met such an untimely and unexplained downfall.
Some wild theories look to the paranormal, perhaps a UFO attack was responsible for the bizarre scene. Others speculate that carbon monoxide, caused by a malfunction in the ship’s boiler room, could have poisoned everyone. Another theory puts out that perhaps it was caused by a toxic cargo leak.
Finally, it is believed that the entire creepy story might not even be true at all. The facts of the ship, and the existence of the ship itself, have never been verified or legitimized.
So it lives on as a terrifying legend that raises more questions than there are answers for.