Joe SillsWritten by

Do Ghost Ships Still Haunt the Great Lakes?

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[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]he Great Lakes form the largest group of freshwater lakes on the planet. They contain 21% of the world’s surface fresh water and cover over 94,000 square miles. Their waters have been home to fishermen, traders and travelers for centuries, but could some of those former sailers have been left behind?

For generations, folklore and superstition has carried down rumors of ghost ships plying the ocean tides. Their names are known to many: Flying Dutchman, Palatine, Valencia. But ghost ships are rumored not just on the ocean, but also in these largest of North American lakes.

In a special Halloween exclusive to our website, Fishing Tackle Retailer has delved into a few of the mysteries still surrounding the Great Lakes.

An estimated 6,000 shipwrecks have occurred on the Great Lakes since record keeping began in the area. The death toll of those wrecks totals some 30,000 souls. It seems reasonable then, that if waterways were haunted (and if you believe in such things) these five lakes would be prime candidates for a haunting.

And indeed, of those 6,000 wrecks, a handful are still reportedly spotted by modern day mariners.

These are the ones we found:

The Western Reserve—a late 19th century schooner— has reportedly been spotted in the water near Deer Park, Michigan. She went down in the Spring of 1892. The property of a well-known financier, Peter Minch, she took her wealthy captain to the grave. It’s rumored that before her wreck, an old mariner for the Great Lakes Life Saving Service dreamt of the the ship’s demise—he later identified Minch’s body when he washed ashore. Only the ship’s wheelman survived.

On Lake Huron, rumors persist of another 1800’s schooner still sailing in north of Flint Michigain in Saginaw Bay: the Erie Board of Trade. But the Erie Board of Trade’s fate was doomed not by a storm, but by the supposed ghost of a former crewman. As the story goes, the ship’s captain knowingly sent his crewman onto the mast for a watch in the boatswain’s chair. The chair was known by the crew to be unsafe, and the crewman soon plummeted to his death.

Shortly after, the crew reported seeing their former comrade on deck, and one fateful day—after describing the tale of his demise in port—the Erie Board of Trade sailed onto Lake Huron never to be seen again.

Bonnockburn in drydock at Kingston, Ontario. Source: wiki

Bonnockburn in drydock at Kingston, Ontario. Source: wiki

The steamer Bannockburn disappeared on November 21, 1902 with 21 men and a full load of wheat on board. The actual cause of her loss is unknown, though initial reports suggested she was stranded on Caribou Island, whose lighthouse was turned off just six days before her voyage. Only a life preserver and an oar were ever recovered from the Bannockburn, but she’s gained a reputation as the “Flying Dutchman of Lake Superior” after decades of sailors have reported seeing her between Port Arthur, Michigan and the Soo Locks between Superior and Huron.

Most famously, the Edmund Fitzgerald was allegedly spotted sailing through Lake Superior one foggy night nearly ten years after the 75′ iron ore freighter was taken down by rogue waves in 1975.  The Fitzgerald and her crew still rest 500 feet down at the bottom of Lake Superior.

What’s your take?

Have you seen one of these ghost ships? Have you heard rumors in your store about other ghostly fishing tales? Tell us in the comment section below.

Joe Sills Hi there, did you know? Each week, we curate a list of the Top 5 stories in fishing and send them right to your inbox. Reading Tackle’s Top 5 is one of the best ways to become or remain an industry expert. -Joe Sills, Digital Editor

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