October 31st, All Hallows’ Eve, Halloween, Tuesday—the day goes by varying names across the land. And whether you’re a “Fall Fest” follower or a full-fledged spirit monger, there’s no mistaking the eerie aura in the air as autumn chills begin to sweep the continent each fall. It’s said that the veil between worlds is thin on the last day of October, and even more so that night. That aura can lead people to do strange things in the final hours before November. Some horde candy, some adorn themselves in the guise of monsters, and others settle in for a quiet night with a cold-hearted story. Members of our staff do all three. Yet, for the literarily inclined, we’ve cultivated a creepy list of water-bound curiosities to tempt you away from your crypt as November calls.
Welcome to FTR‘s second Tackle Shop of Horrors, and the debut of five monstrous mysteries in American fishing waters:
1. The Ghost Ship of the Outer Banks
Ninety-six years ago, the schooner Carroll A. Deering was found run aground off of Cape Hateras, North Carolina. When rescuers climbed aboard in the cold, February air, they discovered the crew was completely missing. The Deering had set sail for Rio de Janeiro in September with a hold full of coal to deliver in Brazil. What happened on her return voyage to the U.S. remains a mystery, as does the fate of her captain and 10-man crew.
Rescuers did uncover some clues as to the crew’s fate: the galley remained in a state of preparation for an upcoming meal, but strangely, the ship’s log, navigation equipment, and two lifeboats were missing. Five departments of the U.S. government investigated the case; however, neither the Commerce, Treasury, Justice, Navy, or State departments could make an official conclusion on the case. Rum-runners, pirates, hurricanes, communists, the Bermuda Triangle and mutiny were all blamed in the disappearance of the Deering’s crew.
2. The Delta Queen
The last steam-powered, wooden paddlewheeler left on the Mississippi River, the 285-foot Delta Queen first entered service in 1927. Ninety years after her first voyage, she now awaits refitting in a Louisiana shipyard with plans to re-enter service in 2018. In almost a century of service, she bore three U.S. presidents and countless passengers up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers from New Orleans to Memphis, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. And, though built as a cruise ship, she most recently served as a floating hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee, from 2009-2014.
There, moored on the banks of the Tennessee River, the Delta Queen became a frequent stop for Chattanooga ghost tours, where visitors would hunt for the spirit of her former captain. It’s said that the 5-foot-2 first lady of the river, Capt. Mary Greene, ran a famously tight ship. She permitted no horseplay, no untidy uniforms and, most importantly, no alcohol. At age 79, Capt. Greene retired to her cabin as the ship docked in Cincinnati for the night. She never woke up.
Until the ship left Chattanooga, hotel guests reported seeing the late captain making her rounds on deck.
3. The Mothball Fleets
The U.S. Navy (loosely) maintains several fleets of decommissioned, reserve ships across the country. Once numbering in the hundreds in more than 20 locations, those fleets are now reduced to dozens of ships in just three facilities—the James River in Virginia, Suisun Bay in California, and Beaumont, Texas. Along with inactive ship maintenance facilities in Philadelphia, Hawaii and Washington, these graveyards offer a haunting glimpse into the storied ships’ pasts. Famed ships housed in these locations include the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy (CV-67), U.S.S. Kitty Hawk (CV-63), and the Glomar Explorer.
Though a shadow of its former self, the mothball fleet at Suisun Bay was infiltrated by urban explorers earlier this decade. For two weeks, a group of photographers documented the then-state of affairs of the relics in northern California, including the battleship U.S.S. Iowa (BB-61) and the formerly top secret Sea Shadow stealth ship. The project captures a moment in time now lost, before many of the hulls were scrapped or converted to museums.
Abandoned ships aren’t the only haunting hulls left by the U.S. military, though, as active museums like the U.S.S. Hornet (CVS-12) and the U.S.S. Salem (CA-139) are rumored to host specters of former sailors.
4. Lake Monsters of the U.S.
While the most famous lake monster on Earth allegedly resides in Scotland, the United States is home to its fair share of mythical monstrosities beneath the waves. Nessie-like sightings abound, from the Gloucester Sea Serpent of Massachusetts, to the Twilight Dragon of Idaho, and the renowned Champ of Lake Champlain. Elsewhere, strange sightings of other creatures, like the Goat Man of Lake Worth, Texas, and a giant, killer octopus in Oklahoma have left cryptozoologists baffled by unexplained beasts in North America.
5. Florida’s Flight 19
Fourteen souls presumably rest at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean after the disappearance of Flight 19 on December 5, 1945. In the midst of a routine navigation exercise from Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, five Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers vanished into the night. Led by an experienced flight leader and combat veteran with over 2,500 flight hours, the bombers apparently became disoriented after making an initial flight to the Bahamas. What happened in the ensuing hours has been the subject of debate for decades.
Devoid of the radar nets that spanned the coastline just a few months prior, during World War II, naval communications experts attempted to triangulate the location of Flight 19 via radio signal, while also launching an ill-fated rescue mission that resulted in the demise of another aircraft—a PBM-5 Mariner float plane—and 13 members of its crew somewhere over the Florida Keys. With ground crews and aviators lost in a swirl of confusion, it’s presumed that Flight 19 finally plunged into the sea sometime during the night as fuel ran out in their aircrafts.
The wreckage and final resting place of Flight 19 has never been found, though other unrelated Avenger wrecks have been spotted in Florida over the years.
In the mid 1960s, the wreckage of an Avenger was found in a swamp near the popular fishing hamlet of Sebastian, Florida. Navy authorities allegedly identified the plane and crew members as those belonging to the famed, phantom flight. However, they soon recanted the statement. As of 2013, the Navy had yet to officially identify the bodies of the two airmen found inside.