In modern English, the term ghost ship has come to denote at least one of three separate (though occasionally overlapping) definitions, all of which involving, in one respect or other, unexplained circumstances. Historically, the term has been used to refer to reported sightings of apparitions over water that have appeared in the form of maritime sailing ships, often after having previously been known to have sunk, or to derelict vessels found floating with no crew. In fiction, ghost ships have often been vessels crewed by some manner of spectral or non-living beings.
According to some accounts, many ships responded to the desperate Morse code messages from the Dutch freighter Ourang Medan. The ship was found adrift off Indonesia with all of its crew dead. The boarding party found the entire crew "frozen, teeth baring, gaping at the sun." Before the ship could be towed to a home port, the ship exploded and sank. The reason for the deaths are still unexplained today. The original report of this incident cannot be located, and the entire episode is thought to be apocryphal.
In 2003, Walt Disney Pictures released the first film in the trilogy Pirates of the Caribbean, the plots of which involve the ghost ships The Black Pearl and The Flying Dutchman. The films are based on the Disney theme park attraction of the same name.
The 2002 horror film Ghost Ship involves a stranded Italian ocean liner named Antonia Graza, lost at sea since 21 May 1962. The ship is boarded by a salvage crew, who shortly afterward encounter the ghostly apparitions of murdered passengers.
In 2001 the Sci Fi Channel broadcast Lost Voyage, a Sci Fi Pictures original film about the return of a derelict luxury ship, the Corona Queen, missing 25 years earlier, investigated by the son of one of the missing passengers.
The 1997 film science fiction The Haunted Sea on Concorde/New Horizons Home Video. A ship's crew discovers an cursed, abandoned ship filled with Aztec gold. A deity figure known as The Feathered Serpent or Quetzalcoatl puts a curse on the crew and comes to life to protect the lost treasures. Directed by Daniel Patrick. Starring Joanna Pacula, Krista Allen-Moritt, James Brolin, Don Stroud, Keidi Lucas.
The 1997 science fiction horror film Event Horizon involved a spaceship that while testing an experimental propulsion system, simply disappeared. It returns intact seven years later with no crew, life support offline and data recordings scrambled. The investigating team soon encounters an evil presence that the ship brought back with it.
The horror film Death Ship (1980 film) is about a lost Nazi German torture and concentration camp ship that is still being crewed by the evil spirits of the dead crew. It now roams the seas for new victims. It picks up survivors to abuse and kill after it sinks the ships.
Numerous episodes of the various Star Trek series deal with abandoned ships discovered adrift. Notable examples are "The Tholian Web" (Star Trek), "The Naked Now", and "Booby Trap" (Star Trek: The Next Generation).
One episode of Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Star Crossed, deals with the warship Balance of Judgement, whose AI has gone mad and purposely has an existence similar to the one of the Flying Dutchman. Wagner's opera is quoted some times, and in the final fight the androids of the Balance of Judgement actually sing it.
In the Half-Life universe, a ship belonging to Aperture Science, the Borealis, vanishes, taking part of the drydock with it. It is discovered in Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and also implies the player will travel to it in Half-Life 2: Episode 3.
In "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion", there are a couple of scenarios involving ghost ships. The first is "The Ghost Ship of Anvil" in which The Dark Brotherhood spy killed all the members of the crew and you are recruited to cleanse the ship. The other, "The Forlorn Watchman", You here a rumor You hear the tale of a sad-looking ghost who frequents the shores of Niben Bay by night. After talking to the ghost you will find that he has been part of a shipwreck of mysterious cause and you must go to the shipwreck to solve the mystery.
In Skies of Arcadia, one of the games discoveries is a Ghost Ship that can be seen in upper sky near the entrance to the Dark Rift.
In Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny, there is an optional subquest dealing with a ghost ship.
In Age of Mythology, if one worships Isis or Set as a Major god, and in the heroic age selects Nephthys as a minor god, one will be granted the 'god power' Ancestors. When this god power is invoked on water, it will summon up a fleet of ghost ships which all return to the depths of the ocean once the power ends.
The game The Legend of Dragoon, created by Sony and released in 1999, features an extended sequence on a ghost ship. While Dart and his party are sailing towards Mille Sesau, their ship crashes into a ghost ship. The characters decide to explore the ship, finding the spirits of the dead sailors inside.
In the game Albert Odyssey: Legend of Eldean from the Sega Saturn, on the second half of it, a short dungeon, without monsters, is a ghost ship that actually is a giant monster. So, a boss fight occurs.
The game Silent Hunter 4: Wolves of the Pacific features the Flying Dutchman as an Easter egg, which the player may encounter on a patrol. Notably, the identification for the ship reads "What is this!?"; she is invincible to torpedo and deck gun fire.
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