Ghost ships, watery pianos, vengeful spirits, shipwrecks, killer seaweed, and voodoo… haunted bodies of water come in all kinds and configurations. There’s nothing scarier than water that’s out to get you. Here are the nine most haunted bodies of water on Earth. Who’s up for a swim?
Top image: Pluck and Luck Dime Novel Magazine No. 905: Five Years in the Grassy Sea, via davidd on Flickr. More details here.
1) Manchac Swamp, Louisiana
Bayous are generally pretty foreboding, what with all the snakes and gators and quicksand and such, but southeastern Louisiana’s Manchac Swamp has its very own crew of local spooks. One is the bloodthirsty rougarou, a Cajun variation on the werewolf that’s said to lurk in watery turf across Acadiana.
The other, though, is a woman variously named as Julie White or Julie Brown (as in the clip from America’s Most Haunted Places below), described as a “voodoo priestess” who got her jollies freaking out her neighbors by predicting “One day I’m gonna die, and I’m gonna take all of you with me.” Legend has it that her funeral was held the very day the deadly 1915 New Orleans hurricane struck, burying her entire town in its wake. Eerie, no?
2) Okiku’s Well, Japan
Looming over the surrounding city of Himeji, in Hyogo Prefecture, Himeji Castle would be an impressive enough sight without the added lure of a spookily famous well contained within its massive grounds. And not only is Okiku’s Well said to be haunted, the tale behind the ghost is as juicy as they come, involving a servant girl who caught the eye of a married samurai who used her job tending a set of very important plates against her to try to force her to be his mistress. She refused, so he killed her by throwing her body you-know-where.
A horrible death, to be sure, but she got revenge from beyond the grave, haunting the samurai’s nights until he went insane. Okiku’s story has remained popular in Japan, inspiring stage productions, video games, and horror film Ringu, as well as its American remake, The Ring. The well where she’s said to have drowned remains at Himeji Castle … along with (maybe) her ghost. Image via Kenpei via Creative Commons.
3) Haunted Lake, New Hampshire
In his book New Hampshire Curiosities, author Eric Jones offers a pair of stories explaining why this pond just outside of Francestown, NH (which he admits is so picturesque, it “doesn’t look the least bit haunted”) got its unusual name. One suggests the shores of what’s also called Scobie Pond (booooring) are haunted by the ghost of a settler killed ’round the campfire by his traveling companion; the other suggests that the supernatural sightings were actually due to a pair of pranksters who took great delight in scaring the bejesus out of anyone who happened to be passing by the lake late at night.
Yet another story, shared on the Cow Hampshire history blog, suggests the moniker came about for more aesthetic reasons: “a terrible fire once burnt the shores of the lake, killing every living thing and leaving it looking charred and spooky.” That said, the post also cites an early surveyor whose 1753 report of hearing mysterious, unrelenting “groanings and shrieks, as of a human being in distress” while camping lakeside suggests … GHOSTS.
4) Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Also known as Truc Lagoon, this natural harbor in the Caroline Islands served as home base for Japan’s Pacific Theater campaign during World War II. When American forces attacked in February 1944, the two-day battle rendered Chuuk Lagoon “the biggest graveyard of ships in the world.” According to Atlas Obscura,
Just a week before the attack, the Japanese military had moved additional ships to the area, and, as a result, approximately 250 Japanese aircraft were destroyed and more than 50 ships sunk. An estimated 400 Japanese soldiers were killed in one ship alone, trapped in the cargo hold. Most of the fleet remains in exactly the same spot it was left, largely forgotten by the world until the late 1960s.
Thanks to a 1969 Jacques Cousteau documentary, the wreck-strewn waters became a massively popular scuba-diving destination, and most of the left-behind bodies were removed and buried … though some remain, and ghostly sounds and sightings have been reported over the years. Image via World Archaeology.
5) Sargasso Sea, Atlantic Ocean
Notable for being the only sea without a land boundary (its borders are defined entirely by ocean currents), the Sargasso Sea — 1,000 miles wide and 3,000 miles long — is named for the Sargassum seaweed that floats upon its surface. The region is home to a diverse population of sea life … but it’s also got some uncanny vibes coursing through its oh-so-calm, plant-laden waves.
As Livescience recounts,
This eerie calmness contributes to the area’s mystery, as several ships have been found drifting crewless through its peaceful waters. In 1840, the French merchant ship Rosalie sailed through the Sargasso Sea and was later discovered with its sails set but without any crew members on board.
In an effort to explain the mysterious disappearances, 19th century lore told of the Sargasso Sea’s carnivorous seaweed, which was believed to devour sailors whole, leaving only the ship.
The mysteries of the Sargasso Sea (“a living hell that time forgot!”) inspired the 1968 Hammer production The Lost Continent … a film whose many, many lurid appeals (GIANT MOLLUSCS!) are amply illustrated by its trailer.
6) Gardner Lake, Connecticut
Local lore has it that faint piano music emanates from the bottom of this lake in Salem, Connecticut — the result of a household move gone awry across its frozen (albeit apparently not frozen enough) surface in the 1890s. “To this day, people who have scuba dived in the lake report that parts of the house and furniture still remain intact, including the aforementioned piano,” reports blog Damned Connecticut, though it’s difficult to find actual evidence of this. Just for fun, though … let’s just assume there’s a spindly old piano down there, hosting concerts played by spectral hands, OK? Haunted instruments are weirdly cool no matter what.
7) Great Lakes, America and Canada
Everyone remembers the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (thanks, Gordon Lightfoot), but the unpredictable waters of the Great Lakes have taken many ships … some of which have been reported as returning in ghostly form.
Prairie Ghosts offers a raft of anecdotal reports:
Ghost ship Western Reserve has been spotted in the waters off Deer Park, Michigan. The schooner went down in April of 1892 and was the property of famous financier Peter Minch. He had been aboard with his family the day the ship went down. Only the wheelman survived the wreck and the ship continues to be sighted today. Strangely, Captain Truedell of the Great Lakes Life-Saving Service dreamed the exact details of the accident before it happened. He saw it in such detail that he recognized the body of Peter Minch when he found it washed up on shore.
The W H. Gilcher has been sighted in the Straits of Mackinac, where it went down in 1892. The coal steamer is said to appear in the fog off Mackinac Island but it is not the only ship that appears near here. The other is an older vessel that returns every seven years and is the phantom craft of the explorer Sebastian, who is still trying to return home to his fiancee in France … even though he was lost here many years ago.
The ghost schooner, Erie Board of Trade, has also been spotted in Saginaw Bay. The cursed ship disappeared in Lake Huron in 1883 and, according to the stories, was wrecked by a ghost. The captain of the ship had ordered a crewman to go up the main mast to the boatswain’s chair, even though the men knew that it was not safe. The man ended up falling to his death. Soon, his ghost started to appear on the deck and in the cabins. The crew told this story while they were in port and on its next voyage, the ship vanished and was never seen again.
Mystery Portals offers this gem:
Easily the strangest and most macabre story is the tale of Grandpa. The Great Lakes are very cold in the depths, so cold that the frigid water will preserve almost anything through natural refrigeration. This includes human remains, and the story goes that there is a preserved body in the engine room of the wreck of the SS Kamloops, which went down in 1927. Locals and divers call him Grandpa, and he is known to float quietly behind divers, following them as they swim around the compartment. Perhaps this is just due to currents created by the divers, or maybe its something else, but the effect has scared the daylights out of more than a few divers.
As an aside, “Grandpa” has got to be the scariest name for a supernatural creature this side of King Diamond.
8) White Rock Lake, Texas
The story of the Lady of the Lake (or sometimes the Lady in White) is one of the most well-known ghost stories in the Dallas area. Here’s how the typical encounter with this spirit is usually reported: A man is driving on one of the roads that run around the lake late one night, when up ahead at the side of the road he sees a strange sight: a lone young woman, dripping wet and wearing a 1920’s-era evening gown.
The man pulls over and asks the woman if she needs some help, and she asks him for a ride to a house on Gaston Ave. The man obliges, driving through the night to Gaston Ave; the young woman remains silent beside him. When they finally reach Gaston Ave the man turns to ask the woman where he should pull over and to his shock, she is gone … just silently disappeared, leaving nothing but a wet stain on the car’s seat.
9) Bermuda Triangle
You didn’t think we’d forget, did you? Had to save the best/most obvious for last.