There is some skepticism as to whether Ourang Medan actually existed, but its legend is well known. Around 1948, Morse code distress signals were picked up by several ships off the coast of Indonesia. The vessel in distress was a Dutch freighter called Ourang Medan, a Malay name meaning “Man from Medan.
Though the distress calls were intermittent and garbled at times, nearby ships were able to ascertain that the captain and all the officers were dead, the entire crew was in jeopardy and after several attempts at additional transmissions, a final message simply said, “I die.” Shortly after the last transmission, a vessel responding to the distress was able to locate Ourang Medan. The ship appeared to be in sound condition, but there was no response to the attempts to make contact, so a boarding party was dispatched. Upon entering the ship, they found a terrifying scene. The entire crew was found dead, their bodies were contorted with arms outstretched, eyes open and expressions of horror on their faces. Even the ship’s dog was found dead, baring his teeth at some phantom adversary. Yet upon closer observation, no injuries were observed on any of the bodies.
After some deliberation, a decision was made to tow the vessel to port to investigate the tragedy. However, as the salvaging crew prepared to tow the vessel, smoke began to pour out the hull. The crew was forced to abandon the ship and cut the lines to escape the thick smoke. Moments later, Ourang Medan exploded. Macabre speculation continues to surround the fate of the freighter and her unfortunate crew. There are those who believe that the crew was terrorized by demons or extraterrestrials; other stories claim the ship was carrying gruesome chemical weapons that accidentally killed the unprotected civilian crew charged with transporting them. And of course there are conspiracy theorists who say it was a military crew disguised aboard a civilian ship, carrying a mystery weapon that may have changed the course of history had Ourang Medan not met an untimely end.
Excerpted from Dockwalk: 8 of the Spookiest Ghost Ship Stories