October is the month for ghosts and goblins – and sometimes the real story is as scary as could be….
In 1872, Captain Benjamin Briggs (a native of Marion, MA)—along with his wife, two-year-old daughter, and crew of seven—set sail across the Atlantic on the brigantine merchant ship Mary Celeste to deliver a cargo of 1,701 barrels of alcohol to Italy. About a month after their departure, a fellow merchant ship spotted the Mary Celeste off the coast of Portugal sailing haphazardly with her sails torn. What they found upon boarding was a seemingly seaworthy ship, good supplies of food and fresh water, the crew’s personal possessions, but not a trace of a single person! Though there was no sign of foul play, the only lifeboat on the Mary Celeste was missing, a frayed line was trailing in the water behind the ship, and nine barrels of the alcohol were empty.
The many speculations about the source of what happened to the Mary Celeste and her crew include sea spouts, sea monsters, pirates, and the Bermuda triangle, as well as the theory that the ship was simply cursed (since it had a long history of accidents, including the death of three captains). The most reasonable explanation, however, may be that after a small explosion of alcohol fumes in the main hatch, the crew jumped into the lifeboat with intentions of trailing behind the ship until the danger was over but were unable to keep the line secured and the Mary Celeste sailed off without them. The crew could have succumbed to hunger, thirst, and exposure while drifting in the life raft. Whatever their fate, it likely wasn’t a good one. With no clear explanation, the Mary Celeste remains one of the most mysterious ghost ship stories around.