Ghost Ships of the Great Lakes


Most people have heard about the Flying Dutchman patrolling the oceans or even the abandoned Mary Celeste. The oceans aren’t the only place where ghost ships roam. The 94,250 square miles of the Great Lakes have become a haven for ghost ship stories.


Most people have heard about the Flying Dutchman patrolling the oceans or even the abandoned Mary Celeste. America’s inland seas have their own share of spooky phenomena. The Great Lakes’ ghost ships allegedly roam the 94,250 square miles of water in the middle of the continent.

The Great Lakes are filled with shipwrecks. Hurricane-force winds sometimes make their presence known on the lakes. See the Great Lakes Storm of 1913, which killed more than 250 people and decimated 19 ships. It’s just one of many reasons why there are more than 6,000 ships at the bottom of the Great Lakes.

W.H. Glicher – Into the fog

The W.H. Glicher was built in 1891 as a coal steamer with an experimental steel hull. The Cleveland-built steamer transported bushels of wheat and coal across the Great Lakes.

On October 28th, 1892, the ship was en route from Buffalo, New York to Milwaukee, Wisconsin carrying a load of coal. Captain Lloyd H. Weeks steered the Glicher through the Straits of Mackinac and into a cloud of fog. That was the last time the ship was seen, allegedly.

From Mackinac Island, witnesses can supposedly glimpse sight of the Gilcher through the fog. When sunlight pierces the fog, Captain Weeks is at the wheel and the sound of its fog whistle echoes across the waves.

Western Reserve – Ghostly laughter

The Western Reserve, sister vessel of the W.H. Gilcher. Courtesy.The Western Reserve, sister vessel of the W.H. Gilcher. Courtesy.

W.H. Gilcher’s sister ship the Western Reserve was built in 1890. The football field-length ship was built for carrying iron ore.

In 1892, The ship, while sailing across Lake Superior, hosted the owner of the ship, Peter Minch, and his family.

Around 9 PM, the brittle steel hull of the ship shook and the mast collapsed onto the deck. The ship sank sixty miles offshore. 26 of the 27 occupants died including Peter Minch and his family.

Meanwhile, a ship captain named Benjamin Truedell in Deer Park, Michigan awoke from a nightmare. He saw the Western Reserve and its crew sink beneath the dark waves of Lake Superior. The dream was so vivid Truedell was able to identify a body that washed up on shore near Deer Park. It was Peter Minch.

Eight weeks after the Western Reserve disaster, the W.H. Gilcher sank too.

The government responded by investigating the brittle steel used for ship construction.

It’s said the Western Reserve can still be seen floating on the waves of Lake Superior today. On cloudless nights, witnesses report hearing ghostly laughter emanating from the water.

S.S. Bannockburn – The Flying Dutchman of Lake Superior

In November 1902, a ship named the SS Bannockburn left Thunder Bay, headed towards Georgian Bay. It ran aground, without any damage. But, the ship wasn’t out of the woods.

Later that night the Bannockburn disappeared into a storm and other than a wooden oar and a life preserver, was never seen again.

Like the Flying Dutchman, the ghostly S.S. Bannockburn has reportedly been frightening other sailors.

Sailors claim to see the Bannockburn with skeletons on deck and in portholes manning the ship through a storm.

Bannockburn in drydock in Kingston, Ontario. Photo courtesy.Bannockburn in the drydock in Kingston, Ontario. Photo courtesy.

One encounter happened with the ore freighter, Walter A. Hutchison in the 1940s. The crew saw the distinctive Bannockburn a hundred yards away hurtling toward their ship. The Hutchison dodged the Bannockburn and the Bannockburn ran aground and vanished.

Erie Board of Trade – Wrecked by a ghost

Lake Huron also has a ghost ship. The 1800s schooner, the Erie Board of Trade is rumored to sail around Saginaw Bay.

Unlike other shipwrecks, a storm didn’t sink the Erie Board of Trade. It may have been wrecked by the help of the supposed ghost of a former crewman.

As the story goes, the ship’s captain sent a crewman onto the mast for a watch in the boatswain’s chair. The crew knew the chair was unsafe. But that didn’t stop the captain from sending the crewman to his plummeting death.

Shortly after, the crew reported seeing their former crewman on deck. Later on a fateful day, the Erie Board of Trade vanished into the cold waters of Lake Huron.

Edmund Fitzgerald – The most famous Great Lakes’ ghost ship

Edmund Fitzgerald, 1971. Photo courtesy.Edmund Fitzgerald, 1971. Photo courtesy.

The most famous shipwreck on the Great Lakes is hands down the Edmund Fitzgerald. The Edmund Fitzgerald was allegedly spotted sailing Lake Superior ten years after a rogue wave struck it down in 1975.  The Fitzgerald and her crew still rest 500 feet below the dark waves of Lake Superior.

What stories have you heard about the Great Lakes’ ghost ships? Leave a comment below.

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