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. However, the oceans aren’t the only place where ghost ships roam. The 94,250 square miles of the Great Lakes have become a beacon for ghost ship stories.

The Great Lakes can experience storms of hurricane-force winds. (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 are 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. The 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, alive.

The Glicher can supposably be seen through the fog off Mackinac Island as it appeared in 1892. When sunlight pierces the fog, Captain Weeks is at the wheel and the sound of a fog whistle echoes across the waves.

Western Reserve – Ghost 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 9PM, 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 it’s said ghostly voices of laughter can be heard emanating from the water.

SS. 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 wouldn’t be so lucky.

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 sightings of the SS. Bannockburn have been frightening.

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 drydock in Kingston, Ontario. Photo courtesy.

One specific 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. The Bannockburn ran aground and disappeared.

Erie Board of Trade – Wrecked by a ghost

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

Unlike other shipwrecks, the Erie Board of Trade’s fate wasn’t doomed by a storm. It was wrecked with the help of the supposed ghost of a former crewman.

As the story goes, the ship’s captain sent his crewman onto the mast for a watch in the boatswain’s chair. The crew knew the chair was unsafe, and not long afterward, the crewman plummeted to his death.

Shortly after, the crew reported seeing their former crewman on deck. On one fateful day, after the crew described at port, the tale of his death, the Erie Board of Trade vanished into the waters of Lake Huron.

Edmund Fitzgerald – The most famous Great Lakes’ shipwreck

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

The most famous shipwreck on the Great Lakes is 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 Great Lakes’ ghost ships? Leave a comment below.

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