The Ghost Ship Speaks: Star of India

star of india

The Star of India is a tremendously atmospheric ship with a long and storied past. Someone or something appears to remain behind, following visitors and apparently answering questions. But I am getting ahead of myself . . . a little history first:

“The Star of India is the world’s oldest active ship. She began her life on the stocks at Ramsey Shipyard in the Isle of Man in 1863. Iron ships were experiments of sorts then, with most vessels still being built of wood. Within five months of laying her keel, the ship was launched into her element. She bore the name Euterpe, after the Greek goddess of music.

Euterpe was a full-rigged ship and would remain so until 1901, when the Alaska Packers Association rigged her down to a barque, her present rig. She began her sailing life with two near-disastrous voyages to India. On her first trip she suffered a collision and a mutiny. On her second trip, a cyclone caught Euterpe in the Bay of Bengal, and with her topmasts cut away, she barely made port. Shortly afterward, her first captain died on board and was buried at sea.

After such a hard luck beginning, Euterpe settled down and made four more voyages to India as a cargo ship. In 1871 she was purchased by the Shaw Savill line of London and embarked on a quarter century of hauling emigrants to New Zealand, sometimes also touching Australia, California and Chile. She made 21 circumnavigations in this service, some of them lasting up to a year. It was rugged voyaging, with the little iron ship battling through terrific gales, “labouring and rolling in a most distressing manner,” according to her log.” (sdmaritime.com/contentpage.asp?contentID=48)

We were enthusiastic about investigating the Star of India, since she has such an amazing and tragic past. If ever spirits were to wander a place, this would be it. We didn’t have to wait long for the odd experiences to commence.

Layla and I started our investigation in the First Mate’s Cabin while Grant and Brian headed towards the lower decks. Seemingly out of nowhere, a puddle formed on the vinyl mat where the original bed was. This made no sense to me, considering that there was only one slow drip in the ceiling nowhere near the puddle. As quickly as the puddle formed, it disappeared. There was no logical source for it, and no reason for it to vanish. As we asked our questions, there were occasionally audible responses. This left us with the need to return and attempt to retrieve more information.

We quickly acclimated to the particular sounds of a ship: the creaking, the sea noises, and the night birds outside. I was surrounded by the musty, oily, salty smell of the ship and the ocean, and realized how sharp one’s senses become in the dark. Every place has its own scent, a peculiar mixture of organic growth and human industry, of must, paint, wood and vermin. The Star of India transported me to another reality, one where there was real danger in the everyday life and work of the ship. And then, of course, there is the question of which reality is operating when voices speak to you from the dark. The darkness on the lower decks is all-consuming and blacker in some areas than others, a fact not entirely explained by natural light sources. There is that thick, oppressive feeling that accompanies something strange, a sensation that is now familiar but no less frightening when it happens. It happened to us again on the deck below the Captain’s Quarters, below a staircase. There were footsteps above our head, so clear that we all heard them and had no doubt as to what we were hearing. Of course, there was no one upstairs. That fact never ceases to amaze me–how does this happen? How does any of this happen?

Around the time of the footsteps, I noticed that the area in front of me seemed alive with some kind of energy, and I instinctively moved forward (this is a change from the early days of ghost hunting, when I would have instinctively moved away). At that moment, I heard a slide and a tremendous crash. It was so startling, that I screamed for only the second time during an investigation. After I recovered from the shock, we quickly confirmed that we had all heard the same thing. It almost goes without saying that nothing was out of place, nothing had fallen, and that no known source of the crash could be identified.

We continued to have odd experiences on the ship that night. It seemed, once again, that something inanimate had come alive. Equally odd was how quickly the activity shut itself off–near the end of our stay there seemed to be a clear disappearance of paranormal activity: it stopped as quickly as it had started. I am always amazed how that works: you feel tremendous movement and energy all around you as you walk into a place, and then later, at some random point in the evening, it simply vanishes. Why?

The Star of India left us with several personal experiences shared by the entire group. The haunted history of the ship matched our experience: the man who committed suicide in the First Mate’s Cabin may not have been the spirit communicating with us, but something was still in that room as other reports confirm. The footsteps on the lower deck match up to numerous reports from the same area. The crashes and other unexplained noises have a long history of scaring visitors.

We can’t confirm who might have spoken to us that night, but there seemed a clear attempt at communication. As for the crashes, bangs, raps and other odd noises, that might simply be the repetition of daily life at sea: cargo sliding around the deck, materials falling to the floor in rough seas, or even–perhaps–a permanent reminder and testament to the restless souls of the sailors who lost their lives on the Star of India, so many decades ago.

Kirsten A. Thorne

  1. Went there yesterday and its a beautiful ship but when I came to the stairwell going down to the captains quarters I stuck my head in and immediately felt it, something there. I quickly left the spot and grabbed my husband and said this place is haunted for sure. Had no idea this place was known for it; we came home and googled it and found numerous accounts. The dolls are also creepy. Makes sense seafaring was dangereous and I’m sure a lot of people died on that boat, just interesting how I felt “it” before knowing any of this stuff about her. School kids were spending the night too last night… I thought that is cool they get to sleep over and afterward I’m like nah, I change my mind lol

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  2. I took pictures on the ship just last week. My two and the year old kept looking to their left on all three photos. We were the only ones on that part of the deck.

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    1. There is another WW II submarine up in San Francisco that is haunted. I felt it when I went on board. I forget the name.. but it’s haurnted fer sure..

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  3. im going on the Star Of India next month i feel freaked out

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  4. mrMcWhazznt 8 Jan 2013 at 6:57 pm

    i also remember feeling weird when i was in the “Big Ropes” Section of that ship. Didn’t think much of it at the time, but reading other people’s posts, i remember feeling really wierd, heavy, dizzy, in that section.

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  5. I’m in fifth grade and when my class went on the star of India my friend and I heard and saw a ghost

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  6. Also The Russian submarine “Scorpion” in Long Beach I think is haunted. Whilr below decks I was trying to take pictures with my digital camera…. It would not work ! The flash failed to go off.
    And then while I was backing up to take some shots in the engine room, I fell of the decking and got a foot stuck in the bilge.
    mSo I said “Dasvidanya” and left.

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  7. I too have trod the decks of the Star of India.. But i didn’t know she was haunted. The next time I am in San Diego I will try to feel the ghosts.
    I have been on other ships/boats that were haunted and felt uneasy even before I knew they were haunted.

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  8. alisssa alcaraz 12 Dec 2010 at 8:46 pm

    me again!!
    i went to the star of india again around july and i remember going into this one spot of the ship where they have the huge rope on the left side i went and i was there with my friend she said that she felt weird and had to leave that spot to i also felt it and it felt heavy and i would go to the other side and nothing no weird feeling at all and again i felt tired and dizzy

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    1. O my gosh. When I went with my class we spent the night and got to pretend like we were actual Crew mates and I was galley with four other people including my friend and our sleeping bags were by the dummies and the stairs by all of the big rope and my friend and I were just waiting for our night watch to start when we heard loud foot steps and the a black figure walk stop like it was looking at us then it went really fast as if it were running. My friend and I were so startled. I clutched on to her arm we were lying there for about twenty seconds when screamed RUN! We both jumped up and ran to were everyone was looking and I was breathing so hard saying we saw something! Then the next week I was like we saw a ghost and everyone was like “yeah we saw you freaking out” I was like oh. But nobody believed us.

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  9. My husband, 2 teen daughters, & myself toured the ships while in San Diego for my son’s boot camp graduation. This ship made us all feel weird. The dolls certainly did NOT help any! Jokingly I told one of our girls that the dolls come to life at nite. I was just messing with her because they creeped me out too! I had no idea the ship was haunted til today when my husband saw something on TV about it. I guess the thought was always there considering how old the vessel is, but the ship is definitely creepy!

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  10. hi my name is alissa alcaraz. about two years ago i went to the star of india and when i was in there
    there was this one section on the boat where i couldnt be even with 5 people surrounding me. i was on the second floor i think where you see i big square in the middle and you could see the bottom floor. for some reason i felt like i was being watched. then there was this other room. but im not sure if it was berkley or the star of india. i walked into this other room where they have only pure pictures i thought there was this other man in the room but i was worng. i felt weird and dizzy through out the whole tour. i hope i get to vist again!!!

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  11. Aloha, Oh! yes the Goddess”Euterpe” in her pristine former Glory! Would it not be so grande indeed to have the “Star of India” rigged again as her original “Three-Mast-Full-Rigged-Ship” configuration!!! Absolutely- with “Star” (Hoku O India) active and fulfilling service under sail to our communities again, what a turbo-boost this will be towards the “Return of the Golden Age of Sail”. The Classic traditional-values, Non-Emissions evolved transportation; along with high-tech “platforms” like Harbor Wing Technologies and BMW Oracle Wing-Sails will be such a nice marriage of “Collective-Respect” to have Sailing/Foiling/Gliding Faster than the wind again for “Extreme-Clipper-Ship” commerce and trade harnessing this “given” Free-Ride-From-Nature ( the Sun, the Wind, and the Wave energies for propulsion)… Yes! the Future Modern Clipper Ship, anyone out there ready to “talk-story”, meet-up, organize; and build & maintain such a exotic creature. Let’s “Huddle”- Let us Be Allowed to DO IT!…

    Mahalo nui loa iruka-san. P.S. We heard from the “coconut-wireless” that San Francisco has strongly supported the ideals in building a modern-flavor of a replica of the “Record-Clipper” Flying Cloud; can any one bring us up-to-speed- We like to offer our “collective” Kokua!!! ciaou.

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  12. poseyghosts 1 Sep 2009 at 8:05 am

    I have been on the Star of India. I has a wonderful past. Thanks for sharing your experiences and notes. I am interested about the hearing steps and how it is possible to make the sound ‘from the afterlife.’ I was reading Frances Keerman’s book on Myrtles Plantation where she describes a similar experience.

    It is interesting that a weightless spirit can make weighted sounds such as walking up and down stairs, etc.

    Jeff Barnes

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    1. losangelesparanormalassociation 8 Sep 2009 at 9:50 pm

      The Star of India is a very interesting ship. And yes, I have no idea how something weightless can create noise, although my theory is that what we think we are hearing is more of an audio hallucination–we may not be ‘hearing’ it as we hear normal sounds. How this works, of course, is open to debate. Are we in a time warp? Are we receiving an impression of a recording of past events? It’s still a total mystery. Thank you for your comment!

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      1. losangelesparanormalassociation 14 Sep 2009 at 8:40 pm

        Hi Israel, not sure why you were having issues with Myspace. You can send the photo to info@losangelesparanormal.org

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