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