S.S. OURANG MEDAN — Whole Crew Discovered Dead After Eerie SOS Messages
An unsubstantiated ghost ship claim, this one is no less terrifying: In 1947, the Dutch cargo ship S.S. Ourang Medan (Indonesian for “Man from Medan”) was found drifting in Indonesian waters. Several ships transversing the Strait of Malacca, located between Sumatra and Malaysia, picked up her distress call that stated “All officers including captain are dead, lying in chart room and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.” A flurry of unintelligible Morse code and S.O.S. signals followed, ending with the grisly message: “I die.”
When the Ourang Medan was located and boarded by the crew of an American merchant ship, the Silver Star, the claim didn’t disappoint: the bodies of the Dutch crew were strewn among the decks, out in the open, down in the boiler room, everywhere. “Their frozen faces were upturned to the sun… staring, as if in fear… the mouths were gaping open and the eyes staring,” according to a witness account printed in the United States Coast Guard’s 1952 proceedings. Even the ship’s dog was dead. No damage to the ship was found, and no sign of physical injury was found among the corpses. Other than the fact that they were, you know, dead.
No sooner than the Silver Star’s crew cut the towline and made it back to their vessel, the Ourang Medan exploded. If they’d waited much longer, the Silver Star would have almost certainly been dragged down with it.
Popular theories include carbon monoxide poisoning, paranormal phenomena, and a cargo of hazardous chemicals — possibly a combination of nitrogylcerin and potassium cyanide. However, the story of the Ourang Medan is widely believed to be either an exaggeration of another event or else a fabrication altogether. Skeptics roundly disdain the tale, pointing to the fact that no such ship was listed in Lloyd’s Shipping Register of that year, nor were any references to it were found in the ship registration records of the Netherlands.
(It was still alarming enough to spark an investigation by the US Coast Guard, though, with plenty of witnesses, indicating that somebody at least saw something.)