Saturday, October 31, 2009

Living With The Dead

This just so happens to be my standard Halloween story. Yes, I told it over three years ago on this here blog but the statute of limitations on the internet is 2.5 seconds, 1.25 if you have ADD.

It's not my only ghost story, but it is the one that formed my opinions of the living and the dead. The living? Meh. They are what they are. The dead? YOU DO NOT FUCK WITH THE DEAD!

Here's my story and I'm sticking to it:

This isn’t something I tell just anyone as this is a topic that I think is far more personal than religion, politics, or sexual indiscretions. It is the one bombshell that when you drop it, there is a high probability that the majority of the people in your audience will immediately write you off as a nut job, as I would have done myself before sailing on the LNG Taurus.

Now one thing you have to realize is that when you are the only female on a ship, you are being constantly tested. Your strength is always in question, your intelligence, your hutzpah, your sexuality, everything is under attack by your co-workers. It is a situation that will either make you hard as nails or completely insane. I believe I fall under the former, but perhaps after this story you will disagree.

So, when we were taking on stores off Singapore in the middle of the night and the bos'n told me not to take the port side tunnel when I returned to my cabin, I was immediately suspicious. The ships were 1000 foot and had a port and starboard tunnel that ran the length of the ship. This allowed you to go from the bow to the stern in the tunnel and avoid inclement weather. The tunnels followed the shape of the ship and thus you could only see a few yards ahead at any one time. They were lighted intermittently with hanging fixtures but there were always small pools of darkness to contend with.

Now, what no one on the ship knew at the time was that I had been in the port tunnel a few days earlier. I had been traveling from the bow at the end of the day and mid-way I stopped dead in my tracks. The only way to describe the feeling that was following me that day was to think back to any Hollywood action flick that has a huge ball of fire chasing the hero up an elevator shaft or through a tunnel or cave. It is big, it is bad, and it is coming for you.

There were no footsteps. There wasn’t a single crew member in the tunnel at the time. There was, however, a horrible malevolent presence that grabbed me by the gut. I had never been more afraid for my life and I had no idea why. All I could do was to run. I couldn’t turn back, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t scream, all I could do was run.

I hit the final steps up to the hatch leading to the deck and almost lost my mind opening the dogs on the door. I stumbled out onto the deck and slammed the heavy door behind me. Looking around, I was alone. I was leaning on the door, shaking so much that I couldn’t even raise my hands to dog the door again for a few minutes. Then I asked myself, “What in the hell just happened?”

I didn’t dare bring this up to anyone. It is a very isolating experience to be in the middle of the ocean and to have such a terrifying experience and not have anyone (read “female” here) to talk to. If I would have told any of the guys they would have either laughed their heads off or they would have wanted to go down there to investigate. Neither of which I was interested in.

So, I asked the bos’n why I shouldn’t use the port tunnel and he told me very mater-of-factly that it was haunted.

Now, as any casual observer of the human animal can tell you, there is no more vehement denier than one who knows in their heart that what they are denying is, in fact, the truth. I gave him my best skeptical look and sputtered some sort of condescending noise, all the while realizing that I was in danger of shitting my pants.

The bos’n then called over the chief mate who I held in considerably higher regard. The bos’n asked the chief mate to tell me about the port tunnel.

The chief then regaled me with the tale of the former captain of the ship of whom the chief mate served under. The captain had a nasty little incident where he ran the ship aground. The Japanese coast guard were called in to investigate the incident and the captain told them everything they needed to know and all of the papers were filed and the I’s dotted. The captain then proceeded to go up to his cabin and shoot himself in the head.

Well, at least he waited until the paperwork was done…

It was the chief mate that found him and was left to, metaphorically, clean up afterwards. After that incident, there had been reports from many different crew members about places on the ship that held an incredible presence, most reports were that it was a malevolent presence. The chief mate had experienced quite a few incidences where he went up to the wheelhouse in the middle of the night when the ship was docked only to find the captain standing by the wheel. When he stopped and did a double take, the captain was gone.

“And I never, ever, go through the port tunnel…I did it once and that was enough…”He concluded.

It’s kind of funny how well I remember that conversation with the bos’n and the chief mate. I remember the lights of Singapore in the background, the smell on the air, the sound of the supply boat motoring off toward shore, and the earnestness on the face of the chief mate. I would have never believed it if I hadn’t gone through it myself but I felt my universe shift a little that night and I’ve felt the duty to remember and respect the dead from that point on.


Anonymous said...


Marty said...

I like a good ghost story, and I certainly approve of respecting the dead.

I sure would like to test that port tunnel for CO, carbon monoxide. Many a good ghost story involving Victorian or late 1800's homes turned out to be CO poisoning due to poor combustion and poor ventilation. I'm not saying I know CO caused your feelings, but I suspect CO poisoning before I suspect a ghost. I hope I didn't ruin you Halloween.

Did you know that the stereotype of the lazy southerners had a physical cause as well?

Debbie said...

I'm all for scientific explanations but when the Chief Mate kept running into the dead Captain in the wheelhouse where it's a couple hundred feet above the deck and well ventilated, CO2 doesn't seem to be as much of an issue.

And of all the people on the ships that would screw with a "girl" on a daily basis, this Chief Mate was one of the only people I trusted and respected as a professional.

You can't fake freaked out earnestness and he had it, stone cold.

And there were several other people on the ship that had had my exact experience in the tunnel and his exact experience in the wheelhouse.

Maybe some day I'll regale you with the tale of working as a paramedic and physically having my hands on a patient when they died. They were a DNR so we didn't have to run a code.

Ever feel an ice cold shadow travel through your body? It reminds me of Harry Potter walking through Nearly Headless Nick.

Not comfortable!

I thought southerners were lazy because they owned black people...not true?

Anonymous said...

Ever think a mortician would you look you square in the face and say we need to get him in the ground now? That is exactly what happened when my Grandfather died. He was quite the meany, shall we say. I requested to view his body and immediately felt his overwhelming hatred. He had been murdered we found out later. I told the mortician that he was right and not to let anyone else in to view the body. My Mother snuck in with her sisters. They lasted about 4 minutes. We had him in the ground as fast as possible. When visiting his grave he is still there and each year just a little less hateful, but very angry still. He died during the big earthquake in the bay area. He was in Oregon when he died, but his time of death was the same time the first quake hit and the nimitz went down. I too, respect the dead.
Tabatha (Friend in Folsom)

superiorfan said...

Good story. Makes one wonder.

A number of years ago I was staying at my parents house while they were gone on vacation. In the middle of the night I felt something walking on me and I couldn't get up. I could feel a cold nose sniffing the back of my neck. If you are thinking this was just the dog, my dog did do something similar but that dog had died about 5 years before. It was me alone in the house.

I still don't know if it was a dream or real. Seemed very real at the time. At least I thought I was awake.

Marty said...

I experienced an hallucination the night after surgery, probably a side effect from the anesthesia. It felt totally real to me.

Regarding the wheelhouse on the ship, subsonics can cause odd reactions as well. Please note I do NOT doubt that you felt what you did. I do NOT doubt that the sailors saw what they did. It is that I suspect there is a physical explanation for the feelings and the sightings.

Regarding the lazy southerners - they really did lack energy at the time.

Rockefeller wanted to open the South to his products, but the Southerners had little money, so Rockefeller commissioned a panel of experts to see what could be done to help the southerners be more industrious.

The problem was hookworms, which reproduce by having larva in feces. The larva can then travel up to four feet, and then burrow into the skin of their next host. A large infestation of hookworms saps ones strength.

Rockefeller promoted the use of outhouses with pits at least six feet deep. The hookworms could no longer spread, and the healthy southerners were just as active as the rest of us.

Interestingly enough, the eradication of hookworms may explain the great increase in asthma and allergies we see these days, but that is a story for another day.

Debbie said...

Funny! I thought you were going to connect it to something like pica which, when I lived in the south and was pregnant and the nurse asked me if I was having any cravings for dirt or laundry detergent, I just looked at her and said "You have GOT to be kidding me! What the HELL do you people DO down here?????"

It didn't win me any points...

Apparently it's a big problem in the south as well.

Anonymous said...

I think you are sensitive to parnormal activity. I remeber when we were kids and you participated in things like this. I'm sure you remember what I'm talking about. Maybe you were pulling my leg when we were kids but I thought it was real at the time. I've had to many experiences as an adult to thing that there isn't something real to it all.


Debbie said...

Oh my god P! I had forgotten all about that! I think I was just surrounded by the deaths of so many important people when I was growing up, perhaps it made me hpersensitive, or perhaps I just want to see things that aren't there? Gotta always at least pretend that I'm skeptical so I don't sound like a loon...

Rick Spilman said...

Hello. An out of the blue comment, five years after your original post.

After hearing about Robin Williams apparent suicide, I found myself thinking about what I call my three day rule -- which is, if you feel suicidal, wait three days. It was based on my memory of an Amsea LNG ship that went aground in Japan years ago, where the captain committed suicide, and three days later the ship was salvaged and put on dock without losing any cargo.

I heard the story because I was employed by Mormac when I heard about the suicide and we were in a partnership to operate the last two LNG ships of the series built at GD Quincy. I couldn't recall the ship's name, so I checked with my friend Google and figured out that it was the LNG Taurus. Then I came across your wonderful and rather scary ghost story.

Would you mind if I repost a quote on my blog?

Debbie said...

A blast from the past! I had to investigate what my login and password were. You most certainly can quote my little story.

If you find anything else out about it, let me know! I did an internet search a few years ago and didn't come up with anything but it is a story worth pursuing.