SS Watertown

by Walter Bissell

The story behind the ghost ship, SS Watertown...

Ghost Ship: SS WatertownIn December of 1924, an oil tanker named the S.S. Watertown sailed from California toward the Panama Canal in route to New Orleans. While they were sailing, James Courtney and Michael Meehan, crew members of the vessel, were cleaning a cargo tank in the ship’s hold. In a freak accident, the two men were overcome by gas and oil fumes and died. On December 4, as was the custom of the time, the sailors were buried at sea off the Mexican coast.

SS Watertown GhostsThis was not the last that the remaining crew members were to see of their dead shipmates. The next day, “before dusk, the first mate reported seeing the faces of the two men in the waves off the port side of the ship. They remained in the water for about 10 seconds, and then faded.” For several days thereafter, the “phantom-like” faces of the sailors were clearly seen by other members of the crew in the sea foam created by the ship as it sailed.

On arrival in New Orleans, the ship's captain, Keith Tracy, reported the strange events to his employers at the Cities Service Company. It was suggested that he try to photograph the “eerie” faces if they appeared again. Captain Tracy purchased a camera before the next voyage. When the faces appeared in the water again, Captain Tracy took six photos, and then locked the camera and film in the ship's safe. The crew reported seeing the faces of the deceased seaman several more times, but their appearance became less and less frequent.

The SS Watertown departed and continued its scheduled voyage to New York City. When the film was processed in New York, five of the exposures showed nothing but sea foam. The sixth one showed the ghostly faces of the doomed seamen. The negative was checked for fakery by the Burns Detective Agency, which found no sign of tampering. After a third voyage, the ship's crew was changed and there were no more reports of sightings of the ghastly duo.

The story of the entire event didn’t appear until ten years later, after it was found in the journal of the shipping company. The negative of the photograph being lost by the passage of time, made it impossible to re-verify the image as authentic. Was this just a figment of some superstitious sailor's imagination? Was this some cruel joke? Is it possible that the sightings were induced by mass hysteria? Was the sighting of the ghostly pair just an optical illusion? Many individuals in the search of paranormal ghost phenomenon are reporting to have similar experiences. Evidence may be mounting?

Ghost Picture Taken of the SS Watertown:
SS Watertown Ghost Picture