Star of India, San Diego; A Ghost Ship?


Nestled in the bay of San Diego, California, is the famous Maritime Museum. The museum hosts many boats on display like a ferryboat named Berkeley, a Cold War Russian B-39 attack submarine, and proudly floating in front of them all, the majestic, Star of India.

Exerts from the Maritime website:

The Star of India is the world’s oldest active sailing ship, built at Ramsey Shipyard in the Isle of Man in 1863, she was one of the first experimental iron ships of her time. She bore the name Euterpe, after the Greek muse of music and poetry. Euterpe was a full-rigged ship until 1901, when the Alaska Packers Association rigged her down to a barque, her present rig. She suffered many near-disastrous voyages to India, one a collision, one a mutiny, and one a cyclone, but recovered every time. In 1871 she was purchased by the Shaw Savill line of London and embarked on a quarter century of hauling immigrants to New Zealand. She made 21 circumnavigations in this service, some of them lasting up to a year at sea with as many as 400 on board.

Within her life-time she also suffered a few deaths on board, including the ship’s captain. Some say the souls never left.  Here are three accounts of deaths which occurred on the ship all reported from the historic ship’s log.

The Death of Captain William Storry, 1865:


First Mate’s cabin, IR photo.

December 20th, 1865 on her way back to England from Calcutta where she had repaired damage due to gale winds, Captain William Storry committed suicide by cutting his own throat. The crew tried to save him by mending his wounds and placing him in the first mate’s quarters for care, but shortly after they laid him down, he ripped off his bandages and bled to death. An inquiry board was established while at sea which consisted of members of the ship’s crew and passengers; They concluded the captain went completely insane for unknown reasons, and was promptly buried at sea.

Present day:
Since 1998 when the educational department started having sleepovers on board, passengers were experiencing very unusual events. One women sleeping in the First Mates bunk, had the bed covers pulled off her in the middle of the night. Most visitors and crew sometimes experience faint whispers, feel cold pockets of air, and rocking chairs start to move. During my visit, I caught a faint orb on camera off in the distance traveling horizontal right in front of the First Mate’s quarters. No other specks of dust were recorded during that session, just that one. Captain Storry or just a speck of dust? Some say, “Captain Storry”.

The Death of a Chinese Stowaway, 1890:


Entrance to the Anchor Storage Room. (EMF meter on left side.)

In late 1871 the ship began twenty-five years of carrying passengers and freight in the New Zealand immigrant trade, each voyage going eastward around the world before returning back to England. On one of those trips when the anchor was dropped near New Zealand, the remains of a Chinese stowaway were found under some of the remaining links on board ship. Each link weighing an excess of 25 pounds, his body was ripped and battered laying beneath them all. Not knowing the reason or cause of death due to the condition of the corpse, all that was known was, no one on the passenger manifest was missing, therefore he must have been a stowaway.

Present Day:
Near the bow of the ship either in the area where the chain is stored or on top-side, some visitors have heard the sounds of chains rattling and sometimes someone moaning. While in the ship, some visitors have felt pockets of cold air while feeling uncomfortable as if someone is watching them. During my visit I didn’t pick up anything on my EMF meter, but a couple of visitors I talked with felt very uneasy in that area.

Death of Johnny the Deck Hand


Full Spectrum Picture of the Deck

Mid 1902 young Johnny Campbell stowed away on the Euterpe in hopes of finding work in New Zealand. Leaving port from Scotland, his goal was to earn enough money to get his father out of debtor’s prison. His father was thrown in jail for not paying outstanding debt with hopes his son could earn enough money to get him out. Johnny snuck on board the ship presenting himself as a dock loader, then hid below deck where the extra sails were stored. Hiding under the sails he unexpectedly found another boy stowed away named, Bill. The two boys were able to hide up to four months until they were found by the ship’s cook. When presented to the captain as stowaways, the captain wanted them thrown over board. The cook pleaded with the captain to spare their lives stating he needed help in the galley and would feed them leftover scraps. The captain agreed, and the boys became part of the crew.

Some days after their chores were done, the boys would play tag with the passenger’s children while on the deck. One of the games they also played was sneaking up on each other and drawing the first letter of the country they were from on the other children’s backs using their finger nails. Those children would then have to guess who that child was behind them. This game would come back to haunt present day passengers.

One particular day a storm was approaching, so the captain ordered full sails to outrun the storm. Johnny and Bill had become very skilled helping the crew hoist the sails both climbing the rigging many times in competition to see who could get their sails up first. This particular time Johnny had his sail set first and while boasting, fell from the rigging down to the deck. With internal injuries, Johnny lasted for three days before he died. Sailor folklore stated that a crew man needed to be buried at sea before sunset on the day they died or their soul would remain on the ship forever. Johnny’s body was wrapped and ready for burial when his ceremonies were delayed by the captain’s speech. Just as the sun started to set, a rogue wave washed Johnny’s body over, but was it before sunset? Some think not.

Present Day:
Some nights when children stay on the boat for educational programs, or others are just visiting, some feel a slap on their shoulders or feel an S drawn on their back representing the country Johnny was from, Scotland. Still playing tag in his after life, Johnny pops up from time and plays with the children.

Other experiences passengers and crew have, are the sounds of children’s laughter, shadows moving through the night, and sounds of passengers from days past doing their daily activities through-out the ship.

So if you want to visit the oldest active merchant sailing ship that still sails once a year, and get the feeling of being transported back to 1874, then the Star of India is for you. Come visit San Diego’s Maritime Museum, you just may be greeted by one of the original crew.

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