The shelf life of ghost ships tends to be lengthy. It has been 231 years since the Ghost Ship of Northumberland Strait was first sighted. Perhaps it is because we find mysteries of the deep so intriguing that we embrace them whether they are mythical, true or unexplained.
Witnesses from both sides of the strait have offered similar descriptions of the ship. While many were skeptical, there were occasions when several people reported seeing the ship in flames at the same time. The Northumberland Strait in Canada’s Maritime provinces can be a challenge for ships that ply its waters.
The ship is believed to be a schooner with three or four masts and white sails that break into fire as it passes by. Legend has it that the appearance of the ship tends to be just before a northeast wind. Therefore, it is a harbinger of stormy weather. Still, there is no consistency in where it is seen.
While the Ghost Ship of Northumberland Strait may not exist, this does not mean that its observers saw nothing. A New Brunswick scientist suggested in 1905 that it might be an electrical phenomenon. When the water is still a ship may glow from a light source. When there is movement by the ship the light source may create the image of the flaming rigging.
Folk lore has it that when attempts are made to rescue the crew from the burning ship they disappear. A report from Charlotteown about 1900 said the ship appeared in that city’s harbour and was engulfed in flames. Sailors in a rowboat chased it in a bid to rescue the crew. The ship vanished and a search of the harbour turned up nothing.
The accounts of the ship vary. One man said he watched the ship for 20 minutes and then it disappeared. Others told similar stories that night.
Another reported the ship had stopped but he did not see anyone on the deck. Then he saw smoke rising from the deck and suddenly crew members came up from below. When the flames started the men climbed up the masts. That perch no longer offered safety when the sails began to burn. The ship was burned down to its hull, but it filled with water and sank. The ghost ship was last seen in January of 2008.
Canada Post issued a special stamp in June 2014 showing the ghost ship from the Northumberland Strait. The stamp was issued as part of a series of Canadian ghost-story stamps on Friday the 13th.