It’s mere weeks from Halloween, so I thought I would try something different.

True ghost stories.

Each week until the big black and orange day, Gentle Reader, I’ll share with you tales to shrivel your hearts and freeze your very soul.

Or at least they’ll be a little creepy.

The ocean is a comforting, frightening dichotomy. The salt content in the water is roughly equivalent to the salt content of the human body, and the sound of the surf is very similar to the sounds we heard in the womb.

As Brandy knows, the sea is “the life, the lover, and the lady” of the man she loves. But also, probably, his cause of death and his final resting place. The dark, unforgiving water, far from land and the eyes of others.

It’s both nurturing mother and the source of our deepest dread.

Just like a human mother.

One deep-water subject that has always fascinated me is the subject of ghost ships. A ghost ship is a ship with no living crew aboard. In many cases, especially in the days before instant communication, no one knew where the ship was from, or how long it had been sailing, alone, without a soul aboard.

In the mid-18th century, the Sea Bird grounded itself on the coast of Rhode Island. The long boat was missing, and no people or messages were left behind. Aboard was a dog, a cat and a pot of coffee on the stove, still boiling.

In the Oval Office, the president works at the Resolute desk.

It came from a ghost ship.

The HMS Resolute, a British ship, was part of a search party for a British explorer who had disappeared while sailing in the Canadian arctic. On May 15, 1854, it was abandoned after being endangered by ice. It drifted alone for 16 months until being discovered on Sept. 10, 1855, off the coast of Canada.

The desk was made from the ship’s timbers, when a competition was held to design and build a piece of furniture from its timbers that Queen Victoria could give to the American president. In 1880, it was given to Rutherford B Hayes. Since then, 19 presidents have used it in the President’s office, or as it was later named, the Oval Office.

Possibly the most famous ghost ship was the Mary Celeste.

On Nov. 7, 1872, the Mary Celeste left New York with a crew of seven, Capt. Benjamin Spooner Briggs, his wife Sarah, and their 2-year-old daughter Sophia. Their 7-year-old son, Arthur, had been left at his school on dry land.

On Dec. 5, the British ship Dei Gratia spotted the Mary Celeste adrift in choppy seas.

The ship’s captain, David Morehouse, sent a group of sailors to board the ship. Belowdecks, they found the charts strewn around, but the belongings still in the crewman’s quarters. The cargo of 1701 barrels of industrial alcohol was intact in the hold. There was a six-month supply of food and drinking water available — but not a soul aboard to need it.

The ship’s only lifeboat was missing.

The ship was in good order; the Dei Gratia crew sailed it 800 miles to the straits of Gibraltar. But the question remained: What happened to make the occupants of the Mary Celeste decide that the only choice they had was to abandon ship and leave on the lifeboat?

If that was what happened, why did it happen?

Theories abounded. Some people believed that pirates had attacked. There were whispers of mutiny. Did a member of the crew go insane and commit mass murder?

That infinite uncertainty is why ghost ships are so very unsettling.

Thanks for your time.

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