Spooky Sightings Aboard Historic Boat

June 26, 2006 — -- The Charles W. Morgan is one of the top attractions at Connecticut's Mystic Seaport.

Lately, though, the famous whaling ship has drawn more attention for its mystery than its history.

"The Rhode Island Paranormal Research Group wrote us a letter in February and asked for permission to come and do a preliminary investigation of paranormal activity aboard the Morgan," said Michael O'Farrell, spokesman for the maritime museum.

"Three visitors, in particular, described the same type of incident. They mentioned seeing somebody in the blubber room, which is the midlevel of the ship, dressed in 19th-century clothing -- a gentleman who was working with some line and smoking a pipe."

Howard Davis, a longtime Mystic Seaport employee, said that he often ran into what appeared to be the ghost of a Morgan ship keeper who once had worked with Davis on the boat.

"One night in the winter, I was down there putting out the lights and I had this feeling that this fella who I had known was standing right behind me so I turned around quick and there was nobody there," Davis said. "Recently a young boy was here and he said, 'The ghost smoked a pipe, didn't he?' And this fella that I saw always had a pipe going."

A Historic Ship

The Charles W. Morgan is the last surviving wooden whaling ship from the heyday of the American whaling industry.

It was built in 1841 and made 37 voyages under 20 captains before it retired in 1921. Because of its long career, it was known as a lucky ship.

Mystic Seaport director Doug Teeson said the ghost stories spread during the filming of the 1997 film "Amistad," when three crew members said they felt a "presence."

After three tourists reported the same sensation, the Rhode Island Paranormal Research Group decided to look into it.

The group visited the seaport two months ago and researcher Maggie Florio said in the preliminary investigation, "We picked up something on every deck of the ship."

'I Would Say the Boat Is Haunted'

Group members returned with infrared cameras and microphones, and combed the ship with small electromagnetic field detectors.

The group's founder, Andy Laird, said that he had seen two ghosts in his lifetime -- one of them, aboard the Morgan.

"Do I think it's haunted? Yes, I would say the boat is haunted, but to what level we still have to find that out yet," Laird said.

After a long night of waiting and hours of footage, ABC News' cameras didn't pick up any visible paranormal activity, but group members said they had a lot of psychic contact.

"We talked to a couple of men and a third man that we did try to speak with, but he was from a different country so we couldn't communicate," said researcher Stephanie Miller.

Good Publicity, if Nothing Else

Although the investigation and ghost rumors could spark interest and provide what Teeson called an interesting sidebar to the seaport's long history, he said he would wait until reports came out to decide whether he would allow more research to continue.

"We run a family operation here, and we think up to a point the story is good. To us it's really about the ship, who the crew were, where they went," he said.

"If people come here because of interest in the ghost story, it gives us the chance to teach people. The Charles W. Morgan is 165 years old, and was in operation for 80 years."

Teeson said that the museum did not want to turn into a ghost town and would rather be known for being the "premier ship museum in the country."

"It's up to you and what you believe. I mean if we get some people onboard that are looking for a ghost and they leave learning that whale oil fueled the Industrial Revolution and that these guys spent anywhere from four up to five years onboard this vessel, then I think we're doing OK," O'Farrell said.