Undoubtedly the most famous of all the real-life ghost ships, the Mary Celeste was a merchant ship that was found derelict and adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872. The ship was in a seaworthy condition, with all its sails still up and a full store of food in its cargo hold, but its life boat, captain’s log book and, more importantly, the entire crew, had mysteriously vanished. There was no sign of a struggle, and the personal belongings of the crew and cargo of over 1500 barrels of alcohol were untouched, seemingly ruling out piracy as a possible explanation.
In the years since its bizarre discovery, a number of theories have been proposed regarding the possible fate of the Mary Celeste’s crew. These include that those aboard were killed by a waterspout, that the crew mutinied, or even that eating flour contaminated with fungus led all the passengers to hallucinate and go mad.
The most probable theory remains that a storm or some kind of technical issue led the crew to prematurely abandon the ship in the lifeboat, and that they later died at sea. Still, the mystery surrounding the Mary Celeste has led to much wild speculation, and others have proposed everything from ghosts to sea monsters and alien abduction as possible explanations.