I’ve always found interest in reading and investigating through research, historical facts about ghostly tales, regardless of their location, houses, cemeteries, hotels, and of sailing vessels; and noting that the 12th of April, marked the 110th sad anniversary of the sinking of Titanic. Hence it brought about discovering the book Ghost Ships: True Stories of Nautical Nightmares, Hauntings, and Disasters by author Richard Winer, who passed on October 11, 2016, it would also be the final book he penned, prior to this he started with a bestselling novel called The Devil’s Triangle (1974) followed by two more books on that topic, then Haunted House (1979) and more on that subject material. In fact, he directed a documentary entitled The Devil’s Triangle  which wasn’t formally released until 1974, narrated by Vincent Price. I watched this documentary in addition to reading this book, and found it had more information on some of the ships discussed in the actual book, how strange.
While the title gives away the overall topic for book, it’s also the primary reason why so many purchase the book new, used or even found it at a library, all in all a collection of ships of all sizes that disappear at sea, some that were all souls lost or others suffered through great tragedy. One of the first takeaways not in a positive light is the over usage of sailor-talk, namely nautical references, once or twice fine, but the constant barrage is for his own ego; meaning his 50-years of sailing experience, from being the first to photograph atomic bomb wreckage to his vast enthrall with all things seafaring. This really leads most readers I suppose to some confusion and other to merely skip over the material, I personally kept referencing other source material for clearer definitions, and therefore breaking my intention of trying to enjoy the book’s material. Some of the stories were interesting, but these stories lack on other grounds, skimpy on details and the table of contents chapters often didn’t tell of the ships.
These chapters are often filled of stories, with snippets of people quoted to have actually said them, though lacked footnotes, therefore they are handed down generation to generation, with pieces likely added or subtracted due faults in memory. Winer then layers in numerous dates, facts, and some history in a random and almost ramble design, as if to overwhelm the reader. Nevertheless some chapters were vey interesting, such as chapter 6, which was about Joyita (little jewel) it was original design for famed Hollywood producer Ronald West (The Monster ) , and being someone curious cinema and horror history I immediately recognized the name, he actually had it built for his then wife Jewel Carmen, who starred in his thriller The Bat , which incidentally was remade as The Bat  starring Vincent Price. During the construction, a few workers had minor accidents but in 1931, shortly before the ship was to launch, a Portuguese man fell to his death and it was stated his widow, went to the shipyard, and spoke of a curse on the ship and those connected within it. One would say a ranting of a distraught hysterical woman, nonetheless West was caught in scandal, a few years later, that involved his girlfriend Thelma Todd who supposedly committed suicide, he was cleared, is marriage withered, and he repossessed the vessel, shortly it caught fire and repaired and sold off for charter service. A few years actors Humphrey Bogart and Errol Flynn were interested in purchasing the yacht, as it had been used by many notable celebrities at the time, however after one of their guests mysteriously disappeared off the boat one night, they both refused to do anything with the boat. The ship would continue in and out of service for next 30 years each time ending with tragedies of fires, and often deaths, one could say that it was the real life form of Stephen King’s Christine.
Most of the tales occur from about the 1850s to 1950s, often noting vessels during World War II and some that escaped that war period only to suffer another fate, one story involved the schooner Fantom which vanished in 1998 during Hurricane Mitch which was a category 5, however this snippet of history contains a minor issue, the name is not correct it’s actually Fantome. It tells of the Queen Mary incident involving the running over of another much smaller disabled boat, following the explicit Admiral’s order not to stop or slow down, because U-boats (German submarines) were hunting the ship. Then dwells into all of supposedly haunted scenarios of Queen Mary phantoms, disembodied voices, wet footprints, that link back to woman who drown in the pool; etc. The chapters often contained unsolved mysteries which are often intriguing. Although, it contains some incorrect and long disputed assumptions about the Titanic, but notes the eerie parallels to the book entitled Futility by Morgan Robertson, published in 1989 (14-years before the sinking of Titanic) although within this Winer’s novel the title is called The Wreck of the Titan, which not used until the revised publishing in 1912, to cash in on the similarities of fiction recreated in life.
Now I must admit there is a very strange section, on page 55 that occurred in the chapter on Cyclops with a few weird connections, Winer stated that homosexuality was a problem in the ‘old Navy’ but also it was overlooked, it is unsure if the author was trying to do cause and effect between that and the odd occurrences upon that vessel. That is an illogical fallacy it is not mentioned anyway else in the book and many of the tales are surrounding the same time period of 1918, then he connects the other terms to this subject material but a quick check in reference sites it clearly leans to other unsavory sexual enticements, which aren’t homosexual themed. None of this was needed, as the history of the Cyclops was already incredible storyline, which was also included in pop culture, namely Quantum Leap, episode Ghost Ship , which this tidbit was omitted from the book.
Simply, 33 chapters is far too much, with all the ships mentioned, there is some overlooked namely the Edmund Fitzgerald; and the steamer Portland, the latter vessel lost all souls and remained lost for over 100-years; finally, far too little discussed about the Mary Celeste. Although those of interest in this topic likely find a good starting, it filled some misspellings of names, a final conclusion is to note that since earliest time of sailing begun in B.C. over 3-million ships of every form lay either shipwrecked on at the bottom of the ocean, and with the knowledge that another two dozen taking countless souls with them, whether at a dock, shipyard or any body of water in each passing year. Just noting our place is so insignificant in the vastness of the great oceans, and how little we’ve explored of them, one knows more about outer-space than our place on Earth; nature has the upper hand at sea, with waterspout (tornados), undersea volcanoes, tsunamis, rogue waves crisscrossing currents, something can and will always happen, just not likely in our favor.
Title: Ghost Ships
Author: Robert Winer
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: July 2000
Reviewed Format: Paperback
You can find the book through third party vendors on Amazon:
Baron’s Rating: 2.5/5