SS Ourang Medan
Written By: YN
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Picture this. The year is somewhere between 1947-1948. You’re looking out at the horizon—at the point where the sky meets the sea. When suddenly, a silhouette of a ship rises from the heavy mist that blanketed the sea. There is a chill in the air that isn’t there before. You feel the hairs on your arm stand as you continue to watch the ship float aimlessly. No lights. No signs of life.
There are the monotonous beeps of a Morse code. It hurriedly says, “S.O.S from Ourang Medan. We float. All officers including the Captain, dead in chartroom and on the bridge. Probably whole of crew dead.”
You hastily turn your gaze back on the strange ship passing by—the Ourang Medan. It’s still there where you have last seen it, but is it really?
Fact or Fiction?
The mystery of SS Ourang Medan remains largely unsolved up until this day. Dutch newspapers from the 1940s have told the story of a ship receiving a distress call from another peculiar ship named Ourang Medan while they were at sea.
However, there are no official records found regarding these incidents, nor were there any ship registered under that name in Indonesia, Malaysia or anywhere near the area it was said to have been spotted.
To make it even more confusing, there are two versions of this story. One happened in 1947, while the other in 1948. Neither accounts had much proof that it happened except for the few newspapers that had published the story. The stories basically followed the same route, but the specific details varied.
Up until today, nobody can really confirm if Ourang Medan is real or simply a myth. But then again, so do all ghost stories start out like this.
A Sighting of a Ghost Ship
The name Ourang Medan literally translates to Man of Medan. This refers to the largest city of Sumatra, Indonesia. Both accounts mentioned that the ship was spotted somewhere within that area. Some stories said it floated somewhere near the Straits of Malacca (which is somewhere in Malaysia), while others said that it never really left the seas of Sumatra. No matter when or where the incident happened, the turn of events is as followed.
One morning, two American vessels picked up a distress call as they were out in the sea. One of the ships is named Silver Star, and it turned out to be the one closest to where the signal was coming from.
The chilling message said that everyone in Ourang Medan—from crews to the Captain himself—were dead. If that was the case, who could possibly be sending out that signal?
Curious, the ships searched for the source until they came upon another lonely ship. It was a fairly-sized cargo ship with white letterings running along its side: The Ourang Medan.
Despite the message saying that everyone was dead inside it, the ship continued to emit thick, black smoke from its single rust-flaked funnel. It was grimy and weather-beaten, but it continued to sail on its course.
The crews from Silver Star then boarded the Ourang Medan to see the distress call they received was true. The whole place was quiet, cold—almost dead. There were no lights no signs of life or anything else.
Eventually, they found all 23 crews of the ship. But to their horror, every one of them was dead. The gruesome sight was even made more mysterious when they realized there weren’t any signs of struggle, wounds or disease. Their bodies were simply found strewn all over the deck with their “teeth bared, with their upturned faces to the sun, staring, as if in fear…”
Without a Trace
The story goes on to how the Silver Star tried to bring the Ourang Medan to the nearest port, but a fire broke out, forcing them to abandon the ship. The whole of Ourang Medan was consumed by the flames, leaving no trace behind.
The fire was an unexpected and unfortunate thing. The articles never mentioned how and why it broke out, but it completely obliterated any possible evidence and proof that the Ourang Medan ever existed. In fact, there was never a ship called Ourang Medan registered in any documents around the area. All we have is the words of the Silver Star’s crew, and the mystery of Ourang Medan.
The Conspiracy Behind the Story
Now you may ask, “But what about the distress call? Isn’t that an evidence that the ship is real?”
Unfortunately, the Silver Star’s log didn’t have a record of the message. Some conspiracy theorists believe that it had been forcibly erased in an effort to hide something sinister about Ourang Medan.
To make it even more suspicious, even though the discovery happened in 1947-1948, the story only came out in 1954. There were claims that newspapers were being barred from getting the story out when it happened.
So why such secrecy?
Many believe that the Ourang Medan wasn’t just a simple cargo ship. It was said to be transporting a top secret chemical weapon that had caused the accidental demise of its crews. This was why despite the uncertainty of its existence, the ship remained widely referenced throughout the years.
Other theories behind the death of the crews include aliens and pirates. The most practical, however, is that they all died from carbon monoxide poisoning after the ship’s boiler system encountered some problems. This would also explain the fire that eventually devoured the entire ship.
Whatever the truth is, all the answers to our questions lie at the bottom of the sea where the Ourang Medan remains—and will hopefully still remain.
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