In honor of Halloween, we thought we would share with you a few Navy ghost stories. So, sit back, turn the lights on and indulge in some eerie tales that have taken place during the Navy’s history.


The Mystery of the Navy’s Ghost Blimp

On August 16, 1942, the L-8, a Navy anti-submarine blimp, was setting off on a routine reconnaissance mission. The destination was the Farallon Islands, about 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco to look for approaching Japanese submarines. The blimp would take off from Treasure Island with two crew members, Ernest Cody and Charles Adams. They would circle the islands and return to base with any information.  An hour into the flight, they radioed back that they had detected an oil spill and would keep investigating. At about 10:30 AM, two ships and a Pan Am airline saw the blimp and it appeared to be on course. Around noon, people on a beach near Dale City watched the L-8 crash into some rocks along the shore before heading back up into the sky. She would finally come down among a residential block just a short distance into the city. When rescuers rushed to the scene of the accident, they were shocked to find that the cockpit was empty. There was no sign of either Cody or Adams anywhere. As the Navy began its investigation, it was found that all equipment was in working order, parachutes and life rafts were still in place, and the radio was fine. Two life vests were missing, however. It was common practice for the men to wear them during a mission if they were to go over the water. As news of the missing crew spread, there were many theories proposed to explain their disappearance. One such theory suggested a potential fight that had broken out between the two which caused them to fall through an open door. Another proposed that they had somehow been captured by the enemy. Some even believed that UFO’s were involved. The L-8 was thoroughly investigated, but no clues were ever found. She was repaired and kept in service until 1982. However, after the crash, her duties were mostly nonmilitary and even used to broadcast sporting events. No trace of the two men have ever been found and the L-8 blimp mystery has never been solved.

USS Hornet

The USS Hornet is often called the most haunted ship in history. She is currently berthed at the decommissioned Alameda Naval Base in California. She is the eighth US ship to be given the Hornet name. Commissioned in 1943, she became a highly decorated ship in WWII. She destroyed 1,410 Japanese aircrafts, damaged 1,269,710 tons of enemy shipping and helped in sinking the battleship Yamato. Despite her impressive record, the Hornet had a long history of tragedy from wartime deaths to accidental deaths. In her 27 years of service, 300 men are believed to have died aboard the ship. Its tragic past may be the reason that she has become one of America’s most haunted ships. Crew and visitors have reported many strange incidents aboard the vessel. Doors will open and close by themselves, objects move across the floor, and spectral sailors will move aboard the ship. An electrician, Derek Lyon-McKeil, was interviewed in December 2000 and described an incident that occurred during fleet week in 1995. He said, “We’d all just bunked down, and we had a rule. No exploring. All of a sudden, I heard this banging noise like someone was opening the hatches who shouldn’t have been. Peter Clayton, our supervisor, came charging around, saying ‘okay, who’s sneaking around opening hatches?’ We realized that everyone in the group was there. As we were all standing there staring at each other, we heard it again. At that point we were pretty secure. It couldn’t have been anyone who’d gotten aboard.”[1] And in 2013, Heidi Schave, the education manager retold a story to a local newspaper. Schave was sitting in her office, she said when ‘it got really cold. I saw a man in a blue uniform. He was clear as day, like you or I, but he wasn’t making any eye contact. He was sort of slow moving. There was a bulkhead there, and he walked right the bulkhead.” [2] These are just two of the many experiences that have drawn people to the ship to experience these hauntings for themselves. The idea that the Hornet is haunted is so popular that when you visit the museum website, they offer special evening tours that talk about the chilling history of the aircraft carrier and the chance to have an experience yourself.

USS Constellation

Located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is the USS Constellation. The ship served in different forms from the Civil War till WWII. Built in 1854, the sloop-of-war, was the last sail-only warship designed and built by the US Navy. She was built using salvaged material from the frigate of the same name that was disassembled in 1853. Remaining in service for close to a century, she was decommissioned in 1954 and moved to Baltimore, becoming a National Historic Landmark. USS Constellation’s long service has given her a past filled with many stories and legends that lend themselves to giving her a haunted background. During her active time, there were quite a few untimely and unpleasant deaths below her decks. During reconstruction efforts, the crew reported seeing a man dressed in Civil War attire and others reported hearing crying followed by a cannon. Theses sightings are linked to a sailor who was killed for treason onboard the vessel. When found guilty, he was tied to a cannon which was then fired and sent him to a watery grave. Not all sightings or noises are scary. A friendly ghost, thought to be a former captain, has been said to give tours of the vessel to visitors who think they are being led around by a docent. Manifestations and sightings were said to have started shortly after she was decommissioned and placed in Baltimore. In 1955, the crew of the submarine USS Pike was moored next to the Constellation and reported seeing apparitions, lights and hearing strange noises. Lieutenant Commander Allen Ross Brougham from the Pike is said to have taken a picture of an apparition dressed in 18th-century clothes that were described as having a glowing radiance and wearing a cocked hat and carrying a sword. The Constellation can be toured and visitors can decide for themselves if she is haunted.

Submarine Force Library and Museum

*The Following is an excerpt from the March 1990 issue of The Klaxon.

Footsteps are an uncommon sound aboard a submarine. The whine of the fans and turbines, the roar of steam, and the rush of water over the hull drown out most other sounds. Here on Nautilus footsteps should be just as uncommon, since its equipment is now silent and its crew long departed. But in the eerie silence of this warship put to rest, there can be heard the sounds of footsteps where there should be none, the banging of doors and lockers with no one there, unexplained sounds over the phones, and even once the apparition of a figure carrying a light. The crew that maintains and watches over Nautilus calls this unexplained presence “Herb.” Is it just imagination or could it be a former Nautilus shipmate loyally keeping watch on her. Herb walked the decks, checks the spaces, and reports the status by phone. The present crew will come and go, but Herb seems to be a permeant crew member, always on watch and maintaining Nautilus as the “first and finest.” Of course, we all know there are no ghosts, especially not on Nautilus. The story of “Herb” is simply a folktale, a small part of the larger legend of the Nautilus. It is nice to think that, in addition to the crew and staff there is an extra, ‘friendly’ person watching out for the welfare of Nautilus. – Daniel A Lewis MM1/SS

Those of us who currently work at The Nautilus like to believe that Herb is real. And when you walk the halls at night alone, you can feel his presence. It is nice to know that someone is always there making sure that the boat and museum are ready and waiting for visitors to come and learn about the Submarine Service. While we will be closed for Halloween through November 11 for our yearly maintenance, we invite you to come any time of the year and say hello to Herb. You never know – he might just want to give a tour that day.

[1] Naval History Magazine December 2000