Warning: This article contains mentions of suicide and death. Please proceed with caution.
As someone who loves all things horror and spooky, I often associate those topics with things like ghosts, murderers, glitches in the matrix, and the like. Despite the fact that literally 70% of this planet's surface is covered in ocean, I honestly forget just how goddamn terrifying it is under the sea. Like, we've only explored 5% of it??? And what we do know is already filled with some pretty horrifying things that I, personally, would never like to encounter. Seems like prime real estate for horror, people!
Well, recently, Redditor u/tylo144 asked, "For those who have careers that keep them out at sea for long periods of time, what is the creepiest thing you’ve seen out in the water?" Since I am always looking for fun new ways to horrify myself, I gave the thread a read and...y'all...I have goosebumps. These are a must read. So, without further ado, here are 18 of the most bone chilling stories they shared:
1."Being out in the blue at night in a lightning storm in a slack wind. The ocean was very flat — no big rolling swells, just tiny little ripples. The whole world would be black, and then there would be a flurry of bolts, and the whole world would be silver. The ocean looked like aluminum foil that had been scrunched up, and flattened out. The water looked like mercury, and all the little ripples made these very dramatic black shadows. It was eerie."
2."I have a friend who works on ships. He said the single scariest thing was when he looked out a window and saw a wave that he said looked like it was 100 meters high, pass right by their boat and suddenly disappear. He knew about rogue waves, but he said seeing one that big and that close — then watching it suddenly just vanish — was so creepy and shocking that he was literally stunned for a minute."
3."I sailed a 70ft yacht around the world a few years back. Southern Ocean, Cape Horn, Good Hope, Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties, two equatorial crossings; the full deal. A creepy moment that is burned into my memory involved a near catastrophe halfway between New Zealand and Cape Horn. We ended up hitting really bad weather and absolutely huge seas — 50ft swells with massive troughs in between. We were running with the swells for days as they grew, skidding down them like a bloated surfboard, always worrying that the next wave would break behind us and roll us over."
"At night it's pitch black down there in bad weather — the sky and sea just form a huge black mass. The most terrifying thing is the sound of an invisible wave breaking behind you. At night, we run a red light to preserve night vision, so there's basically just an eerie red glow emanating from below deck.
At about 2 in the morning, I was at the helm when a monster wave broke directly over the back of us without a second's warning. Time slowed down like it does in those moments, and the last thing I saw was my own silhouette in the wall of water, lit up like an ominous red snow angel...and then nothing but cold blackness as the boat sunk into the sea.
Fortunately, she popped straight back up like a cork after a few eternal seconds, almost like a submarine surfacing, and we were still in one piece. Still cant forget that glowing red apparition of myself, though. The memory of it has woken me up in a cold sweat more than once."
4."I am a recreational sailor who travels for weeks at a time at sea. I once saw a flame on the water not ten yards from me. Just freaking burning at midnight."
This sounds like an ocean fire, which — according to American Oceans — is "a rare phenomenon that occur when flammable gases seep out of the seafloor and ignite upon contact with oxygen in the water." In turn, the oceans surface is, in fact, on fire. Other causes include oil spills, lightning, and volcanic activity.
This video of the "Eye of Fire" in the Gulf of Mexico is about a recent ocean fire, which was caused by a leaking underground natural gas pipe.
5."We found a dead human body. We were in the tropics and the body wasn't in good shape. We double-bagged the body and kept it in our walk-in freezer until our next port visit, then turned it over to the authorities at nearest land. There were enough teeth left to identify it by dental records. Here's hoping the man's family got closure."
6."Former navy here. Somewhere off the coast of Italy, we saw a very, very small boat, not much bigger than a rowboat, about 9 or 10 miles offshore. This was sometime around midnight. There was no light from land, and no other ships around. The boat had a light. Our ship captain said it was a fisherman, and the fish would be attracted to the light at that time. Imagine being in a rowboat about 10 miles offshore in the middle of a pitch black night, waiting to see what finds you."
7."Creepiest thing I’ve seen has definitely been seeing myself and other crew mates lose our minds. On one particularly awful voyage, everything that could go wrong went wrong and we found ourselves without food, water, and sleep for a very unhealthy amount of time. It started off with auditory hallucinations. Ships are noisy, and, you begin to think those noises are talking to you. I heard children laughing, a choir singing, and — creepiest of all – a particular splash sounded like it was calling my name from the sea. Combine that with visual hallucinations and then things get really terrifying."
"I was convinced we were in the desert at one point with sand all around us and mountains in the distance. Another crew member freaked out and told us we were about to run into an apartment building. The creepiest thing I saw was an all-black flying pig with red eyes on the bow. I think the scariest, though, was when someone was convinced we lost part of our crew overboard. It turned into a massive, delirious argument over where everyone was even though we were all accounted for. That trip was brutal, and the captain put us all in a terrible situation due to sheer incompetence."
8."I used to be an oilfield diver in the Gulf of Mexico. I'd say about 80% of the dives I logged were at night. Mostly 500ft and under DSV's. It's very eerie feeling sitting on the downline, doing in water decompression in the middle of night. I'd always ask topside to turn off my headlight. Like a worm on a hook. Just bobbing in the darkness."
9."Around 20 years ago, I was on the MV Explorer (which has since sunk) down near the Antarctic circle, sailing around the icebergs and occasionally making landfall. We rounded into a small bay area and there, amongst the ice and coast, was an unmarked sailing yacht. This is odd, as generally yachts have some identifying markings on them. To add to it, they didn't respond to any radio contact, and whilst I wasn't privy to the conversation (and it was a long time ago), some crew went across via Zodiac and were refused boarding. So basically a yacht, not a particularly large one, that was unmarked was hanging around in the inhospitable waters of the Antarctic and didn't want any help or contact. Proper weird."
10."A few things come to mind, but I have to say, 'Deadheads.' In my younger days, I was captain of a dragger out of Kodiak AK. I will never forget my first week in the wheelhouse with the owner who was retiring and showing me the operation before I took over. After a night busting ice off the rails in freezing rain and 2m seas, he went to bed and left me to watch the wheel myself. It was clearing up with a medium haze and flat, calm waters. Most of the crew was sleeping or hanging out in the galley, so I was alone and the only eyes forward. I was drinking some nasty coffee and sucking down a Marlboro red when I saw what looked like an old pier piling, straight ahead. I kept looking at that spot, and, nope, nothing there. A few seconds later I swear I saw that thing again, but only closer. Nope, gone again."
"I thought, 'Shit, I've been up waaay too long and I'm fucking hallucinating.' Then out of nowhere, this tree trunk shoot directly up into the sky from the water. This thing had to be 60ft tall and was about 30ft off the bow, dead center. I damn near shit myself. I pushed to port and rubbed the 'tree' with the right side of the ship. We were at a good 14knot clip, which is fast as hell for an almost fully loaded trawler. Then it shot down and disappeared about midship.
I later learned that these are pretty uncommon in the Aleutians, where we were fishing. They're called 'deadheads' and only two of the guys on the boat had seen them before. They float vertically, and bob straight up and down. These things were known to destroy older wood boats and kill crews. I'm just glad I wasn't dragging the net, as it would have cost us in the ballpark of $100k.
I've seen what most people would consider worse, but the fear that a huge bobbing tree in the middle of Alaskan waters come out of fucking nowhere tops my list."
See a deadhead for yourself here:
11."Somewhere in the Atlantic, on a nice cold as fuck night, I decided to step out and look at stars. About ten minutes on, a boat's mast popped up, sat there a few minutes, and then went back under. No alarms, nothing. It was just a submarine getting some late-night oxygen in the middle of nowhere, but I'd had no idea it was even there."
12."The bioluminescent animals (or whatever they are) in the water are pretty amazing. Our toilet would fill up with seawater and if you took a piss in it in the middle of the night, it would agitate the water and it would glow sometimes."
13."I was in the US Navy back in the late '80s, early '90s. Cruising through the Indian Ocean in 100% blackness, then waking up the next afternoon and looking over the rails and seeing hundreds of sharks swimming along side of us constantly. Every now and then we would get a 'man overboard' alert. They never recovered even one man overboard at night. They were usually suicides."
14."I was in the US Navy for about 10 years, and have tens of thousands of miles at sea in an aircraft carrier. Countless nights on the flight deck in the middle of the night and middle of the ocean. The creepiest: A HUGE patch of the ocean glowing. Like, nuclear-waste-in-the-Simpsons glowing. I've seen bioluminescent algae of a few kinds and this was nothing like it. I've never seen anything like it before or since."
15."So I've worked in hospitality, including on a private yacht. This is in the Baltic. We were not near shore. It's very late. I assume everyone else had gone to sleep but I was not very sleepy after a pretty stressful day. I went on the deck and just looked at the ocean. Do you know that very strange feeling when you feel like somebody is looking at you? I could swear that there was something just below the surface. I don't remember how much time passed. It felt like a long, long time. I was just staring...thinking that I would see something. I mean I guess it could've been fish or some sea mammal, but it felt wrong."
"I wish I had a more interesting conclusion than that. I actually don't even remember going back to my cabin that I shared with two others in the stew crew. The next morning I didn't talk about it, but then a few days later, I brought it up. No one thought much of it except one of the deckhands that had been working at sea for a long time. He said he had felt the same thing and seen the same thing several times, but only at night, and only when he was alone. I have no idea what to make of it, but I really feel in my heart it was not an animal."
16."US Navy Sailor. I have seen a lot of remarkable things, but the creepiest was a great white shark that swam (more like drifted) in between our two ships during an underway replenishment off the coast of Australia. I could make an educated guess on how big it was, but just let me tell you: it was way, WAYYYY bigger than the biggest sharks I've seen on the Shark Week shows. Much longer and twice as massive as the 'biggest shark ever seen' in YouTube videos. It didn't move a single inch...it just floated, mouth open, in between as everyone on the bridgewing exclaimed, 'Holy fucking SHIT!' Its teeth were as big as a man's head. And it had massive scars down its back and tail from a ship's propeller. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it with my own eyes."
17."In 20 years the weirdest shit I’ve seen is other people who work out here. There’s about 40% of the sailors like what they do and are good at it. Another 40% that are good at it, but would do something better if the money was right. But there’s another 20%…. if they lived ashore for more than six months a year, they’d end up dead or incarcerated. There’s no more 'west' for them to go to, so they went offshore and became our problem."
18.And finally, "I was drinking in an airport bar and met a woman who worked as a commercial fisherman, on her way to Southeast Asia for R&R with her family. She regaled me with stories about her work, all the good stuff about working in her world, all the reasons she kept doing it for decades. I asked her what the scariest thing she saw out on the open ocean was and, without any hesitation, she said 'Oh, an underwater UFO. I saw one rise up out of the ocean next to my boat and fly off into the sky.' The matter-of-factness of her answer bothers me to this day."
Have you ever worked at sea and had an experience like these? If so, we'd be absolutely delighted to hear them. Tell us your story in the comments below or via this 100% anonymous form.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.