3 Oct

31 Ghost Stories – Day 3: The SS Ourang Medan

Posted by Bryan White | Sunday October 3, 2010 | 31 Ghost Stories

Not the Ourang MedanI fucking hate the ocean, mateys. It’s a vast expanse of this planet that holds a tremendous volume of secrets and horrifying wildlife. Go too deep and the pressure of all that water on your tiny mortal body will crush you. If you even get that deep, that is. Get to a certain point where the pressure becomes a problem and the oxygen in your blood turns to nitrogen. In that environment, nature is out to get you. You wind up at the bottom of the food chain and the very nature of the setting can simply crush your body. Fuck the ocean. As it turns out, you’re not even safe on the surface. With hundreds of miles of nothingness reaching out in every direction all sorts of strange shit can and does happen. Such was the case for the Dutch freighter, the SS Ourang Medan in 1947.

In June of 1947, two American vessels sailing the Strait of Malaca in Indonesian waters received a distress call from a Dutch merchant ship that identified itself as the Ourang Medan. The call came in freaked out bursts of morse code. What could be understood was received as fragments.

All officers including captain are dead lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.

It didn’t end there, unfortunately. The final transmission from the Ourang Medan simply read

I die.

The responding ship was the SS Silver Star who attempted to hail the undamaged Ourang Medan to no avail. What they found when they boarded the derelict vessel was a scene straight out of a horror movie. The deck was littered with corpses. The entire crew was dead, including a dog aboard the ship. As described in the distress call, the ship’s officers lay dead in the chartroom and the wheelhouse and the captain lay dead on the bridge. This wasn’t the strangest part of the story, however. The bodies of the crew all showed signs of being frozen in terror at the moment of death. Their facial expressions horrified, teeth bared, some pointing at the sky, some simply looking upward as though something from above willed them all dead at the exact moment. A brief examination of some of the victims showed no outward signs of trauma. The crew of the Ourang Medan simply died on the spot.

The Silver Star hitched the Ouran Medan up with tow cables and prepared to haul the ship to port. That is, until smoke from the lower decks billowed up and the whole thing caught on fire. The Silver Star cut the cables in time before the whole thing exploded and conveniently sank.

There are a lot of factors at work that could explain what was going on. I like to think that the crew suddenly encountered the sunken city of R’Lyeh and were simply scared to death by the horrifying majesty of Cthulhu or that a UFO descended on the ship and zapped the fucker with a death ray but it’s actually most likely that the ship was secretly transporting outlawed nerve gas from Japanese research bases to American bases in the wake of World War 2 and the same kind of courtesy that Nazi scientists were granted under Operation Paperclip was given to Japanese weapons researchers. We don’t hear much about it because Unit 731 wasn’t really our concern during World War 2. That was really China and The Soviet Union’s beef but the presiding theory is that the undocumented ship, The Ourang Medan (it’s actual identity unknown), was probably smuggling tremendous amounts of nerve gas and TNT around the south seas and a leaky hold caused the containers to deteriorate and the TNT to become immediately unstable.

Then again, that is if the story is even true. There is documented evidence in shipping logs that the Silver Star engaged in a failed rescue attempt in that location around this time but the details of the log have been lost forever either to the natural shifting of the sands of time or by the swift hand of the United States government during the Cold War. By official accounts, The Ourang Medan never existed. This could indicate that the story is another sailor’s ghost story, like the Marie Celeste, or it could mean that it was operating under false flag conditions to smuggle nasty weapons around for the United States military.


  1. November 20, 2010 11:06 pm

    james bixler

    i want to know about the cargo on the ourang medan if you have any info let me know

  2. November 23, 2010 10:20 pm


    Long shrouded in mystery I remember this story as a young boy reading a cheap paperback account of the mystery of the SS Ourang Medan. We must analyse this story at a comfortable distance and avoid the emotive descriptions of it that evoke paranormal causes. The known facts include but are not limited to the following:

    A distress call was sent by the stricken freight ship to which two other ships responded. The distress call ended suddenly. When found, the crew was in a variety of distressed poses staring fixedly. The dog died suddenly on the deck in a strange position. The rescue crew had to leave suddenly because of an explosion which sunk the ship. The ship’s identity is not in any registry. Hard facts and records are hard to come by. The sinking has two dates…strangely…June 1947 and February 1948.

    The area the ship was in was the Strait of Malacca in Borneo. The area was a dutch colony in the throes of a colonial war that included the communists against Holland which was a NATO ally. The area had been under Japanese control until 1945.

    The Japanese had a long history of Chem-Bio War (CBW) weapons development and had used both chemicals and bio agents against China during the war. A dutch admiralty report gotten with some difficulty over the web shows that particular area suffered mine infestation and heavy military activity in 1948.

    Another ship, the MV Soegio, formerly the British transport ministry ship Empire Betsy exploded and sank in the Straits of Macassar in February 1948 at a known location. The ship was leased to a vague Dutch oil company which is untraceable except for its name. Macassar is a name that could easily be confused with many others in the area including Malacca.

    Britain was a dutch ally and was faced with colonial struggles of its own after WW2. Communist lead movements allied with independence forces threatened the dying British Empire in 1948. Independence was a Cold War issue in the context of communism.

    Possible Conclusions and Open Questions:

    Was the MV Soegio in fact the real SS Ourang Medan? The name Ourang Medan is is fact a generic description and likely a fake name. The false identity would serve many purposes: it would hide the bureaucratic paper trail of death claims and goods insurance proceeds from the eyes of the media by shifting attention to a ship that could not be traced.

    False cover stories “plausible deniability” is a common practice with the CIA who frequently used the bogus “Atlas Steamship Company” to hide clandestine shipments from media attention and later “Air America.” The small Dutch oil (chemical company?) didn’t seem to be in business very long…why was that? Why two dates for an objective event? A CBW accident would lead to legal proceedings related to illegal CBW warfare against dutch colonials which would be rich fodder for the Soviets.

    Has anybody gone to the wreck site? Of course not, since the story is vague enough to deny any specific location information. The wreck of the MV Soegio may be an interesting place as I suggested to “Treasure Quest” who told me that a wreck had to have economic value to offset the cost of a TV show.

    What do the records of the MV Soegio show? Were there many British government employees on the ship as “contractors” of the oil company? Have the records of the MV Soegio disappeared as so many others have? Was the explosion that sank the MV Soegio a mine or an emergency charge set to go off in an accident to cover up any illegal CBW weapons? Is there any record or recollection of CBW war in colonial Indonesia?

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