Strange things happen in the water. The ocean is vast, dark and mysterious, holding countless secrets and untold horrors in its inky depths—and whether you’re out on deployment, hard at work, or just out for a leisurely sail, you’re going to be at its mercy. Sailors, fishermen, and other seafaring folk are bound to encounter things they just can’t explain (or things they’d rather not explain) when they venture out into this great unknown. Be it possibly paranormal, dreadfully and depressingly real, or just the unexplainable, existential despair of the deep, these daring souls braved the depths and mercifully returned ashore to tell their creepy tales.
43. An Unwelcome Sight
I swear I saw a headless, bloated corpse when transiting the Suez. I was on the fantail of a destroyer, so you’re pretty much right on the water. I hated deployment.
42. Bombs Away
I found a 500-pound unexploded bomb off the south end of San Clemente Island in 40 feet of water. I got away from there fast.
41. Got a Bad Feeling About This
I am a bass fisherman but my fiancé likes to fish for catfish so, one night, I decided to take her night fishing for catfish since she didn’t get to go with me very often on my bass fishing excursions due to work schedules. Anyway, we’re fishing and have a nice little campfire going and I just start to feel off. I’ve been an outdoorsman all my life and don’t get freaked out too easily about the woods or the night or anything like that.
So, I feel off but I ask the fiancé if she’s having a good time and she said that she was but now she’s feeling kinda creeped out. So, we waited for a second and that’s when I noticed that there was not a single sound to be heard. No night birds, no crickets, nothing. I tell the fiancé it’s time to pack up and to do so quickly but not in a panicked way. She asks why and I said that sometimes when a predator is nearby, it will get really quiet like that.
We pack up and as we’re about to drive off I hear something large step on a branch and make a loud crack. Anyway, I don’t know what it was, but I had seen bear droppings near there a time or two so it could have been that, a coyote, or it could have just been our minds playing tricks on us. Certainly nothing that I think was supernatural but those kinds of things will definitely make you feel vulnerable.
40. Room For One More?
I was in my little 16-foot aluminum boat fishing around Charleston when I hear a voice, clear as day, say “Move over.” I immediately jumped up and looked around. No one. It was really weird and scared the heck out of me. Literally the closest person was standing on a fishing dock maybe half a mile away.
38. Utter Stillness
I was in the Marine Corps for 8 years. The creepiest thing I have ever experienced was near the equator in the Pacific. We went through a patch where there were no waves and no wind at all. It was like a sea of glass. It was really eerie to think about sailors back in the day who relied on wind to move their ships.
37. Into the Void
I worked on the flight deck of a carrier for three years. Two deployments to the Arabian Sea, also transited the Suez.
Felt the “call of the void” as I’ve heard it called. Would be smoking on a weather deck watching the sea speed by. Leaning against the railings, sometimes the thought of jumping over would materialize in my mind. For the briefest second, it’s almost comforting, like a faint magnetism to just do it. Then it’s gone. It never even disturbed me, so much as baffled me.
36. A (Dead) Whale of a Time
Saw something that looked to be a capsized yacht but when we got close it turned out to be a dead whale that had gone red in the sun.
35. Crisis Averted, Somehow
I sail on tall ships. Sailed through a gap in a massive line squall once. Just a horizon-filling wall of very dark weather coming at us. We doused sail down to our storm sails because it looked like it was going to be seriously ugly.
Then… it sounds ridiculous when I write it down, like an over-dramatic story, but a gap opened up almost directly in front of us, and we sailed through in this very eerie atmosphere of little gusts whipping at our sails, but nothing like the heavy winds we were expecting. The wall moved on behind us while we went back into calm airs, and not long later there wasn’t a gap visible at all.
34. A Silent Guide
When sailing singlehanded, I often hear the ocean talking to me, sort of just telling me something is off, a vessel you haven’t spotted is on collision course or a reef is dead ahead. It’s not voices, just this eerie feeling someone is trying to get my attention. My grandfather was a sailor, so I like to think it’s him watching over me. Might just be boredom and/or sleep deprivation, but that’s science and not magic or fun.
33. There’s Something in the Lake
When I was a teenager, I was alone on a rowboat in the middle of a small lake, about a mile or two long, by no more than 200 yards at its widest. I was mostly just enjoying the day, but I dropped a lure into the water expecting nothing, almost as an afterthought. Something big grabbed it though, and pulled hard enough for the entire boat to be pulled about 10 feet and turned 180 degrees—force transferred to the boat via my fishing rod and my death grip on it. The line snapped, and that was the end of it.
Prior to this, my friend who lived on the lake had told a few other friends and me that one morning, waiting for the school bus, he saw a huge living thing in the lake. He described it as being the size of a car and brown, to the best of my recollection. He refused to swim in the lake from then on. He wore mild prescription glasses and of course, due to this, we teased him mercilessly about seeing the “lake monster.” But whatever took my lure that day was big. I like to think it was just a huge carp, but I don’t know.
32. Naval Nightmares
I was a sailor/submariner (sonar technician) in the Navy for 5 years.
Creepy, creepy is easy. There’s an overall sense of dread involved when you’re inside a steel tube hundreds of feet underwater.
When the sonar system goes down (crashes) and you frantically work to troubleshoot and repair the network, because you’re hundreds of feet underwater and without that sonar suite, you are 100% blind to what is going on in the ocean around you.
If you take creepy to the level of downright terrifying, then I would simply say whenever any alarm (fire/flooding) sounds, and it is not a drill. That’s absolute terror.
31. Arachnophobia Alert
There was a pole we moored off to in a shallow bay, quite a ways from any land, and it was full of spiderlings who desperately moved themselves to our boat. We spent the rest of that day covered in fine silk and picking spiders out of each other’s hair. Not sure how an adult spider even got to that pole anyway.
30. Please Stop Whistling
This is my brother’s story: He was fishing, and there was a cemetery nearby. He said he was whistling a song, and every time he would whistle, he would hear somebody running behind him. If he didn’t whistle, he wouldn’t hear them. I have had experiences with this cemetery being creepy too.
29. Nothing But Blackness
When I was young, I convinced my mum to let me tag along with my dad and his mates on an overnight deep sea fishing trip. Long story short, around midnight, Dad and I were just looking out at the water in the middle of nowhere. It was so dark, there must not have been a star in the sky. So dark that you couldn’t tell where the sky began on the horizon. Everything was black and quiet.
After a while, he was like, you wanna go for a swim? Wanting to appear brave, I said sure. We both jumped in and just kinda floated there. The sea was so calm, it was surreal.
It was so dark and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. With hundreds of meters of pitch black sea under me, I realized that this was the first time in my life that I felt scared. Like deep down in my gut scared.
I climbed back on our boat 100% fine, but I sometimes remember that feeling.
28. The Fog
Casual fisherman here. We were out on the Chesapeake Bay fishing for rockfish—they’re called striped bass everywhere but Maryland—and a truck load of fog just surrounded us. We couldn’t see 5 feet past our boat. It was the longest 45 minutes of my life, trying to make it back to the marina where we keep our boat. Luckily, our GPS tracks where you’ve been, so we followed the exact way we came. I kept thinking we were going to hit something or someone the whole time.
27. You’re Not Supposed To Be Here
I was a sonar operator on an Adelaide class frigate. Whilst conducting exercises in the South China Sea, I detected a submerged contact not supposed to be in the area. After failing to respond to communication attempts the contact changed course and accelerated to 50+ knots and left the area.
26. More Questions
Once while fishing, I fished up a small briefcase. Obviously, I had to open it up. The only thing inside were multiple pairs of children’s shoes. All of them were in too bad condition to really tell what kind they were, outside of a few Nike swooshes.
25. The Horror
I was an LCM-8 (Landing Craft Mechanized) boatswain (a type of ship’s officer) in Vietnam in 1966. My outfit was stationed in the city of Qui Nhon and we sailed in and around the Qui Nhon bay. One night, when I reported for duty at my boat, the bay, as far as I could see, was covered by swimming rats. The water looked like it had been paved with rats. This lasted for about one hour, at which time the tide began going out. The Qui Nhon bay is about 40 square miles or so, and when the water flows out during outgoing tides, the speed of the current can go to 15 mph or so. The rats were flushed out as if someone had pushed the flush knob in a toilet. Never saw that occur again during my tour.
Another night, as I was coming into port, I saw two merchant mariners, obviously drunk, trying to get into a boat that would take them back to their ship. One missed a step and fell into the water; the other one reached for him and went in as well. Since the tide was going out, they disappeared in a moment. I turned my boat around and we tried to find them using our spotlight, but they were gone. We never reported it, I know it sounds cold, but that was the way it was.
24. Need a Hand?
I had just reported aboard my first ship. We were in port in Brooklyn, NY, and I was over the side, on a camel, a long wooden raft that kept the ship away from the pier, scrubbing the side of the bow with a push broom. This was in December, on the East River. The river was moving swiftly and was rough. It was a cold, dreary, awful day.
Anyway, I’m scrubbing away and looking around when I see an arm raise up from the river! Just as I start to call out about it and point, it sinks out of sight. Everyone thinks I’m nuts now and starts to rag on me. I can still see this in my mind, though it’s been almost 40 years.
23. Devastating Debris
I worked in the Mediterranean Seas doing oil stuff. Children’s backpacks would sometimes float by, along with other miscellaneous debris. This was from refugees, usually fleeing Libya, who did not make it.
22. All Eyes on Me
My fishing buddy and I were fishing for catfish on a summer night. We finished up around midnight and began the mile walk back to our cars through a field. When we turned on our flashlights we saw what looked to be little lights surrounding us in a semi-circle a couple hundred yards out. We continued to walk towards them, as our cars were in that direction, when all of a sudden, the lights all turned and ran. We realized that we had just walked up on a giant pack of coyotes, and they were watching us. It was one of the weirdest but coolest experiences I’ve ever had.
21. The Sound of Silence
So I was a Submarine Sonar Tech.
There were places we would go that were just dead quiet. No shrimp, no dolphins, no 120/4 merchant ships, no own ship noise, just nothing. Dead quiet.
I don’t think most people have ever experienced the complete lack of sound before. I know I didn’t prior to that. That’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever experienced.
20. Ghosts at Sea
My dad was a sailor and he said that there was a ghost in the engine room. He said that weird stuff would happen in during the night shift, and once when he was alone in the engine room, he saw it staring at him before it walked through the wall.
19. Spooky Sea Sounds
I worked on a small trawler as a deckhand for a friend’s dad one summer during high school.
One thing that stuck with me was the first time hearing the wind howl in the distance when there was little to no breeze in the immediate vicinity. It was late at night, the sea was fairly calm, and the skies were clear except for a dark patch of clouds on the horizon. I was shoveling at the end of a long haul and just wanted to go to sleep when I heard the low drone, almost like an air raid siren being cranked too slow. I can barely explain the feeling. Just dread and impending doom, almost paralyzing.
The hairs on my arms standing on end and a sinking feeling in my gut, I asked one of the other guys on deck what the noise was, and he just shrugged. He heard it, but didn’t know what it was, and clearly didn’t care. His indifference grounded me right then and there. It was nothing to worry about, just put your head down and get back to work. I’ve heard it a few times since, and I always remember the feeling, but haven’t felt it since.
18. Mystery Pursuer
Grew up sailing on a 100-foot wooden schooner. On a leg back from Hawaii to Washington, we spent some 30 days at sea. For much of the trip, we could see a very large animal following us. We knew it was there because it was generating phosphorescence. We still have no idea what it was, but since it didn’t surface for air, it couldn’t have been a whale. Maybe it was a whale shark or a giant squid. It sure freaked us out though.
17. Light Up the Night
An overnight fishing trip out on Georges Bank in the middle of summer. It was around 3 am, and completely dark with no cloud cover or anything—the stars were amazing. I go into the cabin to grab my drink, and as I turn to look at the stern of the boat, it was suddenly about as bright as noon with no clouds on the back deck and surrounding area of the boat. Like someone put a Hollywood spotlight or five directly onto us. I blinked a few times and ran towards the back, but as soon as I came out from under the cabin overhang, it was even darker than before I went inside—like when you’re emerging from a bright room into a dark one, and your eyes haven’t adjusted yet. Anyway, I woke everyone up and explained this and they told me I probably fell asleep and was dreaming. To this day… I’ll never know what happened for sure.
16. See Ya Later, Alligator—Literally
One of the underwater inspectors at my job was working in Florida and came nose to nose with an alligator. Said “Nope,” got out of the water, went back to the office, and quit a week later.
15. Sea Spirits
I asked an old fisherman on a beach in Malaysia if he had experienced anything like this. He said there are female spirits in the sea, who are basically neutral towards humans, but that you shouldn’t be messing with them anyway.
One day, a boat sank, and divers were sent to recover bodies. Two of them were searching the seabed. Suddenly one guy feels a tug on his arm—and it’s his buddy frantically pointing at the bed.
There, a beautifully-dressed Malay woman was knelt, holding a corpse like an offering to the divers. Both divers fled for their lives, and gave up the search. Apparently, the woman was one of those spirits.
14. The Man Who Wasn’t There
My grandfather was in the Navy, in WWII in the Pacific. He occasionally, when in a particular mood (whiskey), would tell a story of how they were getting attacked, and he was trying to get to the other side of the boat. He reaches a doorway to the deck, opens it, and just as he is about to step out, he hears someone shout his name behind him. He stops, begins to turn around, and an explosion goes off just outside the door. He looks behind him to thank whoever called his name, but no one was there. That shook him up more than the bombs.
13. One Hungry Fish
I once caught a redfish that had eaten a mirrored lure, a shotgun shell, and a small rattlesnake.
12. Monster in the Deep
In my city, the port is one of the oldest, if not the oldest port in the US. Back in the 1800s or 1900s, there were multiple accounts of an eel-like sea monster in the water. Some people saw it from the shore, some saw it from boats. Some of the people that saw it hadn’t heard of it prior to spotting it.
11. No Hands On Deck
Was out on my boat fishing. Had my lights on. A shrimp trawler came by and almost crashed into me, outriggers passed right over. Not sure if it was a ghost ship, or drunks passed out on autopilot. No one on the deck or at the helm.
I worked as a commercial sailor for about 10 years and chartered boats as a kid. A captain I know was anchored amongst some other boats with lines out when he started moving forward into the tide. He ended up having another boat go look, and it turned out a Manta ray had slid along his anchor line and gotten the anchor stuck on its head. I believe he ended up having to cut the anchor free, but this was a 30-foot inboard fishing boat, so the fact he was being towed by a fish was pretty remarkable.
9. Don’t Look Down
Anchored out and decided to swim to a small uninhabited island in the Bahamas. I happened to glance down as I swam across the channel to see about 40–50 tiger sharks just hanging out beneath me. I just tried not to soil myself until I got to the shore, and then hailed my girlfriend to come pick me up in the dinghy when she came up topside—she’d been napping.
8. Where the Heck Am I?
One of my first few dives, I was diving with a group at 60 feet in a freshwater lake. I was at the back of the pack, so I was getting everyone else’s silt. Noticing I was starting to sink, I checked my buoyancy compensator (air-filled vest), losing my perspective in the process. Turn back around and… had no idea where anyone else was, nor where I was. Couldn’t see the group, couldn’t see the ground, couldn’t tell which direction the murky sunlight was coming from. Had no earthly idea which way was up or if I was ascending—it was one of the more bizarre experiences of my life.
After a minute of mild, out-of-body existential crisis—how do I not know which way is up??—I figured out how to deflate my vest, used the bubbles to determine “up,” and found the group. Weird, weird experience. You hear the stories about that phenomena, but figure it could never happen to you.
7. Burned out and Baffled
Fishing in the Gulf, off the Keys, we saw a burned out boat idling by. We chased it down, climbed aboard, killed the engine, and called the coast guard. No one was onboard, and it was burned almost entirely down to the water line, with the exception of the helm and rear deck. The coast guard came and started an investigation. I don’t know what happened after that, though.
6. Don’t Lose Your Head
I think I was 8 years old, my mother and sister were fishing off a dock. I was a couple hundred yards south, next to the water, leaning against a tree, when I opened a fish bait bottle and it spilled. As I’m picking up the bait, right next to me in the water, a man’s head just rises out of the water, green and pale. It looked at me and slowly sank back into the water. I began crying and never saw the head come back up—IT WAS NOT WEARING ANY KIND OF REBREATHER—and my sister ran over to me and asked me what happened.
I’m 14 now, and every time I try to describe or explain the story, they never believe me and say I was dreaming. I can still remember that face, but I wasn’t scared the first time I saw it, I was purely shocked. But that face was terrifying, like ‘90s Pennywise terrifying. These days I try and play it off as something paranormal or spiritual, but if that was some sort of living creature, then this world is a scary place.
5. That’s Enough of That
My dad joined up with an oil tanker crew in the Gulf of Mexico for a year while he tried to figure out what to do after college. He says he had a lot of fun and made some great memories, but for a while, he wouldn’t tell me why he quit. Eventually, I convinced him to tell me when I got older.
One night they hit bad weather and he had to go up on deck to do some grunt work real quick. He had his life vest and the bungee cord on securely, so he figured he’d be ok. A huge wave hit the ship, and he went over the stern of the ship, hitting the water. He was submerged completely, came face to face with two propellers bigger than he was, then was pulled out of the water by the bungee cord and slammed back hard on the deck. He finished that job, quit immediately after they hit land, went back to college and enrolled for his second degree.
4. A Voice in the Dark
This is probably the only borderline “paranormal” thing I’ve ever experienced. I was night-fishing with my wife and a female friend on a local river—watching a meteor shower, just chilling, drinking, fishing. I decide I want to check out a spot further downriver so I leave them behind and head off into the woods. I’m about 100 yards or so down the path, all alone, just me and the crickets, when I hear a female voice say my name. Loudly, plain as day, like someone was standing a few feet behind me and was trying to get my attention. I turn around naturally thinking one of the girls followed me into the woods, but nope, no one there.
I am not really a huge believer in the supernatural or anything but this absolutely freaked me the heck out. So I just immediately head back, and sure enough, they’re still hanging out on the river bank watching the meteor shower. There is absolutely no way I could have heard them that clearly from that far away. I told them what happened and they still to this day think I was just messing with them and trying to scare them. But I’m telling you, I still get the willies thinking about it and in fact have never been back to that spot since.
3. Side Sleeping for Safety
My grandfather was in the Royal Navy for a few decades. At the end of WWII, he was helping ship Japanese prisoners of war back to the West. Many of them were suffering from serious trauma and had completely lost their grasp of reality.
He was asleep in his bunk, often they were stacked with three or more levels. The guy below him had lost it and drove a knife up through his mattress. Luckily, my granddad was asleep on his side, and the knife missed him by millimeters.
He said those months at sea were the hardest of his entire naval life.
2. You Didn’t See Nothing
Worked for a bit as a deckhand on fishing boats out of San Diego. A few times we would come across deserted smaller boats (pangas) drifting with outlandishly big motors. Every time the Captain would just cut hard port or starboard to get away from them as quick as possible—I knew they were illicit-substance-running boats that had probably dropped off their cargo, but I would check them out with the binoculars if we were close.
One had two people on it—both had clearly been shot a bunch of times, and one was moving and fairly alive. I told the Captain—got a disapproving head shake and we were on our way.
1. Got a Big One
My dad was a fisherman for 16 years. He told me that one time when he and the crew were out fishing, they caught a plane in their net. Not a big airplane, but one of those small planes that can seat two to four people. With two decomposing bodies in the front seats. It turned out to be a plane that had disappeared a few months earlier.