MYSTIC, Conn. — Specialists in paranormal research are investigating whether a historic whaling ship might be home to the ghost of a long-ago seafarer.
A five-member team from the Rhode Island Paranormal Research group visited Mystic Seaport on Friday night to spend time on the Charles W. Morgan, a wooden whaling ship where several visitors have reported seeing the apparition.
The 165-year-old craft made 37 ocean voyages in search of whales during the 60 years it was in use. About 1,000 men worked on the Morgan over those decades. The ship, due for a $3.5 million restoration next year, is one of the main attractions at the Mystic Seaport maritime museum.
The Rhode Island Paranormal Research Group became interested in the Morgan after receiving reports from three different groups of people about the apparition.
The visitors said that while touring the ship last summer, they saw a man in what appeared to be 19th-century clothing, working below deck. They said the man, who had a pipe in his mouth, nodded at them but did not speak.
When they went returned to the main deck and asked a museum interpreter what the man was doing, they were told that no one was down below and that no one was assigned to be on the boat that day.
He said that when he asked the three groups for more details, they responded with the same accounts. The three groups were from Massachusetts, Arizona and New York and did not know each other. They visited within a week's time of each other.
"The fact that we had three reports that were the same made everyone's eyebrows go up," Laird said. He said that he also received about 40 other reports of possible paranormal activity before those groups related their experiences.
‘Something fun’ for museum
Museum officials gave the group permission to conduct the investigation.
"We're interested in what they find out," said museum publicist Mike O'Farrell, who attended Friday night's investigation. "It's not so much we believe in ghosts and spirits, but it's a chance to do something fun."
Laird and the other investigators said their few hours on the ship convinced them that there was enough evidence of paranormal activity in certain areas to warrant a return visit with more sophisticated equipment.
Renee Blais, who described herself as a "sensitive" who uses touch and smell to connect with a place's energy, said she felt the presence of a seaman named Gerald. She also described a sense of "sickness, death and despair" among about 15 men as they rode out a large storm in their cramped sleeping quarters.
Employees not surprised
Some museum employees might not be surprised by the speculation that the whaling ship is haunted. Dawn Johnson, a longtime museum interpreter who used to be assigned to the Morgan, said she used to hate to go down below and close up for the night.
"It was creepy down there at night," she said. "It's cold and clammy. You hear moans and creaking, and you wonder what it is."
Laird said that 90 percent of the time, his group finds a natural explanation for what people are experiencing, whether it's an animal making noise, something structural in the house or a hoax.
"We mainly go in to investigate. We're not saying a place is haunted. We go in with an open mind," he said.
The group also recently investigated reports at Ledge Light in New London Harbor, and believes the brick lighthouse is haunted by a woman and group of children. They plan to return there on June 3.
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