In America’s long, tangled past, there are mysteries and histories with winding stories.
A group of kayakers recently stumbled upon some of those mysteries when they sought out a suspicious, scary, and inspiring ghost ship with a hundred year history. These adventurers knew what they were looking for, but they didn’t quite realize the depth to which this story went…
A group of kayakers glide their way through the murky Ohio River, keeping their eyes peeled for something out of the ordinary. Then, as they passed under some overhanging trees, they were suddenly greeted by an incredible sight. An abandoned giant of the past lay there, just as it has for many long years. But how did it get there and what led it to such a lonely fate?
A closer look
In July 2012, a YouTube user known as TheGh0st81 uploaded an intriguing video to the site. It consisted of footage filmed while on a kayaking trip along the Ohio River. In it, the kayakers featured saw something amazing lurking in the water about 25 miles outside Cincinnati, Ohio.
Tangled in the trees
James Malott, one of the kyackers in the group, said he had heard stories about a mysterious ghost ship run aground in one of the tributaries of the Ohio River. Ever adventurous, he and and his friends decided to grab their kayaks and go take a closer look.
But how do we get there?
The problem, however, was reaching the abandoned wreck. It was not a hop, skip, and jump away. Arriving at this ghost from the past required a journey. It was a hike across a field followed by a trip down the river.
Well worth it…
The trip, however, was well worth the trek it took to get there. It was like stepping into all the intrigue of horror movie… a horror movie that is decades in the making. For roughly a century, the ship has sat lonely, quiet, and abandoned, opening its secrets to only those who dare to enter.
While glimpses of it can be caught from the road above, the best views are reserved for the few kayakers – like Malott and his friends – who are able to explore the ship up close. But just how many of them realize the incredible history that lies behind the wreck that they see today?
The story begins
Originally named Celt, the ship was built by Pusey and Jones in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1902. A wealthy railroad executive, J. Rogers Maxwell, had commissioned the 186-foot vessel as a luxury yacht.
A lot has happened since then
Then, in 1917, the United States entered the First World War, and the fate of the Celt dramatically changed course. After all, the U.S. Navy was on the lookout for small boats that could move faster than the deadly German U-Boats – and the steam-powered Celt fit the bill.
A new path
On July 3, 1917, the ship was acquired by the U.S. Navy and renamed the USS Sachem. Now equipped with machine guns, it soon started a new life as a coastal patrol vessel.
It was during this period that the Sachem would carry one of the most famous people ever to walk its decks in its long and illustrious history. In fact, it was the inventor Thomas Edison, busy conducting experiments in New York Harbor, who spent time as a passenger on the ship.
After the war was over, the Sachem had no further use. It was returned to its original owner. The ship then passed through the hands of Roland L. Taylor, a banker from Philadelphia, before being bought by Captain Jacob Martin of Brooklyn in 1932. But the story of the strange ship does not stop there.
By then the roaring 20s had died down and the Great Depression was in full swing. Martin picked up the ship for a bargain price. He later converted it into a chartered fishing vessel, charging passengers $2 a head to board.
While some people used a trip on the ship as an opportunity to catch fish to feed their families, others saw it as a chance to enjoy a pleasure cruise. In fact, the was an idea so popular that Martin would go down in history as one of the pioneers of the modern concept of party-boat fishing.
In 1941, however, the Unites States once again found itself embroiled in a war, and the Sachem was returned to the U.S. Navy the following year. With the change of hands, it also experienced a change of names again. Now under the name the USS Phenakite, it was used to patrol the waters of the Florida Keys.
At the end of the war, the ship was returned to Martin, who sailed it once again under the name Sachem. He then sold it on to the Circle Line, a sightseeing company operating out of New York City. It was the start of the ship’s long career ferrying tourists around the sights of one of the most famous cities on Earth.
Retiring the old vessel
In fact, the ship served as a tour boat for the next 40 years, first as the Sightseer and then as Circle V. That name, incidentally, can still be spotted on the wreck today. The ship was finally retired in the early 1980s, but even then its long story was not quite done.
In 1986 Robert Miller from Cincinnati bought the ship for $7,500. While he was preparing the boat for the long journey to the Midwest, a limousine rolled up. An individual representing the singer Madonna approached him and revealed that they wanted to use the Circle V. Following this chance encounter, the boat ended up making an appearance in the music video for “Papa Don’t Preach.”
After its brief brush with stardom, Circle V embarked on an epic journey from New York through the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Finally, it came to rest in Northern Kentucky, on Miller’s property. That was back in 1986, and it hasn’t moved since.
The final rusty rest
Now, the ship has been sitting in its quiet rusty rest for decades. Recent photographs, such as the ones you see here, have renewed interest in the vessel. Many – including one man claiming to be Miller – want to see it restored and used as a museum or a pleasure craft.
The ship that’s worth the trip
For now, however, only those prepared to go out searching will be rewarded with a glimpse of the ship that once carried Thomas Edison, kicked off an industry, fought in two world wars and starred in a music video. And, according to those who’ve made the journey, it’s certainly worth the trip.
[Featured image credit: queencitydiscovery.blogspot.de]