San Diego California
Star of India
These spirits who were not ready to die just yet are restless souls.
Suicide doesn’t bring peace.
A negative entity lurks in the bottom level of the Star of India.
The Star of India (originally known as The Euterpe), is the oldest working sailing ship. It is described as an 1863 era iron, rigged, sailing ship, with a long life history in the merchant trade business, hauling cargo, transporting emigrants, and serving as a salmon fishing boat and cannery.
From 1864 to 1923, The Euterpe/Star of India transported lumber, Australian coal, Hawaiian sugar, natural Indian jute fiber, cotton, grain, Asian Spices, Alaskan Salmon, and emigrants.
It has a plain bluff bow and a full stern with windows. When it was known as The Euterpe, it was a full-rigged ship, which meant it was square rigged, with three or more masts.
As of Tuesday, June 15, 2021, the San Diego Maritime Museum once again opened the indoor exhibits, located below in the ship deck galleries and the USS Dolphin submarine. The maritime vessels of interest on display, besides the Star of India are the 1898 steam ferryboat Berkeley, the Navy Frigate replica H.M.S. Surprise, the Spanish galleon replica San Salvador, the Official Tall ship of the state, the Californian, the 1904 Steam yacht Medea, and the USS Dolphin submarine. The Russian Foxtrot class attack submarine B-39 remains closed because the outside hull took a beating last winter and awaits repair.
Raymond Ashley, Ph.D., K.C.I., the President/CEO of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, describes these exhibits with great enthusiasm. “Nested below deck are hidden historical treasure stops taking visitors back in time. The Museum’s below deck gallery space cannot be seen by visitors when looking at the fleet from the embarcadero. These are truly unseen treasures worth a visit.”
“Permanent exhibits found as visitors move from ship to ship include San Diego’s Naval History, Harvesting the Ocean, Age of Steam, Age of Sail, Charting the Sea, Wind and Water Photography, Man-of-War, and the Wish You Were Here postcard and photography display.”
Tom and I recently visited the Museum, starting with the Star of India in the summer of 2021. She is a well-preserved sailing ship, and quite a beauty! Stepping onboard this fine vessel was like a step back in time! Each area of the Star of India tells a story of each era that ship was a working vessel. While the steep steps were built long ago for younger people, the museum has provided sturdy handrails for those of us who are stair-challenged.
The top inside level of the ship housed the captain and his top crew managers, the captain’s office, their eating area, and a quick walk to the bridge and the outside deck. The whole space is upscale, with wood paneling, and other decor that I’m sure the captains and officers appreciated. The first deck was also where first-class passengers stayed.
They were not the only ones who enjoyed this space. The Star of India was featured as a British battle ship in Peter Weir’s film, Master and Commander, starring Russell Crowe. There are pictures from the filming on display around the first levels of the ship. The film’s producers thought it was perfect for their film.
While the captain, the ship doctor, and his top crew managers had very small cabins, they were elegant, with lovely paneling, upscale beds, and desks big enough for the necessities of life. Battleship and carrier rooms for today’s captain and officers are also small and practical, but there is no elegant wood paneling!
The crew had sleeping quarters between the top level and the bottom area of the hull. In this in-between world, we found interesting information about life aboard a ship, personal stories of sailors, and other accounts about work done on board. There is also an informative section about the dangers of working on merchant ships.
When the Star of India became a transport for emigrants, large bunkbeds were put on the same floor where the crew slept. The floor had to be remodeled to provide room for these bunkbeds. Replicas of the bunkbeds and a large wooden picnic bench type table are on display. Personal stories of families, through diaries and letters, make interesting reading.
A Surgeon Superintendent, hired by the owners of the Star of India, was given almost as much authority as the ship captain to travel with the emigrants, in the hopes of decreasing death and disease. He had a cabin on the same floor as the captain and officers. In 1879, the Surgeon Superintendent on board the Star of India was one Dr. W R. Davies.
His duties involved treating the illnesses of everyone on board, delivering babies, keeping an eye on the sanitary conditions, and diet. He investigated injuries and kept a full medical log. For every emigrant who made it to their destination healthy, the Surgeon Superintendent got a bonus; a perk that I’m sure encouraged the best of care for travelers.
We enjoyed visiting the Star of India and the other vessels. There is plenty to see in this maritime museum and it is a delightful way to spend time. The San Diego Maritime Museum survived the COVID pandemic thanks to its many supporters.
The original ship, The Euterpe, named for a Greek goddess, was built in the shipyard at Ramsey in the Isle of Man, England, in 1863. It was one of the first ships made of iron, as most ships of the day were made of wood. The company who built her immediately put her to work as a cargo ship in the Indian jute trade. The Euterpe had a rough first voyage, suffering both a ship fender bender with another ship and an attempted mutiny!
The second voyage was a hair-raiser as well. The Euterpe was caught up in a nasty cyclone in the Bay of Bengal, but she managed to limp into port, after having to cut away her topmasts! The stress caught up with The Euterpe’s first captain. He wound up dying on board soon after the voyage.
After four successful, uneventful trips to India as a cargo ship, The Euterpe was sold in 1871 to the Shaw Savill Line of London. For the next twenty-five years, the ship brought emigrants, a tough, hardy lot, to New Zealand, Australia, California and Chile, making twenty-one trips, through all kinds of weather. The first-class emigrants slept in the old officer cabins.
In 1894, The Euterpe was chartered by explorer Archibald Campion for his polar expedition, because of her iron hull, and because she had both crew quarters and cargo holds. Interestingly, Archibald brought along his own invention, an electric motor with a variety of interesting attachments, which allowed the crew to power the ship through the ice and also provided light and heat.
The Euterpe was modernized in 1901 by her new owners, and given a barque sailing system, which resulted in superior all-around performance with far smaller and less skilled crews. The new mast and sail arrangement featured three masts, fore and aft sails on the aftermost mast, and square sails on all other masts.
In 1898, The Euterpe was sold to an American company, The Alaska Packers, and began sailing from Oakland, California to the Bering Sea in the spring, with fishermen, cannery workers, box shook and tin plate on board. When they returned the following fall, they brought back canned salmon.
In 1906, The Alaska Packers renamed The Euterpe, The Star of India. By 1923, sailing ships were being replaced with more reliable steam ships, so The Star of India was taken out of service and “laid up.” Her future looked grim until a group of San Diegans, led by reporter Jerry MacMullen, raised $9,000 dollars to buy her and tow her to San Diego in 1926. A grand restoration was planned for the ship, but then the depression came, followed by WW2.
So, for thirty years, The Star of India sat there, slowly deteriorating into a tattered remnant of its former self. Luckily, her fate was changed yet again, this time by an experienced, highly-thought-of windjammer skipper, Captain Alan Villers, who happened to come to San Diego in 1957 on a speaking tour.
Incensed by the bedraggled state of The Star of India, the Captain established a fund to collect money for its restoration. Skilled workmen on the waterfront volunteered and began to repair the aging hulk, making other much-needed repairs as well.
Not only was The Star of India fully restored to its former glory, it was made seaworthy again. In 1976, she was once more sailing the seas for enthusiastic crowds! She does so to this day about once a year, and has a trained crew of volunteers.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Accidents aboard ships have long taken lives.
USS Lexington, TX (A Petty officer backs into a propeller).
USS Hornet, CA (Sailors working on the plane deck are beheaded by loose landing cables).
USS IOWA, CA (In 1987, a violent explosion in Turret 2 marks the start of paranormal activity).
Star of India, CA (Working on a merchant sailing ship isn’t without risks, serious illness or accidents).
(Sailors can lose their footing and fall. Accidents of all kinds can happen to people at sea. A moment of not thinking can mean the difference between life or death).
People who suffer painful, unexpected deaths sometimes linger where they died, not willing to give up what they wanted in life. Sometimes, they try to find another goal as a spirit.
Moravian College, PA (The spirit of a young college-aged man killed in war, has been attending the classes he needs to earn credits to finish his degree).
Waverly Hills Sanatorium, KY (Patients had high hopes of being cured of TB. When they died, their spirits stayed in hopes of being cured).
The Scarlett O’Hara Pub, FL (Owner Mr. Colee was looking forward to living his life with a new bride, but he was murdered by his spiteful ex-wife, who had left him for another man).
Star of India, CA (Emigrants and sailors died from disease and accidents. The former were looking forward to a new life while the latter were earning and saving money for their goals).
(There were two reported incidents on board, two men with goals for their lives who died painfully and unexpectedly).
(One of them was John Campbell. In 1884, this teen-aged boy, seeking adventure, stowed away on The Euterpe. He was eventually discovered and put to work to earn his keep. While tending to the masts, about 100 feet above the deck, his foot slipped and he fell to the deck below, breaking both legs. He died three days later in great pain).
(The other reported accident victim was a Chinese worker who was caught in the anchor chain and crushed to death because no one heard his screams).
Spirits can be possessive of their favorite place in this world. When something is taken or changed by the living, spirits can complain and let the living know of their displeasure in no uncertain terms.
Booth House, University of Vermont at Burlington (The spirit of John Booth is fit-to-be-tied with the renovations done to his forever home, and lets the living know about it with loud noises, and spectral lectures).
Bodie Ghost Town, CA (Tourists who illegally take artifacts in the ghost town are spied on by the spirits who guard the town. Many tourists mail back ill-gotten items because of all the bad luck they have suffered from the theft).
Bullock Hotel, SD (The spirit of Seth Bullock reacted strongly to the one-armed bandit gaming machines brought into his hotel. He appeared in the room of the gaming machine salesman and tried to throttle him. If Seth had a body, he would’ve thrown the gentleman out of the hotel).
Star of India, CA (When a new water system was installed on the ship, a round piece of the hull had to be cut out. The manager took it back to his office, much to the annoyance of a group of spirits, one of whom let him know how he felt).
Captains have a hard time sometimes giving up their command of a ship, and may visit or reside there as spirits.
Queen Mary, CA (Senior Second Officer William Stark, who accidentally drank from a whisky bottle full of a poisonous liquid, died on the bridge).
USS Constellation, MD (The spirit of a captain still enjoys his favorite place of work).
Star of India, CA (The Star Of India’s first Captain, who died from stress, may also visit or reside here, to be sure that the living take care of his ship, and perhaps look for peace in reliving the mishaps that caused the stress that killed him. He must be upset that he had such a rough time being captain, and that his body paid the price).
Suicide is meant to be a way to escape torment but it seldom works out this way. Spirits still find themselves in pain and often stay where they committed the rash act.
Whaley House, CA (Violet Whalely shot herself in a shed trying to escape her grief, but still grieves today on the second floor of the Whaley House).
Saint Francis Inn, FL (A young officer hung himself over a love that was forbidden. He finds ways to amuse himself and feel better, as well as being reunited with his beloved who is also still there).
Hotel Adolphus, TX (A bereft bride hung herself on the staircase after it became apparent that her beloved had gotten cold feet and never showed up to be married).
Star of India, CA (A first-class passenger, English Army Captain McBarnett, was in the First Mate’s Cabin on his way from New Zealand to Great Britain. He had been acting strangely for several days, and was deeply depressed. When he tried to cut his own throat, the Ship Surgeon got there just in time and stitched him up. A few days later, McBarnett pulled out the stitches and bled to death).
People who do wicked things while alive, often find themselves stuck in the very place where they did their evil deeds.
Shanghai Tunnels, OR (The spirit of crips are stuck here for their kidnapping of women and men, mistreating them and selling the survivors to Brothels or ships in need of crews).
Old Faithful Inn, WY (The husband who beheaded his wife here is stuck at Old Faithful Inn).
Mission San Miguel, CA (The evil robbers who cruelly murdered an entire family, their servants and guests, are stuck here, doomed to keep looking for the gold they was never found).
Star of India, CA (The man who served on board as the cook during the emigrant years would rape emigrant women and girls in his cabin).
The Spirit of John Campbell
The oldest known entity is believed to be a man by the name of John Campbell, the stowaway who fell from the mast and died three days later.
Sometimes when the living stand near the mast where young John fell off, they feel a cold hand touch them, as if to warn them not to climb the mast, or perhaps just to let them know of his presence.
He likes to play tag by making an “S” on the back of living people. Staff members have had this experience.
His full apparition has been seen by staff walking around the boat, going about his chores.
One staff member saw John’s see-through apparition in front of him on deck. The spirit mouthed, “Hello.”
Death by Anchor Chain
In the area around the chain locker, the spirit of the crushed Chinese crewman creates a persistent cold spot which is often noticed by the living.
The spirit of this crewman is still upset and restless about not being noticed and makes sure the living know that he is still there. Perhaps he wants an apology for his needless death.
He may be the spirit who pushes the living when they come down the stairs to the lowest level.
The Spirit of Army Captain McBarnett
This spirit is still very upset, gives off uncomfortable vibes, and is one of the spirits that has claimed the space of the First Mate’s Cabin.
People who try to sleep in this cabin, are awakened by a semi see-through male figure, dressed in full British Army uniform, standing by the bedside, glowering at the bed usurpers, wondering why they are sleeping in his bed.
One ghost hunter from a paranormal group went to sleep in the bed in the First Mate Cabin. He was awakened by two hands throttling him.
The Spirit of a Little Emigrant Girl
She is looking for members of her family.
She likes to play on the in between level and the officer’s deck.
She liked to visit the spirit of Army Captain McBarnett, perhaps seeing him as a father figure.
Her voice has been captured on an EVP recorder by paranormal investigators.
Mishaps, Disease, and Neglect
Beside horrible accidents, some crew and emigrants wasted away from fatal illnesses, spending their last hours in the cramped crew quarters or the emigrant bunk area, despite the best efforts of the Ship Surgeon to save them.
A sense of fear and anxiety as well as cold spots and chilly room temperatures are reported by the living and psychic-sensitive people, when they visit the crew’s quarters and emigrant bunk area.
Spirits Still Waiting
On the officer’s deck quarters, an apparition appeared to a staff member in a top hat and dress attire, walking down the hallway and entering the First Mate’s Cabin; obviously a first-class passenger who never made it to his destination.
Though there is no hard evidence and no personal experiences have been reported, it seems that at least one former Captain would want to spend his afterlife here.
For instance, the spirit of the first captain who died from stress on board may visit or reside here.
A dark spirit seemed to stay here as well. He called himself the Devil.
Evidence of him has been picked up by staff and paranormal investigators on the lowest level.
The spirit of the cook who raped many an emigrant girl and woman in his quarters may be stuck here because of the things he did.
The aura in his old room is thick with negative energy, and the living have a hard time staying there for too long.
Haunted Item on Board
The Director of Marine Operations, Jim Davis, kept an original piece of round wood cut from the hull when the new water system was installed and put it in his office on the bottom deck.
Four or five spirits have been seen in his office visiting this piece object. All of the ship belonged to these spirits, even this piece.
One spirit who was offended pushed Jim into his office one day, as Jim was entering his office.
The manifestations listed above are common experiences ,which have reported by the living many times. Other experiences have been tailored by the spirits for the individual.
Many paranormal groups have caught hard evidence that back up the personal experiences reported. Here are three results of investigations.
October 28th, 2001 – Dr. Joe Nickell of CSICOP — A well known Paranormal Investigator, Dr. Nickell took a tour of Star of India and visited known areas of manifestations on the ship, and found that entities were indeed haunting the ship.
South Coast Paranormal investigators caught on film the shadow of a man coming out of the First Mate’s Cabin.
March 3rd, 2016, Season 15, Episode 6 – The crew of Ghost Adventures, seen on Travel Channel and Discovery Plus, has caught hard evidence, and reported having personal experiences on the Star of India, with all the known spirits listed above.
Most of the spirits are still restless over their painful, unexpected ends. They want to continue somehow in their old lives if only through their memories, and to work out their personal issues by staying on board the Star of India.
The spirit of Army Captain McBarnett is probably not there anymore, as Zac and the members of the Ghost Adventures crew were able to communicate with him. McBarnett’s spirit told them that he was a slave here in his Hell because he killed himself.
At his funeral at sea so many years ago, a Prayer of Attrition was not read. He wanted them to read one on board so he could receive the grace of God. The Ghost Adventures crew member who read one, reported chills all over his body. Zac and the others filmed a spirit rising to hopefully move on to the other side.
1492 North Harbor Drive
San Diego, California 92101
The Star of India sailing ship is docked at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
- Season 15: Episode 6, year 2016, Ghost Adventures, produced by Zac Zabin, Travel Channel.
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr