The Alkimos - A Cursed and Haunted Ship
I'm going much further afield today for a ghost story. You see, I used to live in Australia - for a good ten years when the kids were wee bairns - in a beautiful northern suburb of Perth, called Mindarie on the west coast and overlooking the Indian Ocean. There lie white sandy beaches, an awesome marina, great food, good beer, and a crowd of lovely folk from all over the world. But so too, if one looked north from the beaches at Quinns Rock, there rose the large, dark, brooding hulk of a cursed and haunted ship.
Built in Baltimore in 1943, the Alkimos enjoyed a troubled history from the off. Commissioned as part of the Liberty Ship Program of WWII and operated by the United States, she was originally going to be called the George M. Shriver. However, it is told, during construction several workers were accidently trapped in riveted-up compartments aboard the ship. Here they suffocated in sealed up tombs before they could be rescued, and from that point on their ghosts were said to haunt the ship. Whether true or not, the story is a good one. Perhaps it was this event that prompted the vessel (launched on the 11th October 1943) being quickly reassigned to the Norwegians on the 20th October, and renamed the Viggo Hansteen.
Under the Norwegian flag, with a multi-national crew of Norwegians and Canadians, the ship served primarily in the Mediterranean as a troopship or cargo carrier in dangerous convoys that were famously hunted by German aircraft and U-Boats. But this was not all. In August 1944, whilst docked in Naples, a Canadian wireless operator, Maude Steane, was murdered by another crewmember in his cabin. This crewman then committed suicide. Due to the horrific nature of the incident, the military reported that Maude Steane had been killed by enemy fire, and she was classed as the first woman from Toronto to die in service during WWII.
So too might her ghost haunt the ship;
Or the man who murdered her?
Either way - be it Maude, a murderer, or those poor souls sealed in metal tombs - ship's crew (after the war) claimed they often experienced strange phenomenon on board. Lights flickered, the engine malfunctioned for no reason, cold spots descended despite hot weather, and the radio itself would emit the strangest noises and static. Haunted, they said, and cursed - running aground in New Zealand in 1953, and then after being sold to the Greek company, Faros Shipping, and being renamed after the Greek God Alkimos, hitting a reef off the coast of Western Australia in March 1963. Towed to Fremantle, she underwent repairs for two months. Then, whilst being towed in May 1963, her line snapped and she drifted onto shore. Still of value, she was refloated in 1964, only to break anchor in a heavy swell and drift onto Eglington Rocks, there to break her back.
Declared a wreck she was sold for scrap, but in 1969 salvage workers were plagued by strange events - a movement and disappearance of tools, ghostly footsteps that would follow them, cooking smells and noises from out the galley - and in the end they were driven off the wreck by a mysterious fire that broke out. Every time they returned thereafter, to recommence work, the fire would break out again.
So it was she was left to lie.
Disintegrate. A hulk on the horizon in my time in Australia, largely broken up and disappeared today - a shadow beneath the waves. A place talked about by locals. Where cray fishermen often report seeing a man in an oilskin coat aboard the wreck, only for searches to find nothing. Or hear a dog barking on board. Where bad luck, bankruptcy, and even serious illnesses affects those who buy her remains in the hope of gaining salvage, only for everything to take a turn for the better when they sell her. A place that horses will not approach, that dogs bark at in anger, where visitors often hurt themselves. It is a place of disappearances and near drownings, where the engines of boats cut out, and locals treat with fearful respect.
There lies the Alkimos;
Where still live her ghosts.
Images: Western Australian Museum, The Alkimos in various stages of decay and erosion.
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