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Nautical Nightmares: 18 Chilling Tales from Those Who Brave the Sea's Unseen Horrors


Diving into the chilling depths of the ocean is like stepping into a realm where horror takes on a whole new meaning. While my love for all things spooky often revolves around ghosts and murderers, the vast and mysterious ocean seldom crosses my mind. I mean, seriously, we've only explored a mere 5% of it, and what little we do know is enough to send shivers down the spine. With the ocean covering 70% of the Earth's surface, it's a prime canvas for maritime horror.

Recently, a Redditor, u/tylo144, posed a question that unearthed a trove of bone-chilling stories from those whose careers keep them out at sea for extended periods. Eager for a new thrill, I delved into the thread, and let me tell you, the tales I stumbled upon gave me goosebumps. Here are 18 of the most spine-tingling stories they shared:

• "Being out in the blue at night in a lightning storm in a slack wind. The ocean was very flat — no big rolling swells, just tiny little ripples. The whole world would be black, and then there would be a flurry of bolts, and the whole world would be silver. The ocean looked like aluminum foil that had been scrunched up and flattened out. The water looked like mercury, and all the little ripples made these very dramatic black shadows. It was eerie."

• "I have a friend who works on ships. He said the single scariest thing was when he looked out a window and saw a wave that he said looked like it was 100 meters high, pass right by their boat and suddenly disappear. He knew about rogue waves, but he said seeing one that big and that close — then watching it suddenly just vanish — was so creepy and shocking that he was literally stunned for a minute."

• "I sailed a 70ft yacht around the world a few years back. Southern Ocean, Cape Horn, Good Hope, Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties, two equatorial crossings; the full deal. A creepy moment that is burned into my memory involved a near catastrophe halfway between New Zealand and Cape Horn. We ended up hitting really bad weather and absolutely huge seas — 50ft swells with massive troughs in between. We were running with the swells for days as they grew, skidding down them like a bloated surfboard, always worrying that the next wave would break behind us and roll us over."

These spine-chilling accounts offer a glimpse into the haunting reality that unfolds beneath the waves, reminding us that the ocean, with its enigmatic depths, holds secrets that can send shivers down even the bravest seafarer's spine.

• "Embarking on weeks-long journeys at sea as a recreational sailor, I once witnessed an inexplicable sight—a flame dancing on the water a mere ten yards from my vessel, burning brightly at the stroke of midnight."

• "In the tropics, we stumbled upon a tragic discovery—a lifeless human body in a state of distress. With utmost respect, we carefully double-bagged the remains, preserving it in our walk-in freezer until our next port visit. Identifying the individual through dental records, we handed the solemn duty of closure over to the authorities upon reaching the nearest land."

• "As a former navy member recounting an eerie night off the coast of Italy, we encountered a minuscule boat, scarcely larger than a rowboat, positioned about 9 or 10 miles offshore. Cloaked in the darkness of midnight with no visible land or other vessels, the small craft emitted a solitary light. Our captain assured us it was a fisherman, relying on the light to attract the nocturnal catch. Imagine the solitude of drifting in a rowboat, miles from shore, amid the profound blackness of night, anticipating the unknown."

• "The most unsettling experience I've witnessed at sea transcends the physical realm—it's the gradual unraveling of sanity. Amidst a nightmarish voyage where every conceivable misfortune befell us, we found ourselves deprived of basic necessities—food, water, and sleep. Auditory hallucinations manifested first, as the ship's cacophony seemed to whisper and converse. I heard children's laughter, a haunting choir, and, most chillingly, a particular splash that seemed to call my name from the depths of the sea. Combined with visual hallucinations, the ordeal became truly terrifying."

• "Having once been an oilfield diver navigating the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, a substantial portion of my dives occurred beneath the cloak of night. Descending to depths of 500 feet and below, tethered to a DSV (Diving Support Vessel), the experience took on an eerie quality. Sitting on the downline, engaged in in-water decompression in the dead of night, I'd often request topside to extinguish my headlight. Alone in the darkness, akin to a worm on a hook, I would bob, a solitary figure suspended in the abyss."

• "Two decades ago aboard the MV Explorer, navigating the treacherous waters near the Antarctic circle, we encountered an unsettling mystery. Amongst the icebergs in a secluded bay, an unmarked sailing yacht lurked. Typically, yachts bear distinctive markings, but this one defied convention. Ignoring all attempts at radio contact, and with limited details shared, a daring crew ventured across via Zodiac only to be rebuffed. Picture this: an unmarked yacht, relatively small in size, silently navigating the inhospitable waters of the Antarctic, shunning all offers of assistance—a truly enigmatic and disconcerting sight."

• "Reflecting on my earlier years as the captain of a dragger out of Kodiak AK, one memory stands out—the eerie phenomenon known as 'Deadheads.' During my apprenticeship, the retiring owner took me under his wing. One fateful night, alone in the wheelhouse after battling freezing rain and 2-meter seas, I encountered an inexplicable sight. Sipping bitter coffee and puffing on a Marlboro red, I saw what appeared to be an old pier piling dead ahead. Despite scrutiny, it vanished. Moments later, it reappeared, closer this time. A ghostly apparition in the calm waters, playing tricks on the lone watcher in the wheelhouse."

• "Somewhere in the vastness of the Atlantic, on a bone-chilling night, I stepped outside to marvel at the stars. After about ten minutes, a boat's mast materialized, lingered for a brief moment, and then submerged without a trace. No alarms, no signals—it was simply a submarine rising for a clandestine breath of late-night oxygen in the desolate expanse. Unbeknownst to me, it silently shared the vast darkness."

• "The wonders of the ocean extend beyond the visible surface, as witnessed by the awe-inspiring bioluminescent creatures that inhabit the depths. Amidst the maritime oddities, our onboard experiences took an unexpected turn. The toilet, filling with seawater, revealed a mesmerizing secret. During midnight relief, if one dared to relieve themselves, the disturbance would agitate the water, transforming it into a glowing spectacle—a surreal interaction with the bioluminescent wonders beneath."

• "Navigating the Indian Ocean in the pitch-black darkness of the late '80s and early '90s as a member of the US Navy, I awoke one afternoon to a surreal sight. Peering over the rails, I beheld a haunting spectacle—hundreds of sharks, a constant presence swimming alongside our vessel. Amidst this eerie company, sporadic 'man overboard' alerts pierced the night. Tragically, not a single individual was recovered; these incidents were often veiled suicides, casting a somber shadow over the inky waters."

• "During my decade-long stint in the US Navy, where I accumulated tens of thousands of sea miles aboard an aircraft carrier, one particular night left an indelible mark. Enveloped by the solitude of the ocean, an unnerving sight unfolded—a colossal patch of the sea aglow, reminiscent of the eerie radiance seen in 'The Simpsons' nuclear waste. Unlike any bioluminescent algae I'd encountered before, this surreal luminescence defied explanation, etching itself into my memory as a singularly unsettling maritime mystery."

• "As a hospitality worker, my maritime experiences extended to a private yacht in the Baltic. One night, far from the shoreline, I found myself unable to sleep after a stressful day. Venturing onto the deck, I was met with an uncanny sensation—a feeling of being watched. Staring into the dark expanse, an unsettling conviction lingered that something lurked just beneath the surface. Time seemed to stretch as I fixated, half-expecting an otherworldly encounter. Whether fish or sea mammal, the encounter felt inherently wrong, leaving an impression that defied rational explanation."

• "A US Navy Sailor recounting extraordinary sights witnessed, the creepiest among them involved a great white shark during an underway replenishment off the coast of Australia. Drifting between our two ships, this mammoth predator eclipsed the scale of anything seen on Shark Week. Stationary, with its mouth agape, it commanded the attention of all on the bridgewing, eliciting astonished exclamations. Teeth the size of a man's head and massive scars from a ship's propeller adorned its formidable frame. The sheer enormity of the encounter, witnessed firsthand, defied belief and left an indelible mark on the seafarer's psyche."

• "In two decades at sea, the strangest encounters weren't with the ocean's mysteries but with the eclectic mix of individuals sharing the maritime realm. Roughly 40% are passionate about their seafaring life, excelling in their roles. Another 40% display proficiency but harbor dreams of alternative paths, awaiting the right financial incentive. However, the remaining 20% are an enigma—they've embraced the sea to escape a fate that awaits them ashore. For these souls, there's no 'west' left to explore, so they've become our offshore concern, navigating the waves while the ghosts of their pasts linger."

• "Amidst the clinking glasses in an airport bar, a chance encounter with a seasoned commercial fisherman en route to Southeast Asia for R&R revealed a fascinating tale. Stories of the sea flowed freely, highlighting the rewards and challenges of her decades-long career. Intrigued, I probed about the most frightening encounter she'd experienced on the open ocean. Her response, delivered without a hint of hesitation, sent shivers down my spine: 'Oh, an underwater UFO. I saw one rise up out of the ocean next to my boat and fly off into the sky.' The nonchalant recounting of this otherworldly event lingers in my thoughts, leaving an indelible mark of wonder and unease."

If you've ventured into the maritime domain and have tales to share, we invite you to enlighten us with your experiences. Drop your story in the comments below or share anonymously through this form; we're eager to hear your sea-faring adventures.

As the vast and mysterious ocean continues to captivate those who brave its depths, the stories shared by sailors, fishermen, and naval personnel reveal a world filled with eerie encounters, unexplained phenomena, and the unique characters who call the sea their workplace. From unmarked yachts in the Antarctic to glowing patches of ocean resembling nuclear waste, each account adds a layer of mystique to the maritime narrative.

The tales of suicides, unidentified underwater objects, and the haunting presence of sharks serve as a reminder that beyond the beauty and tranquility of the open water, there lies a realm of uncertainty and occasional terror. The sea, once a source of inspiration and exploration, becomes a canvas for both the sublime and the unsettling.

These narratives also shed light on the diverse individuals drawn to a life at sea—some driven by passion and proficiency, others seeking refuge from an ominous fate ashore. The concluding encounter with an experienced fisherman recounting an underwater UFO sighting leaves an indelible mark, emphasizing that even those intimately familiar with the sea can be confronted by inexplicable and chilling phenomena.

In the comments section and through an anonymous form, the invitation is extended to others with sea-faring experiences to share their stories, contributing to the collective tapestry of maritime mysteries. The ocean, with its enigmatic depths and untold stories, remains a realm that both beckons and bewilders those who dare to explore its vast expanse.