Until January 2013, I didn't believe in ghosts. I passed all the stories and so called accounts off as false. The whole concept of being alive, yet dead at the same time, made little sense to me. However, that month, I saw something that would change my perception of reality forever. It seemed like a ghost, but I can't be sure as to what it really was...
I was free from work early that month as my employer gave everyone time off for Christmas. Taking advantage of this, I decided to re-connect with some friends in California. I drove from my home in Arizona to a motel near Los Angeles, which is where we would all meet up. Most of them lived around Los Angeles, so meeting at a motel in that area made sense. We sat down and started talking, reminiscing memories and discuss private things only friends should talk about. After about an hour, we finally started discussing our small trip to the northern coastline of the state. We would stay in a small town called Shelter Cove and go hiking one day on the seldom traveled Lost Coast Trail.
Three days after we met in Los Angeles, we arrived by car in Shelter Cove. After getting settled into our hotel, we walked around town for a few days, before finally preparing for our small hiking trip. It must have been a Sunday when we departed on our hiking trip, as the town was less active than it had been the day before, save for the church bells in the area. We met up with the trail west of town and began our long hike. We climbed around numerous rocks and trees and were treated with a great view of a seldom touched part of California's vast coastline.
When evening came, we set up camp on the beach. After a few hours of telling ghost stories and catching up on our lives, we decided to call it a night. After about an hour, I woke up and found it impossible to fall back asleep. I decided to take a short walk to pass the time. When I left my tent, I noticed the air around me was enveloped in an eerie fog. Unlike most fog, there was something peculiar about this one. The fog seemed to be... glowing... But that's impossible right? I mean, fog can't glow... can it?
Shrugging it off, I proceeded to walk closer to the water. I sat down at the water's edge and stared off into the distance, thinking about certain aspects of my life. I was rudely interrupted moments later by a fog horn... except this horn sounded more like an old steam whistle. I heard the whistle three more times, then everything fell silent. I guessed whatever boat it was had passed through the fog without much incident, as most boats do.
Five minutes later, the whistle started sounding again. As the whistle continued to sound, I noticed it had a somewhat haunting ring to it. Thirty minutes had passed and the whistle had not subsided. Moments later, the whistle was joined by the sounds of people screaming. Their cries were bloodcurdling and sent chills up my spine. After about a minute, the whistle stopped sounding and the cries started to die out. One by one, the screams and cries for help began to diminish, until there was nothing but complete silence.
Horrified at what I had heard, I was about to head back to my tent, when a dark figure appeared on the ocean's horizon. It was hard to make out because of the fog, but it appeared to be an old steamship. A very large steamship at that. There were no lights shining onboard the ship and no noises were being made from it. The only activity besides the dark shape moving across the horizon was the thick black smoke coming from the vessel's single smokestack.
Looking at this dark shape, I started thinking... what if this ship... isn't real? That's ridiculous though, if it wasn't real, than how can I see it?! But the feeling just wouldn't go away. The fact that no noise was coming from the vessel along with the lack of lights continued to fuel my suspicion. Furthermore, how many large steamships even still exist in the world, let alone California? As I continued to debate with myself over the strange vessel, the ship suddenly faded away. Even the thick smoke which had been emanating from it had vanished. Writing the whole incident off as a hallucination from my lack of sleep, I returned to my tent and was finally able to doze off.
When morning came, my friends and I prepared the breakfast we had packed, which mostly consisted of oatmeal and some granola bars. After we were finished eating, I walked to the edge of the water, to try and make sense of what I had seen the previous night. When I arrived, I noticed a peculiar object out of the corner of my right eye. It was a boiler. A rusty corroded iron boiler from an old steam vessel. Lying close to it was a large iron wall and some other rusted pieces of wreckage that were impossible to identify. The wreckage looked as if it had been there for more than one hundred years.
Close to the boiler, I noticed a small corked bottle with a paper inside of it. Curious, I opened the bottle and extracted the note. The words weren't written in pencil or pen, but was instead written with what appears to have been... blood. The message was short and simple: 88. Never forget... I folded the note up and placed it into my pocket, then proceeded to rejoin my friends.
We finished our hike that afternoon and returned to Shelter Cove in the evening. After spending two more days in the small town, we went our separate ways, myself returning to my home in Arizona. Not long after I arrived back at my small apartment, I immediately sat down at the computer and looked for any shipwrecks that occurred around Shelter Cove. To my surprise, I came across one.
The vessel was a passenger steamship called the Columbia and sank in 1907 following a devastating collision with another vessel, killing 88 people... 88... that was the same number on the note I had found. Now frightened, I continued to read the story. Apparently the ship's whistle had been sounded by the Captain near the vessel's final moments and was reported to have died in an almost lifelike way... similar to the whistle I had heard.
After reading the rest of the story, I looked at the photograph given of the Columbia at the bottom of the webpage... It was the exact same ship I had seen off the beach that night! It all made sense now, the whistle, the number 88, the appearance and the location. I had just seen a ghost ship... but was it a ghost? I can never be quite sure as to what it actually was, but one thing is for certain. I'll never forget what I saw that night... Never forget...