The Legend of the Platte River Death Ship By: Sue Eckhoff, Grundy County Heritage Museum
August 9, 2013
Truth or fiction? Since the mid 1800’s there’s been a legend in Wyoming along the banks of the Platte River. Several witnesses have claimed to see a phantom ship on the river. They say that an eerie mist will begin to form on the river, and slowly the mist will form a bank of fog that only covers a small area. Out of the fog will then emerge a sailing ship from days gone by, appearing grey and unnatural and manned by phantom sailors. This ship has become known as ‘The Ship of Death”. The ship got its name not from the ghosts that appear to man it, but the fact that it brings an omen of death to someone known to the person who is witnessing its appearance. The first reported sighting was in 1862 when a trapper named Leon Webber saw the phantom ship. As he stood on the banks of the Platte River in southeast Wyoming, he watched a strange mist appear above the water. He felt uneasy and a cold chill enveloped him. Seconds later, what looked like an old sailing ship emerged from the formless cloud of fog, its masts and sails coated in frost. Confused and frightened he could only stare as the ghostlike vessel moved closer. Crewmen on the ship, also covered in frost, were huddled around what appeared to be a corpse. As he got a clearer view of the top deck, he saw the body of his fiancé laying on a piling on the deck. That same day, his fiancé passed away. Twenty-five years later a cattleman was working a herd along the Platte River when he saw an unusual fog and a ship crewed by ghosts emerging from the fog. As the ship, covered with frost, glided free of the mist it seemed to shimmer as it moved through the mist. On the deck of the ship what appeared to be the form of his wife was laid out, as if sleeping. That same day his wife died. The last reported sighting was in 1903. A man who lived along the Platte River was trimming and removing trees in his yard. He too saw the phantom ship appear in a sudden fog, appearing to be manned by a crew of ghosts. Lying on the deck of the ship was a good friend of his. His friend passed away that day. The ghostly ship usually makes its appearance in the fall, usually between Torrington and Alcova, Wyoming. So…..if you’re ever in the area and see a strange eerie mist start to form, I’d look away!
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