The Cargo Ship is a scary story about a strange and supernatural incident that happens on board a ship, one dark and foggy evening. This tale is based on a story called “Who Fell From Aloft?” by George Wasson. A version of this story appeared in Scary Stories to Tell in the dark under the title “Somebody Fell From Aloft”.
Years ago, I signed up as an ordinary seaman on a cargo ship traveling to England. On this particular voyage, the crew were a tolerable bunch, all except for one hard-looking character named McLaren. He was a fair seaman, but there was something about the cut of that fellow’s jib that I just didn’t trust.
He didn’t get along with the others and they didn’t get along with him. Even at meal times, he wouldn’t associate with the rest of us. He just wolfed down his food like a dog, then got up and left without a word. He was very secretive, kept mostly to himself and always acted in an aggressive manner. There were a couple of times when I caught him giving me dirty looks, as if he was just itching for a chance to knife me in the back.
One dreary afternoon, while we were trying to work, a thick fog set in on us. It was a black, dripping fog and you could scarcely see the length of the vessel. It soaked up all the light, to the point where you’d think we didn’t have any lights on at all.
The sea was dead calm and there wasn’t so much as a breath of wind in the air. The ship was rolling slowly along as the captain steered his course. The deck of the cargo ship was silent and no man said a word.
Then, all at once, there was a mighty WHACK!
Something hit the deck and the force of it almost jarred the entire ship. It landed with a thump right in front of McLaren. He let a screech out of him that would turn the blood cold in your veins.
The second mate started yelling that somebody had fallen from aloft and the captain fetched a lantern from his cabin so we could see who it was. McLaren had fallen over the wheel in a dead faint, his arms hanging limp and swinging back and forth with the motion of the ship.
By the light of the lantern, we could see someone or something lying out there on the deck, just in front of the wheel. Whatever it was, it was dressed in oilskins and there was a big pool of blood dribbling out from underneath it.
Every one of us was afraid to approach it. We all knew nobody was supposed to be up in the crow’s nest, so none of us could explain how a body ended up falling and landing on the deck. Eventually, some of the crew mustered the courage to turn over the corpse and take a good look at its face.
Peering over their shoulders, I saw it was a big, ugly-looking man, but I didn’t recognize him at all. In fact, there wasn’t a soul on board that knew who he was or what he had been doing up there.
When McLaren recovered from his faint, we tried to question him about it, but all he could do was jabber away incoherently and keep rolling those big, wild-looking eyes of his.
Seamen are a superstitious bunch at the best of times and everyone on board was getting more and more frightened. They all wanted to heave the body overboard as quickly as they could. There was something weird about it. Something definitely was not quite right.
The captain thought the man might be a stowaway, but the ship was so full of lumber that there was no place for a man to hide. Whoever the dead man was, he hadn’t been on the ship when we pulled out of port.
The second mate gave orders to throw the corpse over the side, but the crew were convinced there was something supernatural afoot and all of them were afraid to touch it. The second mate was shouting at this one and that one, but he couldn’t coax anyone into moving a muscle.
All of a sudden, McLaren started yelling like a lunatic and ran out onto the deck.
“I’ve handled him once, I can handle him again!” he cried and he picked up the corpse and dragged it over to the railing.
Just as he was about to heave it over the side, the thing reached out with its two big, long arms and wrapped them around him. Before anyone knew what was happening, the pair of them went over the rail together!
Just as they did so, up came the most horrible laugh any of us had ever heard.
The crew gathered around, staring bug-eyed at the terrifying scene. The second mate was yelling at us to launch a boat and rescue McLaren, but nobody would dare to get into a boat, not after what they had just witnessed. We threw a couple of life preservers over the side, but we all knew nothing on God’s green earth would save him now.
Later on, the Captain told us that, on the last trip he had made, there was a really big fellow who had been always picking on McLaren and pushing him around. There was bad blood between them and McLaren was always making threats about how he would someday get his revenge.
One wet and dirty night, the two of them were up in the crow’s nest alone. In the middle of the night, the big fellow somehow fell and struck the deck like a ton of bricks. When they found him, he was stone cold dead, said the captain. Deader than forty herring.
When they questioned McLaren about it, he said it had all been a terrible accident. The rope ladder they were using suddenly snapped and the big fellow plunged to his death. McLaren claimed he might have fallen himself, but for the grace of God.
However, nobody believed his story. Everyone who saw the rope ladder knew it didn’t give away on its own. The rope had been cut through with a knife, but they couldn’t prove anything, so they had to let the matter drop.
“In the end, I guess the big fellow took care of things in his own way,” said the captain.