When you think about it, all vehicles can be blood-curdling. They can be your best friend one minute, full of life and noise and joy, and when you turn off the ignition, it all dies. They sit lifeless and soulless, all spirit within them gone. Cold. And in that which moves but has no life, you've got a recipe for terror.
I remember the garage being a scary place as a little kid. It was dark, it was damp, and it was cold. Hell, all you need is one of those things to create a nice comfy environment for ghosts. But all three? It had to be haunted.
Cars aren't the only things that can be creepy though. Boats, adrift on the seas, creaking and with waves banging against their hollow hulls. Trains, with their ghostly horns echoing throughout the distance, and with nothing but a single lantern lighting their way. Even planes, with their uncanny ability to fall out of the sky once the wings come off, have the ability to scare.
So let's take a look at some of the scarier (and some less-scarier) vehicle oddities that haunt our earthly realm.
Franz Ferdinand's 1911 Gräf & Stift Double Phaeton
You might expect us to lead off with actor James Dean's "Little Bastard," the Porsche 550 Spyder in which his life was tragically ended and said to be haunted by its next owner, TV showman and designer George Barris. Barris had a penchant for tall tales, though, and the diminutive Spyder really only was tied to the death of one person, as opposed to the deaths of millions. Archduke Franz Ferdinand's 1911 Gräf & Stift Double Phaeton, on the other hand, cannot have its story untwined from that of humanity's collective madness.
The Archduke's assassination in this convertible was the spark that lit the fires of World War I, and eventually led to the deaths of more than 10,000,000 people. While riding through the streets of Sarajevo, Bosnia, which is actually nicer than you'd think, you really should visit, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were shot and killed by Gavrilo Princip, a Yugoslav nationalist. The car itself was unharmed by all the shooting, and continued to serve a long life.
And by "serve a long life," I mean it went around killing or maiming every single person that went near it. Owners committed suicide, were crushed by the car, were killed in horrific accidents, even cut a guy's arm off. All told the car might have killed ten people before ending up the War History Museum of Vienna.
Spookiness score: Two Miss Piggies. Yes, Miss Piggy is a unit of terror, as I was always a bit afraid of her as a child. And since I am making this list, I get to choose the units. So there. Why only two Miss Piggies though? Yes, it's definitively tied to one of the most horrific wars in all of history, but I'm not sure I buy all the other stuff. Could it have crushed a guy when it fell on him? Sure. But killed ten people in accidents, and yet the car is still in one piece? I'm not sure I buy it.
Photo credit: Wikicommons
The Mary Celeste
No list of spoooOOOoooky vehicles is complete without the Mary Celeste. It's the classic example of a "ghost ship." On December 4th, 1872, the Mary Celeste was found drifting in the Atlantic Ocean about 600 miles off the coast of Portugal. Something was immediately noticed to be off. The sails were flapping slightly in the breeze, and a bit torn. It was yawing slightly, like nobody was at the wheel. When it was boarded, the entire crew was missing. There was water everywhere, but the ship wasn't sinking. All the ship's papers were gone, except the Captain's logbook, which told of nothing amiss. Navigation equipment, such as the ship's clock and compass, were smashed. The sextant was missing. The lifeboat was gone, but there was a mysterious frayed rope tied to the stern of the ship. There was plenty of food and fresh water aboard, and most of the crew's belongings were in their proper spots. It looked as if everyone abandoned ship, in a hurry. No one knew why.
And no one was ever found.
So what happened? There are a range of theories, but all of them have their flaws. The strongest one is that there was a brief explosion from alcohol vapors in the cargo hold, which scared the bejesus out of everyone just enough to make them jump ship, but not enough to do any real damage. Fearing another explosion, the crew might have gotten into the lifeboat and tied it to the back of the ship, but the rope frayed in heavy seas. Or maybe there was a mutiny. Or maybe everyone got drunk. Or maybe they all just decided they didn't like the ship very much, although that would be silly.
Spookiness score: I give this one five strangely swinging lightbulbs in an empty, grimy room on their own. Yes, solitary swinging lightbulbs are a unit of terror, as something swinging on its own with no outside forces is positively ghoulish. And since I am making this list, I get to choose the units. So there. The ship itself, mysteriously abandoned, gives me the willies. It doesn't get any higher than five, though, because the ship was eventually intentionally wrecked in an insurance fraud scheme, and insurance fraud isn't too scary in its own right, and because crew silliness is really just silliness, when you get down to brass tacks.
The St. Louis Light
Picture yourself by the side of some train tracks. It's dark, three o'clock in the morning. You hear the tracks give out a slight whine as a train approaches. The horn whistles in the distance, but the sound is coming closer. You hear the rattling of chains and sharp CRACK the wheels hit expansion joints. You see the light, coming around the bend. Brighter and brighter it gets. You don't want to get hit, so you turn and run. Faster and faster, but the light seems to be following you. Just as it's about to overtake you and you glance over your shoulder to see the enormous death machine about to take you to the Creator, you realize there's nothing there. It's just you, in a field. In Canada.
There's an old abandoned rail line near the tiny village of St. Louis, in Saskatchewan, the scariest of all Canadian provinces after Prince Edward Island. Residents claimed to see a light floating along the line, sometimes moving at a steady pace, as if a train was running along the tracks to nowhere. Even after the tracks were removed, the light would still occasionally return, stalking the darkness. The St. Louis ghost light was even featured on Unsolved Mysteries, officially the scariest show in the world:
Eventually two 12th graders proved it was just the reflection of the headlights of passing cars.
Spookiness score: Two Robert Stacks. Robert Stack was goddamn terrifying and no one can dispute that. Only two, though, because c'mon, 12th graders.
Photo credit: Brett Weinstein
Eastern Air Lines Flight 401
Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 was a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar jet that crashed into the Florida Everglades just after Christmas in 1972. 101 people were killed, with 75 survivors. It was the tragic result of a burnt-out landing gear indicator light, and while the crew tried to fix the problem they forgot the autopilot was disengaged. While everyone was distracted, the plane eventually lost altitude until it smashed into the ground.
That's not scary beyond the normal plane-crash type stuff, though. The real spooks started happening after, when flight attendants reported seeing the pilots on their own planes, months after the crash. Parts said to be salvaged from the wreckage and attached to other planes "mysteriously" failed, injuring people further. Everything about it was hAuNtEd, clearly.
Spookiness score: This one doesn't really get a spookiness score. Yes, plane crashes are tragic, but the ghost stories seemed to have been cooked up to sell a book. Frank Borman, a former NASA astronaut and the Eastern Air Lines CEO at the time, called the ghost stories "garbage," and I'm going to tend to believe a guy with the right stuff. And I have a hard time believing that anyone would re-use aircraft parts from something that was clearly in a crash, and if they did, it's not a mystery why they would fail after such intense physical trauma. I'm calling shenanigans.
Photo credit: Wikicommons
The Lyubov Orlova
The abandoned Russian cruise ship MV Lyubov Orlova is genuinely creepy. It was being towed from Canada to the Caribbean for scrapping, when its line broke earlier this year. The crew towing it tried to recover it with another line, but the weather prevented anyone from getting the ship back. Eventually the Lyubov Orlova was completely abandoned to its own fate.