What is the SS Ourang Medan?
The SS Ourang Medan was a Dutch ship that was passing through the Strait of Malacca, sometime between June of 1940 and 1948. It suddenly ran into mysterious problems and sent a horrifying distress call to nearby ships.
The distress call was as follows, “All officers including captain dead, lying in chartroom and on bridge, probably whole crew dead,” after which there were some lines of unintelligible morse code followed finally by “I die.”
This distress call was heard by an American ship, « The Silver Star » which tracked the location of the Medan with the help of British and Dutch listening posts. When they reached the Medan, they found that its engines were off and when communication was attempted, the Medan gave no reply. The crew of The Silver Star then proceeded to board the Medan only to be greeted by the horrific sight of the whole crew being dead with no signs of damage or a fight. Making it even stranger, each crew member had a shocked expression glued to their faces as if they died in utter shock and their bodies were stuck a rigor mortis had set in at a strangely fast pace. The American crew then proceeded to attach a tow line to bring the Medan to shore for further investigation but a sudden and unexplained explosion caused them to have to abandon it following which, the Medan sank and it hasn’t been found since then.
These events themselves are very strange but there were also some things that followed leading to more suspicion around the Ourang Medan. The ship was not found on any official listings or registry and all traces of it seemed to have been hidden which is quite a strange thing to happen after a shipwreck of such calibre. The only time its name officially came up was years later in a private letter from December 5th, 1959 which was only recently declassified. The letter was from a member of the CIA to an unknown individual stating that the Ourang Medan and its mysterious events may hold the key to many secrets of the unknown and that it was supposedly dealing with « something unknown ».
All of this has led to various conspiracy theories out of which I’ve picked a few which seem to be the most promising:
- The most popular and supported theory is that the ship was carrying some sort of dangerous cargo such as some sort of lethal or experimental gaseous chemical which leaked. This would explain the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the crew as well as why there was no damage to the ship. There are many supporting facts to this theory such as, in 1925, chemical weapons had been outlawed and a ship that was not registered such as the Medan would have been perfect to smuggle such weapons across countries. This would also explain why the Medan shipwreck was covered up by the government for so many years and why its existence was basically wiped off the face of the earth. Furthering this, theorists believe that the ship was carrying cargo from « Unit 731′ » of Japan. This was a unit in Japan known for gruesome chemical experiments on Prisoners of war without mercy. The final thing I found was that the ship supposedly took a strange and extended route which was assumed to have been done for avoiding authorities which would be something a ship carrying illegal cargo would surely do.
- Quite similar to the first theory, there is another theory which claims that a large bubble of methane gas trapped underwater must have burst under the ship. This would also explain the deaths of the crew and since methane is a quite volatile and reactive gas if it were to reach the boiler room, it would be likely to cause an explosion that would explain the untimely explosion of the Medan.
- I’ve merged 2 theories here due to them both being somewhat similar, pirates or aliens. Many people believe that this could be the task of pirates or aliens which would explain the deaths of the crew but each theory has its drawbacks. If it were pirates the mysterious circumstances of the crew and the lack of any damage or signs of scrimmage found would be left unexplained. With the aliens theory, the mysterious deaths could be explained but there are no real supporting facts to this and it seems too far fetched to be true.
- The final theory is the most spooky and one that has to be present for a ghost ship legend, ghosts. This theory states that some unnatural ghostly forces must have taken over the ship and killed everyone on board causing their frightened expressions. Something strange is that when the rescue team from the silver star entered the boiler room of the Medan they felt a heavy chill even though the temperature outside was above 110°F/43°C. This is associated with this theory as paranormal activities are said to lower the temperature of an area quite rapidly and sharply.
Many skeptics believe that the ship didn’t exist at all and that this whole legend is just an imaginary story but according to me there are too many supporting facts present for this to be possible. One of the main arguments of skeptics is that the SS Ourang Medan was not registered but strangely, neither was The Silver Star. This was proven to be false because when records were checked, it was discovered that at the time of this incident The Silver Star was owned by a different company and went by the name, « The Santa Juana » which was a registered ship. The presence of the CIA letter along with the involvement of Dutch and British listening posts all point to the existence of the Medan and due to that, I think that this is a true theory and not just a made-up legend.
Looking at all of the theories, I personally believe that the ship was probably carrying something the government wanted to hide such as an experimental gas. Some mistakes must’ve taken place causing the gas to leak and leading to the deaths of the whole crew. This theory just fits the best and covers a lot of aspects of this mystery with a decent explanation. Other than that, I personally love the theory that it was ghosts as it fits the whole theory perfectly because ghost ships with actual ghosts would make for an amazing story.