by Tony Harrington
Permanently docked in Baltimore’s “Inner Harbor” at the famous Pier 1, the USS Constellation stands regally amidst a booming tourist destination. She has been returned to her former splendor thanks in part to a restoration effort that spanned over three years, an effort that replaced nearly every square inch of the ships surface with new wood, paint, and fixtures.
There is little of the original ship remaining but it is still indeed the very same ship that served the country from the Civil War to the cessation of World War II in many capacities, from full-fledged battle ship to serving in a diplomatic fashion as a flagship of the USN African Squadron whose duty it was to intercept vessels partaking in the slave-trade.
The ship’s construction was completed in 1854 as a sloop-of-war and named The USS Constellation, a name which would ultimately lead to historical identity confusion in the 1990’s when repairs began on the vessel restoring it to a frigate ship instead of a sloop-of-war. The Frigate Constellation, the ship from which the sloop-of-war took its name, was never struck from the Naval Vessel Register. To this day there seems to be some confusion as to whether the ship in the harbor is a rebuilt sloop or frigate.
Regardless, the storied past of the ship is what lends credence to the claims of paranormal activity.
A vessel can’t simply shrug off its past. From the civil war to WWII the ship served many roles and in its time on the sea it was host to many horrors. Of course, some stories are legend and don’t have a lot of records to back up the claims.
One of the stories revolves around a ship-hand tried for and found guilty of treason. He was tied to the front of one of the cannons on the ship and the cannon were fired, literally blowing the man apart and sending him to a watery grave.
During reconstruction efforts while the ship was dry-docked at the haunted Fort McHenry, crew reported the sensation of being watched, seeing an apparition of a man dressed in Civil War era dress, while others reported hearing crying followed by the sound of cannon fire. Could the ghost of the treasonous sailor be playing out his horrific ordeal time and again?
nother atrocity aboard the ship is the undocumented death of a young boy who was serving as a powder-monkey. Allegedly the young boy was attacked and killed within the bowels of the ship and to this day, visitors claim to hear a young boy screaming followed by the sounds of a struggle as the child is forced to play out his untimely and violent death over and over.
A very friendly ghost, thought to be that of a former captain of the vessel has allegedly given full-fledged tours of his ship to unsuspecting visitors who thought they were being entertained by a docent. Turns out their docent had the distinction of actually having served on the ship, over 100 years ago.
The ship, docked at the Inner Harbor can be boarded and toured for a small fee and during the Halloween season, if you are brave enough, board the ship for an entertaining haunted attraction but don’t be surprised if the ghosts you encounter are not actors playing a role, but the spirits of those who served and lost their lives aboard the USS Constellation.
For more in-depth historical information on the Constellation, and other historic ships docked in Baltimore, or to plan your trip to walk the ship in real life, please visit http://www.historicships.org/.