Search This Blog

Friday, December 4, 2020

Decemystery (2020) 4: Carroll A. Deering


This story is dedicated to my dear friend Katie.

How goes it, dearest of readers? Today’s a very special day—it’s the annual Decemystery maritime mystery. Indeed, we’re headed to the high seas to bear witness to what the grandiose waters that make up the vast majority of our planet have in store for us. You know, besides rogue waves, tsunamis, sharks, the Kraken/Sidney Powell, and a lot of salt.

Indeed, the sea has a lot of things that you can find and enjoy. Though nothing quite says “December” and “sea” here on Limitless Possibilities like “ship without a crew”. It’s become a tradition and that tradition must remain if we’re to survive in the harsh reality known as, well, reality! It’s the law of the land—at least it is in my eyes.

Originally, I was going to cover the U.S.S. Cyclops—one of the many ships lost in what’s known as the Bermuda Triangle. However, I opted to save that for some time in the future when I decide to cover that megalithic mystery. It was then that I realized that I’d have to to scour the Internet for something equally as fascinating, and that was no easy task. There was The Kaz II that seemed alluring, but it didn’t quite fit the bill. It was then that I contemplated bringing back the Cyclops, but not before doing one last sweep for a story.

And by “one last sweep”, I mean just browse some lists and hope for the best. Look, I’m not exactly Sherlock Holmes when it comes to looking for things, I’m a 24-year-old guy who sits in his bedroom and writes while pretending that he has a readerbase and that he can one day make it in this world. If you want to judge me for my lack of credentials, I would kindly direct you to the comments section (which I’m always open to feedback as a little FYI).

Ahem, well, anyways: as luck would have it, I did manage to find a story; the story of the ship known as the Carroll A. Deering. While not as widely talked about as the Cyclops (at least in my eyes), it’s as simple as it is strange. So let’s head back in time to discuss a North American maritime mystery once more.

The Story

The Carroll A. Deering (which from here on out I will simply refer to as “the Deering”) is widely talked about as one of the greatest maritime mysteries in history—rivaling that of the legendary Mary Celeste. Much like the Celeste, the Deering was found without her crew. It’s really good that the ship was there though; at least the insurance company didn’t have to pay up. Woo-hoo!

Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the start: the Deering came to be in 1919 thanks to the G.G. Deering Company (owned by G.G. Deering—who named the ship after his name). The ship’s place of creation was Bath, Maine—and no, that isn’t a joke, Maine’s just known for some really boring names. I personally blame everything creative having been consumed by Susan Collins—it’s a little known fact that she is immortal and cannot be defeated.

Anyways, the purpose of the ship was simple: to deliver large amounts of cargo and other goods. However, there was something… off about the Deering—so off in fact that rumors began to spread that she was cursed. There were scandals, serious disagreements, sicknesses that spread on the ship, and people threatened murder while aboard her. The ship was like the aforementioned Mary Celeste in more ways than one and those similarities are something I seldom—if ever—see talked about.

I digress though. The curse, if you were to ask me, wasn’t really a “curse”. Bad events happen on ships all the time. Arguments, threats, deaths, and many other terrible events happen with folks on ships, so if you were to ask me, this “curse” is but a part of the legend that has become known as the Carroll A. Deering. So with that out of the way, let’s get into the meat of this story.

The Deering was bound for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the summer of 1920—sometime between July and August, while others say September. I’ve also seen quite a few differing claims of the time, along with what its purpose was. Some say it was headed there to pick up a shipment of coal while others say it was going there with the coal, presumably to sell it. Whatever the case, it reached its destination and the crew eventually departed. This is where things went sideways.

You see: the captain of Deering was a man by the name of Willis B. Wormell. He was hired after the original captain fell ill. In the slot of the first mate was Charles B. McLellan. Wormell and McLellan were as compatible as fly and a spider; the two didn’t get along whatsoever.

While the crew of the Deering were in Rio, Wormell met up with an old friend of his, a man known only as “Captain Goodwin”. It was with Goodwin that Wormell spoke wonderfully of his crew. By that, I mean he spoke with only the utmost negativity and disapproval—though he liked the ship’s engineer, Herbert Bates. Why exactly he liked him, I have absolutely no idea.

Even with this negativity, the ship left Rio and then, on December 2, 1920, stopped at the island of Barbados for some supplies. It was here that McLellan reportedly got intoxicated (like any good, stereotypical sailor would) and proceeded to rant to a man named Captain Hugh Norton, who operated a ship known as the “Snow”. It was in this drunken state that McLellan stated that he was unable to discipline anyone on the Deering without Wormell getting upset. He also stated that he was required to do every bit of navigating on board the ship due to Wormell having lackluster eyesight. This anger all came to a head when McLellan stated to Norton, Norton’s first mate, and another unnamed captain at the Continental Cafe the following:

I'll get the captain before we get to Norfolk, I will.

Ironically, McLellan was later arrested while the crew were still in Barbados and Wormell, who’d forgiven McLellan for his stupidity, bailed him out of prison. After that, the crew began to make their way back to the United States!

The next known sighting of the Deering came on January 26, 1921—almost two months after the ship was at Barbados—by the Cape Lookout lightship. The keeper of the lightship, Captain Jacobson, claims that he saw a tall, thin man with reddish hair and what I’ve only seen described as a “foreign accent” talking through a megaphone. This unidentified man stated that the ship had lost its anchors during a storm off of Cape Fear and requested that Jacobson inform the G.G. Deering Company.

Being a good lightship keeper, Jacobson immediately noted this. Alas, his radio wasn’t functioning and as a result, he couldn’t contact the company. Let’s collectively play the saddest violin solo ever.

On one other note: Jacobson claims that also spotted the crew “milling around” on the quarterdeck of the Deering, which was a location that they were typically not allowed to be. I have no idea if this is accurate or not as I’m just reading off of Wikipedia and some other videos. I’m no sailor, I’m some lonely guy in his bedroom.

Well, anyways, let’s jump ahead to the next day—specifically the afternoon. It was during this period of the day when the ship was seen again, However, no one was on the decks of the ship and for whatever reason, the fellow vessel didn’t attempt to hail it under the assumption that the crew of the Deering would notice a lighthouse or lightship.

Tick tock went the clock. January 29th turned into January 30th, which then turned into January 31st, 1921. It was during this day that a man named C.P. Brady noticed that a ship had run aground. This location had become infamous for incidents like this—so much so that it had become known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”. Alas, in the case of this ship—which surprise, surprise was the Deering—it would take until February 4th for rescue ships to reach her on account of crummy weather. Womp, womp.

Aboard the Carroll A. Runaground, rescuemen discovered that the ship had been abandoned—completely and totally. Accompanying the creepy atmosphere, they also found that the ship’s steering equipment had been damaged and that both the ship’s log and navigational tools were gone. Two lifeboats were also missing, along with the crew’s personal items. This proved more than a little odd, but there was an even bigger issue to deal with. Indeed, there was a more immediate problem than missing and potentially deceased sailors.

The Carroll A. Deering herself.

Deemed a hazard to other ships, and unable to be salvaged, the ship had to be blown up, lest another ship crash into her. On March 4th (my birthday!), the Carroll A. Deering became the Caroll A. Destroyed and she was turned into nothing but remnants of what had once been. On the upside, some of the ship’s bow ended up at Ocracoke Island, where the locals used the wood to build houses. So, that’s cool!

With the ship and all sorts of possible evidence now gone, there was a question to be asked: what happened to the crew of the Deering? Such a question… has never been answered. Like, at all. However, there is some interesting stuff that happened after the ship went kablooey.

If we fast forward to April 11, 1921. A fisherman by the name of Christopher Columbus Gray (yes, that was his name—feel free to make your own joke) stated that he’d discovered a message within a bottle. Within it, there was the following message:


The capital letters are from Wikipedia—it’s the first area I found information on this and I’m too lazy to rework it. Parley with me, matey.

Anyways, the handwriting of the letter was later said to be from that of Herbert Bates, the engineer—at least according to Wormell’s widow. This led many to believe that the Deering had fallen victim to some form of piracy and in the immediate wake of this discovery, it seemed like the case could have been solved.

Alas, there were many skeptics because, well, why on Earth would you notify the company first and not the cops or the Coast Guard? Such stupidity was later given an answer: Gray forged the letter because he wanted a job at a lighthouse. Nice work, chief.

Well, the last thing I’d like to talk about is that the United States government performed an investigation into what happened to the Deering; future President Herbert Hoover (who at the time of the investigation was the Secretary of Commerce) became particularly interested in the case. So there’s an interesting factoid for you guys.

Anyways, I’m not really sure if any documents of the investigation exist—though I’d assume they do. The man spearheading the investigation was Lawrence Ritchey, who served as Hoover’s assistant. The ultimate conclusion was that mutiny was what most likely happened, but there has never been an official conclusion.

So, with that little aspect out of the way, the story of the Carroll A. Deering more or less comes to an end. Over a century later and the fate of the crew remains as mysterious as ever. While many are adamant that they “know” what fate befell the crew of the Deering, there are a plethora more who believe that McLellan was true to his word on making sure that Wormell didn’t make it back to Norfolk. Though why talk about that here? The theories section is better suited for that—which is where we shall sail off to now. So come along, me hearties. Yo-ho-ho, a pirate’s life and all that other stuff.


1. Pirates

What in Davy Jones’ locker did ye just bark at me, ye scurvy bilgerat? I’ll have ye know I be the meanest cutthroat on the seven seas, and I’ve led numerous raids on fishing villages, and enslaved over 300 wenches. I be trained in hit-and-run pillaging and be the deadliest with a pistol of all the captains on the high seas. Ye be nothing to me but another source o’ swag. I’ll have yer guts for garters and keel haul ye like never been done before, hear me true. You think ye can hide behind your newfangled computing device? Think twice on that, scallywag. As we parley I be contacting my secret network o’ pirates across the sea and yer port is being tracked right now so ye better prepare for the typhoon, weevil. The kind o’ monsoon that’ll wipe ye off the map. You’re sharkbait, fool. I can sail anywhere, in any waters, and can kill ye in o’er seven hundred ways, and that be just with me hook and fist. Not only do I be top o’ the line with a cutlass, but I have an entire pirate fleet at my beck and call and I’ll damned sure use it all to wipe yer arse off o’ the world, ye dog. If only ye had had the foresight to know what devilish wrath your jibe was about to incur, ye might have belayed the comment. But ye couldn’t, ye didn’t, and now ye’ll pay the ultimate toll, you buffoon. I’ll shit fury all over ye and ye’ll drown in the depths o’ it. You’re fish food now.

I like to imagine that’s what was said right before the ship was blown into oblivion.

Anyways, here ye, here ye! The crew of the Deering lieth deceased beneath the waves of the Atlantic! Her demise came at the hands of pirates!

Me hearties were a band of the most terrifying men the world had ever seen and they did, well, exactly what you’d think they did. They killed the crew, took the goods, and sailed off to find another ship. Not much else to say there. Pirate’s life, am I right?

2. Commie Pirates

Once upon a time, the New York City police department performed a raid at the base of operations for the United Russian Workers Party—which was little more than a Communist front group that served no other purpose than to push, well, Communism. Not exactly something surprising given there were a plethora of groups that did that.

With this one though, there was something that stood out from the rest. It’s said that cops discovered documents which called for members to seize the means of sailing production (see: piracy) and then take the ships back to the Soviet Union. Given the timeframe of this raid and, likewise, the document's existence, some suspect that Communist Pirates were behind the Deering’s Houdini-tier vanishing act.

Alas, there’s one tiny problem: there’s no proof to back up this theory. Just because the documents exist doesn’t equate to people carrying out the seizing of ships for Communist benefit. To give an idea as to why: I could write up a bunch of documents calling for my friends to go ahead and shoplift candy from their local 7-11 in an effort to further the agenda of Rastafarianism. That doesn’t mean anyone will carry it out—and those who do I would immediately unfriend and block because I don’t endorse criminality of any kind.

In spite of this, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think this was one of the more unique and intriguing theories regarding this mystery. However, we’re just getting started, so let’s move on.

3. The Bermuda Triangle

Although the ship never sailed directly into the infamous triangle, it’s commonly believed that the Deering is but one of many victims to the Bermuda Triangle’s massive maw. This is in spite of how no abnormally large number of vessels and airplanes go missing over—or in—it.

4. Aliens

UFO sightings within and around the Bermuda Triangle are actually quite common. Whether or not they’re more common there, I don’t know. However, given the crew vanished, it’s obligatory that aliens must be named as suspects. Why? Well, they’re a staple of any ghost ship theory because when in doubt, aliens.

5. Ghosts

Stories of ghosts out at sea, cursed to roam it, have been around for a long time. Stories of ghosts that bring about curses to any who lay eyes on them are also quite common. This theory posits that the crew saw one of these ghosts and they were cursed—or ultimately fled in fear.

6. Ghost Pirates

What’s worse than ghosts? Ghost pirates. They’re spooky, they’re violent, and they cannot be killed unless you have an enchanted weapon that can hurt them!

As is the case with any sort of ghost ship (no pun intended), the story of the Flying Dutchman is sure to pop up somewhere. I’m serious, any story like this will almost certainly have at least one person say that Davy Jones took the crew or that the ship sailed over or near the Flying Dutchman and it doomed them to sink, crash, or die.

Though stories of literal ghost pirates aren’t too uncommon either. If you remember last year’s write-up on the Ghost Fleet of the Great Lakes, you’d know that the crews of ships damned to sail until they’re found exist. The same goes for ghost pirates. Maybe one day, we’ll talk about them. For now though, let us leave this shrouded in mystery.

7. Sea Monsters

The Bermuda Beast was something we talked about last year and as is the case with anything related to the Bermuda Triangle, some believe the Deering fell victim to the Kraken or some other legendary fiend from below. While it isn’t impossible that a large animal may have spooked the sailors by attacking the ship (it’s not unheard of for whales or sharks to attack boats), I’ve got many questions for a ship the size of the one we’re talking about. How big would this animal need to be? Probably way bigger than I could ever hope to imagine, so let’s move on before I begin to fear the ocean.

8. Atlantis

A popular theory regarding the Bermuda Triangle that has really become popular any time something goes missing while anywhere near the ocean is that Atlantean technology either sunk the ship or caused it to crash (this goes for airplanes too). While most generally agree that Atlantis was in Africa is now known as the “Eye of Africa”, some insist the fabled continent/city was in the Bermuda Triangle. Why? I don’t know.

9. Mutiny

This is probably the most popular theory that’s been floated around, with  one of Maine’s Senators, Frederick Hale, being a believer in it. The idea is that Captain Wormell’s conflict with his first mate, coupled with him making some less-than savory remarks to his crew as a whole in Rio de Janeiro, ultimately led his crew to overthrow him. However, ultimately, the ship’s climate and stability led everyone to basically flee or, well, just give up and that was the sordid tale of the Deering. Now give me an Academy Award.

10. A Rogue Wave

Ever see the film “The Poseidon Adventure” or that really awful remake “Poseidon”? If you haven’t, it’s about a cruise ship that gets capsized by a rogue wave—which is basically an abnormally large wave that’s formed out at sea and is quite dangerous. In the case of this theory, a rogue wave would’ve hit the ship, the folks would have drowned, and the ship would’ve been without her crew. Simple as that.

11. Interdimensional Adventures With the Carroll A. Deering (LIMITED EDITION FIRST ISSUE)

A popular theory when it comes to not only the Bermuda Triangle, but just about any case where people, ships, and/or planes vanish while out at sea is that they fell into an alternate dimension of some sort.

The story of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is a prime example of this story and while pieces of its wreckage have been found, some claim that those pieces made it back to our dimension while the rest of it is in whatever dimension it’s trapped in. In the case of the Deering, the ship would have returned, but its crew ended up stuck in that dimension.

Could that really be the case? Well, if you like to believe in how our reality can overlap with another one, then sure. However, without any proof to back it up, the odds of it really being the case are very slim, if even remotely possible.

12. Mass Hysteria

While it may seem really silly, cases of mass hysteria out at sea have happened. Heck, they happen everywhere. Under the right conditions, even the most experienced and seasoned of sailors can fall victim to this peculiar phenomenon. It’s possible that something happened, like the belief that a storm was headed their way and that they abandoned ship, or that they believed they were being followed.

Though how likely is it? Eh, probably not that likely. Though weirder things have happened.

13. Rum Runners

The idea here is that smugglers transporting liquor opted to take over the ship, kill its crew, and utilize it since it wouldn’t draw suspicion. However, given how massive the ship was and how it was used to transport valuable goods, it seems really strange that nobody ever recognized it during its travels. There’s also the matter of the ship being ridiculously slow. I also think it’s really counterproductive to take control of a ship to transport booze and then decide to forego it, though who knows. Maybe these rum runners were bloodthirsty maniacs.

14. Hurricanes

Somewhat similar to the theory about a rogue wave, but with significantly worse weather overall (rogue waves can form even when the ocean appears perfectly calm), the theory of a hurricane is one that’s quite common. Backing this up is that the United States’ weather bureau was warning that a series of fairly strong hurricanes were currently in the Atlantic. So, case closed, right? Well, not quite. It’s been stated that the Deering had been sailing away from the storms and not towards them. There was also the matter of how the ship’s remains seemed more or less in order and not in a state of “everyone get off the ship, we need to get the heck out of here”. Still, the theory remains decently popular—even if it isn’t likely.

Number 15. Burger King Foot Lettuce

The last thing you'd want in your Burger King burger is someone's foot fungus. But as it turns out, that might be what you get. A 4channer uploaded a photo anonymously to the site showcasing his feet in a plastic bin of lettuce. With the statement: "This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King." Admittedly, he had shoes on.

But that's even worse.

The post went live at 11:38 PM on July 16, and a mere 20 minutes later, the Burger King in question was alerted to the rogue employee. At least, I hope he's rogue. How did it happen? Well, the BK employee hadn't removed the Exif data from the uploaded photo, which suggested the culprit was somewhere in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. This was at 11:47. Three minutes later at 11:50, the Burger King branch address was posted with wishes of happy unemployment. 5 minutes later, the news station was contacted by another 4channer. And three minutes later, at 11:58, a link was posted: BK's "Tell us about us" online forum. The foot photo, otherwise known as exhibit A, was attached. Cleveland Scene Magazine contacted the BK in question the next day. When questioned, the breakfast shift manager said "Oh, I know who that is. He's getting fired." Mystery solved, by 4chan. Now we can all go back to eating our fast food in peace.

My Take

Truth be told, I don’t really know exactly what I think happened to the ship. I’m torn on mutiny and piracy being the ultimate fate of the ship. However, if I had to pick between one, I think it was likely a case of mutiny. My reasoning for this is, well, Wormell seems like he was a monumental piece of work. If there’s one thing I cannot fathom dealing with, it’s an insufferable leader out at sea. When it takes months upon months to get from Point A to Point B and then back to Point A, I can almost guarantee I’d lose my cool. So I can’t imagine how it was for everyone on board when the ship’s First Mate was treated like he was disposable trash.

Alas, that’s just me. In the realm of reality, I doubt we’ll ever truly know what happened. For all we know, it really was aliens, ghosts, Julia, or something else otherworldly that took the crew to Davy Jones’ locker.  Cue the X-Files theme, lads and lasses.


Well, I hope you enjoyed this write-up, dear reader. If you did, tell me what you thought in the comments below. Also, tell me what you think happened to the Deering! I would love to know and I hope to see you tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment