The Chilling Tale of the Flying Dutchman (2024)

It may not be the only ghost ship legend, but it is the most famous and compelling. Numerous sightings of The Flying Dutchman have been reported since the ship’s story was first popularized in the 17th century, including one by a future king of England.

Table Of Contents

  1. The Story of the Flying Dutchman
  2. A Famous Sighting of the Flying Dutchman
  3. The Origins of the Flying Dutchman Legend
  4. The Flying Dutchman in Popular Culture

The Story of the Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman’s story describes a European ship that’s doomed to sail the sea for all of eternity. The ship is considered a terrible omen if seen at sea, signaling some upcoming doom for other ships and sailors unlucky enough to see the vision.

Depending on the story, the ship was captained by a Dutchman named Hendrick Van der Decken or perhaps Captain Falkenberg, who may have been trying to sail through the North Sea or around the Cape of Good Hope. Hendrick Van der Decken is described as gambling his life and his soul, for a good trip but is then condemned to sail that course for the rest of time. On the other hand, Captain Falkenberg played dice for his soul with the devil, some stories state. No matter which version of the story is told, the devil or some other horror is involved, as are the deaths of everyone on board and the ship’s perpetual trip through the ocean waters.

In some iterations of the story, a captain by the name of Bernard Fokke, from Holland, is the captain of the ship. Rumors circulated around him during his lifetime, suggesting that he had sold his soul to the devil due to the speed with which he traveled from the Netherlands to Java.

The Chilling Tale of the Flying Dutchman (1)

A Famous Sighting of the Flying Dutchman

No matter how far-fetched or believable a legend seems, there are always those who claim earnestly or manipulatively to have seen or taken part in it. This is no different for sightings of the ghost ship The Flying Dutchman. One of the most famous sightings occurred in 1880 by the future King George V, who claims to have seen the Flying Dutchman cross the bow of his ship while at sea in his adolescence. His log entry reads:

A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow, in the midst of which light the masts, spars and sails of a brig 200 yards distant stood out in strong relief as she came up on the port bow, where also the officer of the watch from the bridge clearly saw her, as did the quarterdeck midshipman, who was sent forward at once to the forecastle; but on arriving there was no vestige nor any sign whatever of any material ship was to be seen either near or right away to the horizon, the night being clear and the sea calm.

He goes on to say that altogether thirteen people saw the vessel and that the man who reported the ship fell from the top of the “foretopmast crosstrees onto the topgallant forecastle” and died the next morning.

The Origins of the Flying Dutchman Legend

The first reference, in print, to the story of the Flying Dutchman is found in Travels in various part of Europe, Asia and Africa during a series of thirty years and upward. It was written by John MacDonald in 1790 and reads:

The weather was so stormy that the sailors said they saw the Flying Dutchman.The common story is that this Dutchman came to the Cape in distress of weather and wanted to get into harbour but could not get a pilot to conduct her and was lost and that ever since in very bad weather her vision appears.

This excerpt suggests the basics of the story that many were likely already aware of. A ship in distress, lost lives, and a vision is seen in the distance. These are all elements that pop up whenever the story is told. Five years later, there’s another commonly referenced mention of the ship. In A Voyage to Botany Bay, the author, George Barrington, describes the ship and his misapprehensions regarding the story’s veracity. He states that he’s heard of the ship but “never given much credit to the report.” He also mentions the ship disappearing, the souls perishing, and sailors believing they’d seen a ship perusing them through a storm that they claimed to recognize as the Dutchman.

Other literary references to the ship, such as that from Thomas Moore and Sir Walter Scott, describe the vessel in poems. Moore wrote about a ghost ship written on passing Deadman’s Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence Late in the evening, September 1804. He noted that the poem’s lines came from the common superstition regarding ‘the flying Dutch-man.’ Sir Walter Scott wrote in Rokeby; a poem, that the ship was “loaded with great wealth” and that some horrific act had been committed on board. Seeing the ship is considered, he said, to be the “worst of all possible omens.”

The story of The Flying Dutchman was first printed in May of 1821 in Edinburgh Magazine. It placed the vents in the Cape of Good Hope and used Hendrick Van der Decken as the captain of the vessel.

The Flying Dutchman in Popular Culture

Over the last century, stories depicting the Flying Dutchman have become more popular. These include a cartoon version of Scooby-Do as well as SpongeBob SquarePants. The ship appeared in a 1967 episode of the Spider-Man cartoon and in the well-loved Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, released in 2006.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was likely inspired to write The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in part due to the popularity of ghostship stories. Several elements of the poem, such as the dice game, are directly connected to the legends. Many other poems, plays, novels, films, and television series have taken their inspiration from this famous legend. There is a great deal of creative space to be explored due to the details’ vague and changing nature, allowing storytellers the freedom to add and play with the subject matter.

The Chilling Tale of the Flying Dutchman (2024)


What is the true story of the Flying Dutchman? ›

The Flying Dutchman is a European maritime legend about a phantom ship condemned to sail forever. Dutch folklore designates the captain as Hendrik Vander Decken, whose mission is to find the Cape of Good Hope. However, a freak storm thwarted the captain, and he could reach his destination.

How do you beat the Flying Dutchman? ›

The Flying Dutchman can only be defeated by destroying all four cannons. Several Flying Dutchmen can appear during a single Pirate Invasion, or none at all. They only appear when the event progress has passed 50%, and where there is at least 40×30 tiles space.

What is the summary of the Flying Dutchman? ›

The Flying Dutchman was a sea captain who once found himself struggling to round the Cape of Good Hope during a ferocious storm. He swore that he would succeed even if he had to sail until Judgment Day. The Devil heard his oath, and took him up on it; the Dutchman was condemned to stay at sea forever.

Why can't Elizabeth be on the Flying Dutchman? ›

According to an answer to a question from this leaflet from the At World's End DVD: Will's father is not alive—he and all the other crewmen on the Dutchman are in a state between the living and the dead. Elizabeth will not survive the journeys where the ship must travel—so she is not able to join the crew.

Who was the Flying Dutchman before he died? ›

In real life the Flying Dutchman was a 17th century Dutch merchantman, captained by Captain Hendrick Van Der Decken, a skilled seaman but one of few scruples, and in 1680 was proceeding from Amsterdam to Batavia in the Dutch East Indies.

What is the myth in Dutchman? ›

The subway car itself, endlessly traveling the same course, is symbolic of "The Course of History." Another layer of the title's symbolism is the myth of the Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship which, much like the subway car Clay rides on, endlessly sails on with a crew that is unable to escape the confines of the vessel.

Is Flying Dutchman evil? ›

The Flying Dutchman is shown to be cruel and sad*stic. He enjoys terrorizing people for his own amusem*nt. However, he also rewards people who help him, and keeps his promises. He also shows no tolerance for those he considers greedy/amoral as he harasses Mr.

Who controls the Flying Dutchman? ›

Davy Jones is the near-immortal god of passing to the afterlife and Jack Sparrow's and Will Turner's archenemy. He is the captain of the Flying Dutchman (based on the legendary ghost ship of the same name), whose crew consists of humans who traded 100 years of servitude for immortality, and master of The Kraken.

Why is the Flying Dutchman doomed? ›

In the most common version, the captain, Vanderdecken, gambles his salvation on a rash pledge to round the Cape of Good Hope during a storm and so is condemned to that course for eternity; it is this rendering which forms the basis of the opera Der fliegende Holländer (1843) by the German composer Richard Wagner.

How did the Flying Dutchman crash? ›

On Nov. 10, 1942, the C-47 nicknamed The Flying Dutchman (S/N 41-18564) hit a strong down-draft over the Owen Stanley Range while carrying U.S. Army troops from Port Moresby to Pongani, New Guinea. It crashed into the side of Mount Obree, killing seven of the 23 onboard and destroying most of the food it carried.

What does the Flying Dutchman symbolize? ›

The symbolism of the Flying Dutchman—a slave ship doomed never to find safe harbor—demonstrates a deep, conscious thought on Baraka's part, bringing the past of Black men to 1964 and, eventually with modern productions, to the present.

What animal is the Flying Dutchman? ›

Flying Dutchman was a pigeon who received the Dickin Medal in 1945 from the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals for bravery in service during the Second World War.

Why can't Davy Jones walk on land? ›

Once a man, Jones was tasked by his lover, the goddess Calypso (or Tia Dalma), with ferrying the souls of those who died at sea to the afterlife. When he took on this task, he was forbidden from setting foot on land aside from every ten years, when he would finally be reunited with his love– but she never showed.

Did Jack's compass point to Elizabeth? ›

On the Dead Man's Chest DVD commentary, screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio note that the compass only points in Jack's "direction" when Elizabeth holds it, not at Jack himself, and on Isla Cruces, continually points at the location of the Dead Man's Chest, despite Elizabeth believing it is pointing at Jack.

How was the Flying Dutchman cursed? ›

The Flying Dutchman is based off of the famous maritime ghost ship of the same name which, according to legend, is doomed to sail the seas for all eternity because its captain foolishly cursed God after sailing into a horrible storm off of the Cape of Good Hope, vowing to round that cape even if it took him till ...

Is Davy Jones a real person? ›

The character of Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise is a fictional character and not based on a real person. While the franchise drew inspiration from various legends and folklore, the depiction of Davy Jones with a squid or octopus face is purely fictional and not historically accurate.

When was the last sighting of the Flying Dutchman? ›

There have been many sightings over the years, although the last reported one was by a Nazi submarine in WWII. Some sightings involved the Flying Dutchman sailing quickly through calm waters while the majority of sailors have spotted it during extremely stormy weather with wind and waves crashing all around.

What is the Dutchman's curse? ›

In this version, the Dutchman (Wayne Tigges) has sold his soul to Satan and is forced to live at sea. He can only return to land every seven years to find a woman who will be with him until death, it is only then that the Dutchman is able to break the curse and find redemption.

What happened to the Flying Dutchman ship? ›

In all, 13 members of the crew reported seeing it. Inevitably, tragedy struck. 'At 10.45 am”', they reported, 'the ordinary seaman who had this morning reported the Flying Dutchman fell from the foretopmast crosstrees on to the topgallant forecastle and was smashed to atoms'.

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