Haunting of USS Salem – Boston, Massachusetts

  • By: Gareth Popovic
  • Date: 12 January 2024
  • Time to read: 8 min.

Introduction of USS Salem

The sinister outline of USS Salem may be seen in the center of Boston, where the waters are murky with secrets. A ship trapped in space, its eerie hull groaning under the weight of forgotten tales. Beware, for the USS Salem is more than just a vessel—it’s a doorway to a ghostly world where the past looms large over the present and envelops guests in a disconcerting embrace.

USS Salem Marker
USS Salem Marker – Credit atlasobscura

History of USS Salem

The last heavy cruiser of the Des Moines class was USS Salem, also referred to as the “Sea Witch,” which was built in 1945 in Quincy, Massachusetts by the Bethlehem Steel Company. It was the flagship of the United States Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and the United States Second Fleet in the Atlantic during its post-World War II operations.

In 1953, the USS Salem played a crucial role in disaster relief during the Great Kefalonia Earthquake in Greece. Converted into a hospital, it housed the deceased in its morgue. Today, reports of paranormal activity, particularly in the third wardroom, linked to the makeshift morgue, attract visitors. Ghostly figures, like “The Burning Man,” a victim of the earthquake, contribute to the ship’s eerie ambiance.

After being decommissioned in 1959, the USS Salem was repaired and brought back to Quincy in 1994 as a member of the Historic Naval Ships Association. It provides an up-close look at American military marine history as a museum. The ship gained significance during the Greek earthquake rescue effort, serving as a symbol of optimism among tragedy, in addition to its Cold War purpose. As a ship that saw both the height of Cold War tensions and the depressing aftermath of a natural disaster, visitors can examine the ship’s history today, but they can also feel the weight of its past.

Historic Plaque in USS Ships
Historic Plaque in USS Ships – Credit uss_salemca139

Haunting Legends and Supernatural Phenomena

Ghostly Activity – Haunted Wardrooms

Tales of ghostly encounters reverberate in the dark shadows of the USS Salem, a naval vessel that once faced the turbulent waves of war. The “Sea Witch” is a vessel believed to be haunted by the spirits of people who met an unfortunate death aboard; among the many ghost stories that linger throughout its steel halls is the legend of the life-saving craft.

Moving into the center of the ship, the mess hall, or third wardroom, becomes a hotspot for ghostly activity. Situated directly over an improvised morgue that once housed about 400 Greek victims, this location is said to be home to a frightening variety of ghosts. An aura of mystery is added by a young Greek girl, whose presence is both palpable and elusive. To either side of her, a menacing shadow figure and a vicious hellhound with a heart-stopping snarl round out the ethereal group.

Moving through the ship’s passageways, the anchor windlass room harbors the recurring presence of John, a former maintenance worker. In life, John was an unsung hero, maintaining the ship’s integrity. In death, he assumes the role of the USS Salem’s first tour guide, his spectral form appearing to unsuspecting visitors. It was only when guests began praising the nonexistent guide that the truth of John’s afterlife manifestation came to light.

Among the spectral crew, the ghost of a meticulous cook silently orchestrates order in the kitchen, preserving a semblance of the ship’s former routines. Meanwhile, in the mess hall, another apparition takes a more mischievous turn, dragging and overturning chairs, leaving a spectral mark on the mundane.

Read Also: Haunting of Fort Warren

Haunting of Burning Men

Within the ghostly whispers of the USS Salem, there exists a spectral presence known as “The Burning Man.” This ethereal figure, believed to be a victim of the Ionian earthquake, is described as emanating a scent that evokes the unmistakable odor of death. The legend suggests that he met his tragic end amid the fatal, fourth-degree burns that afflicted numerous individuals on the ship during that catastrophic event.

The Burning Man appears in the exact space that was formerly the ship’s morgue, the location where it is thought he perished. Ghost tour operators frequently come across this unearthly figure in their spectral encounters; it is a mute tribute to the horror that took place inside those steel walls.

In the wake of the Ionian earthquake, the ship bore witness to the havoc wrought by broken gas lines and explosive fires—an unfortunate consequence of seismic upheaval. The grim reality of fire-related deaths aboard the USS Salem provides a chilling backdrop to the legend of The Burning Man. The acrid scent of ashes, encountered unexpectedly by visitors, becomes a haunting reminder of the ship’s fiery past.

As shadows stretch across the decks of the USS Salem, The Burning Man remains etched in the ghostly tapestry that weaves through its haunted history. The legend of this spectral figure, marked by the scent of death and the tragedy of fire, transcends time, lingering as a spectral reminder of the ship’s tumultuous past. The echoes of seismic events and the ethereal presence of The Burning Man serve as a testament to the enduring mysteries that persist within the steel confines of this naval vessel, where the line between the living and the spectral blurs with each passing moment.

Popular Culture and Media Coverage of USS Salem

USS Salem, a television series and documentary focused on deciphering the secrets of the paranormal, has gained notoriety for its haunting mystique and rich history. Renownedly documented in the engrossing television series “Phantoms of the Deep: Navigating Haunted Waters,” the ship’s spectral stories and spine-tingling experiences were investigated by brave investigators.

In the realm of literature, USS Salem has left an indelible mark, with works like “Ghosts of Salem” by Sam Baltrusis and “Haunted Boston Harbor” by Sam Baltrusis. These literary endeavors delve into the supernatural tales surrounding the vessel, weaving compelling narratives of its spectral past.

These days, both history buffs and those interested in the paranormal find USS Salem to be a powerful attraction. her enigmatic presence in popular culture and the media never goes away, captivating people who are drawn to her eerie atmosphere and the mysteries that lie within its historic hull.

How can I visit USS Salem ?

Embark on a captivating voyage through naval history by booking a guided tour aboard the USS Salem, a formidable warship with a storied past. Departing from its permanent dock in Quincy, Massachusetts, this immersive experience offers a unique opportunity to explore the decks and compartments of this historic vessel.

As you step aboard, marvel at the full-scale replica of the USS Salem, a naval ship with a distinguished service record. Led by knowledgeable tour guides, your journey unfolds with insights into the ship’s various legends, including encounters with spectral entities like The Burning Man and the mischievous spirits that inhabit the third wardroom. Delve into the ship’s role during wartime, learning about its wartime duties and the seismic events that left an indelible mark on its haunted history.

The tour is not just a stroll through history; it’s a chance to witness the maritime legacy of the USS Salem. Explore the anchor windlass room, where the ghostly presence of John, the first tour guide, is said to linger. Encounter the lingering scent of ashes, a haunting reminder of the fire-related deaths during the Ionian earthquake. With multiple tours available daily, this experience caters to all ages, offering a fascinating blend of naval history, paranormal tales, and the enduring legacy of the USS Salem.


Reluctantly saying goodbye to USS Salem, you feel a lingering discomfort in the air. It seems as though the ship itself is lamenting the passing of the living as the ghostly murmurs of long-lost souls reverberate in the breeze. Boston’s seas retrieve their mysteries, and the eerie ship vanishes into the haze, sending a chill down your spine that knows no bounds. Some stories are meant to sail the seas of eternity, and the tales of USS Salem, carved in the ethereal fabric of its decks, will linger in your imagination. This nautical relic’s ethereal embrace will never stop beckoning, enchanting the living with a never-ending spell that connects them to the ghostly sounds of a bygone period.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Where is USS Salem located?

A. The USS Salem is permanently docked in Massachusetts.

Q. Are there any reported ghostly encounters on the USS Salem?

A. Absolutely. Visitors and tour guides have reported various spectral encounters, including sightings of The Burning Man, the mysterious Greek girl, and other entities that roam the haunted corridors.

Q. Can you share more about The Burning Man legend associated with USS Salem?

A. The Burning Man is believed to be a victim of the Ionian earthquake, haunting the room that once housed the ship’s morgue. Described as smelling like death, he serves as a chilling reminder of the fire-related deaths during that tragic event.

Q. Tell us about John, the spectral tour guide. Who is he, and where is he often seen?

A. John, a former maintenance worker, is a recurring presence aboard the USS Salem. Visitors have reported encountering him in the anchor windlass room, where he served as the ship’s first tour guide, even after his passing.

Q. What is the story behind the young Greek girl said to haunt the ship?

A. The young Greek girl is believed to be one of the casualties aboard the Sea Witch. Her spectral presence is elusive yet often felt, adding an air of mystery to the ship’s haunted lore.

Q. Are there any entities known for mischief or taunting behavior on the USS Salem?

A. Indeed. Reports mention a dark, taunting entity and a violent hellhound with a heart-stopping growl, both haunting the third wardroom, which stands directly above the makeshift morgue on the Sea Witch.

Q. Why do visitors sometimes encounter the unexpected scent of ashes on USS Salem?

A. The USS Salem witnessed seismic events, including earthquakes that broke gas lines and caused explosive fires. The acrid scent of ashes serves as an eerie reminder of the fire-related deaths that occurred during these turbulent moments in the ship’s history.

Q. Is there a guided tour availed for USS Salem?

A. Yes, guided tours are available for the USS Salem. Our knowledgeable tour guides lead visitors through the historic decks of this renowned naval ship, offering insights into its wartime duties, paranormal legends, and maritime legacy. Immerse yourself in the captivating history of the USS Salem with a guided tour that brings its stories to life.

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