Was the Great Eastern cursed


Steve Smith

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Mar 20, 2011
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Is the story of the skeletons found within the Great Eastern false??
I genuinely thought it was factual!

(I guess I'll now be deluged with offers for double glazing, time-share holidays, get-rich-quick schemes and other junk mail aimed at those of a gullible nature)

Steve
 
Dec 12, 1999
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My understanding is that the story was true, and that the skeleton was found while the ship was being scrapped, in about 1888. It sounds incredible, though. All I know is from reading the book "The Great Iron Ship" many years ago.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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I have seen the skeleton story supported and debunked over the years. All I can say is that if it was not true...it should have been.

-- David G. Brown
 

kevin johnson

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Apr 2, 2005
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>I read a book by Ivan t Sanderson which staed it was true and the skelton of the welder and his apprentice were found when she was
 

Steve Smith

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Mar 20, 2011
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Hmmm - sounds like the jury's still out on this one.

I'll cancel my order for the double glazing, anyway.
 

Matthew Welsh

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Jul 16, 2004
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The story is that during the ship's construction a worker was sealed into the ships double hull. Supposedly this was what caused the ships unfortunate legacy. First off, does anyone know if the story of the skeleton in the double hull is true?
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hallo Matthew -

This is one of the great yarns of the sea - very popularly anthologised and referred to in many texts. The ghostly knocking noise, followed many years later by the discovery of the dry bones of the riveter (and sometimes by a companion) and his gear, is a very familiar tale. The shame is that no - it's most likely not true. No such discovery was made during the ship's break up, or at least none that has been found in any contemporary report. Nor was the double hull sealed at the time of the construction - the inspection hatches were not closed until later, so there was means of egress.

I was delighted to come across the fact that the story was current among the cadets on HMS Conway when James Moody was on the school ship - the Conway was fitted with the Great Eastern's galley after she was broken up, so there was a link. No doubt Moody would have been familiar with the ghost story. There's a certain irony there, as in some later garbeled versions of the ghost story, the riveter was said to have been sealed up in the Titanic...rather a difficult feat, given her construction...
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Supposedly this was what caused the ships unfortunate legacy.<<

I think you'll find that the reality is a lot more mundane. Quite simply, the ship was too large for the market she ended up in, having been designed for the England to Australia run. Had she been used in that market, there's a chance she might have been marginally successful. The problem is that the costs of building and the botched attempts at launching ultimately bankrupted the original owners. The people who bought her used the vessel on the North Atlantic run for which she was way too large for the existing markets. The real reason for the ship's failure, among other things, was that operating costs exceeded income. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this would ultimately equal failure
 

Matthew Welsh

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Jul 16, 2004
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Thankyou for the responses. I bring it up because a story I saw on the History Channel treated it very much like fact. Oh well, makes for a good story though.
 

Inger Sheil

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Hallo Matthew - was that the series on great engineering feats? I saw the episode on the Great Eastern and was surprised at the inclusion of the ghost story, even though it was carefully worded so they implied, but did not state, that it was true. It was rather a good show, I thought.

It does indeed make for a good story. I used to include in my sleep-over repetoire when I was a teen.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Maybe if we looked around we'd find similar stories all over the world. In Murray Bridge, South Australia, we have a bridge that was said to contain a worker who was built into it.

The truth evidently is that a worker was indeed killed on the job but he was buried in the local cemetery.

I'll be there are tales of workers being buried in concrete pours. Some are probably true.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I'll be there are tales of workers being buried in concrete pours. Some are probably true.<<

Awwwww hell, there are stories of that for the Hoover Dam and also for the disposition of Jimmy Hoffa's body which supposedly lies in the concrete at the 50 yard line of a football stadium in New York City. The Mythbusters put the second one to rest at least, by ground mapping sonar. They found no cavities that would have been left by a decomposing body. Likewise, having people buried in concret in the structure of a dam where they would leave cavities in the structure wouldn't be a very good thing. Think of the consequences of Lake Mead getting loose in and instant.
 
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Colin W. Montgomery

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I remember the story of the worker in the hull as being true. I like that story because I like those type of Beyond Believe stories. You never know it just might be a real thing.
 

Inger Sheil

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It is a great story, isn't it, Colin? I've always had a soft spot for it. As Dave suggests, the idea of a workman haunting a structure they were entombed in seems to have a global resonance. Be a great subject for an urban myth study! I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that when these great industrial wonders were being produced, workers in the 19th/early 20th century often fell victim to workplace accidents. Perhaps the idea of them being embedded in the structure, and work going on regardless says something about the perceived callousness of the industrial age? And the 'haunting' is a reminder of the human cost?
 
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Colin W. Montgomery

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It is indeed a great story, but I was serious, I remember watching a program on the History Channel about this very ship, and they told the story, blah, blah, blah. You know how it goes and at the end, although I already knew the story, the said the ship was dismantled and it was found a heavily decomposed body to be inside the hull. The sounds the passengers had heard, it was true a being was truly sealed inside the Great Eastern's hull. It wasn't so much scary as it was disturbing.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Colin, might I suggest that you try looking for a primary source to back this one up? The History Channel has some interesting stuff. I'm particularly fond of Deep Sea Detectives because the people who produce it really do their homework. I wish I could say the same for everything else they produce, the accuracy of which sometimes leaves quite a bit to be desired.

A similar tale exists for the Titanic which you can read about HERE. There's a reference to the Great Eastern in the links which reports that there may be something to this story.
 

T. Eric Brown

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Jun 5, 2005
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I've heard all kinds of horror stories about shipyard workers being sealed in between the the Great Eastern's two hulls by accident and never found. Do any of these stories have any merit, or are all of them just hogwash?

[Moderator's Note: Three threads dealing with the same question, including one which was started today, have been merged into this one. MAB]
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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As was pointed out by several authors, the Great Eastern struck a rock in Long Island Sound and tore a gash similar to the one which Titanic was supposed to have had (but didn't) in her hull. However, in her case, the 83 foot rent did not prove fatal- but in the wake of it, her double bottom was flooded and pumped out at least twice. So, had the riveter and his assistant been sealed in (and they must have been both exceptionally slow moving -as well as mute- to have that happen) they would have been extricated at that point, probably clogging the pumps and wreaking heaven knows WHAT kind of havoc.
 

Ryan Thompson

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Dec 6, 2005
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I think you'll find that the reality is a lot more mundane. Quite simply, the ship was too large for the market she ended up in, having been designed for the England to Australia run. Had she been used in that market, there's a chance she might have been marginally successful. The problem is that the costs of building and the botched attempts at launching ultimately bankrupted the original owners. The people who bought her used the vessel on the North Atlantic run for which she was way too large for the existing markets. The real reason for the ship's failure, among other things, was that operating costs exceeded income. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this would ultimately equal failure.

There weren't many docks that could handle the ship, either.

About the skeleton story--I've seen it mentioned in numerous books on ships and books on ghosts. I'm betting a worker slipped and hit their head, knocking themselves unconscious (dead?) and falling down into a space in the hull. Even if the double hull hadn't been sealed at the time of construction, a body could have escaped notice in the dark recesses, right?
 

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