Now You Can Sleep Aboard the USS Hornet, the Most Haunted Ship in America

Two U.S. Navy Grumman TBF-1C "Avenger" of Torpedo Squadron 2 (VT-2) pass over the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in 1944. (U.S. Navy)

Paranormal enthusiasts who have never actually experienced a ghostly event may get their first chance aboard the USS Hornet. The volunteers who work the ship in Alameda, California, commonly show visitors how their flashlights will turn on by themselves when left alone -- but flashlights are just the beginning.

The Hornet (CV-12) is one of the most storied ships in American military history. Built after the start of World War II, it was a U.S. Navy workhorse for the most important campaigns of the war, serving in the fights for New Guinea, Palau, the Marianas and the Philippines, just to name a few.

Its service didn't end with the war. The Hornet returned to action in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and was used to recover command modules and crews during the Apollo Program, including the crew that first landed on the moon in 1969.

A ship that earned nine battle stars in World War II is going to carry its share of combat casualties, but the ship also lost an estimated 300 sailors to accidents and suicides throughout its service history. During its tenure, it had one of the highest suicide rates in the Navy. People are still dying by suicide aboard the Hornet, even though it's now a museum ship.

For those who believe in this kind of thing, it's no wonder that the Hornet is considered the most haunted ship in the Navy, and one of the most haunted places in America. It's a place where switches allegedly turn on, lockers doors open and objects move by themselves, often by two feet or more. When you're ready to meet some Navy ghosts, you can see it for yourself.

The fully-restored galley aboard USS Hornet. For some sailors, nothing is scarier than midrats. (USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum)

Pasadena's California Institute of Technology maintains a website for visitors to send in their paranormal experiences and ghost stories while aboard the Hornet. Many of these come from the ship's sleepover events, where visitors stay on the carrier overnight.

On the site, a woman recalls the night her Girl Scout troop spent aboard the Hornet. She and her friend were returning to their berthing (sleeping quarters) after using the head (bathroom). As they passed a galley (kitchen) on the way back to their room, they heard a man scream for help. Later that night, a man entered their room, dressed in khakis. The Girl Scouts cried out in terror and threw a deck of cards that passed right through the man.

Dan Brisker was a machinist's mate aboard the Hornet between 1965 and 1969. He was detailed to Fire Control, which required him to spend his watch in the ship's fire rooms. One night, he was having a snack and suddenly heard work being done in a boiler firebox, despite the fact that he was on the graveyard shift and thought he was alone.

As Brisker walked to the firebox to check on the sound, he heard a paint scraper drop to the floor. When he poked his head in the firebox, there was nothing there except the paint scraper.

One family took a private tour of the ship and videotaped all of it. During one segment, they kept noticing a flash of light in the corner of the screen. When they scrolled through the video frame by frame, they discovered it wasn't a flash of light at all. It was the ghostly apparition of a sailor wearing a white shirt, with a pack of cigarettes rolled in the sleeve.

Stories like these from visitors to the Hornet abound, whether staying for the night or just visiting for a few hours. This is why ghost stories from the ship regularly appear in the local newspaper, the East Bay Times. Though people hear ghosts calling out their name or see otherworldly shadows moving across the walls, the volunteers who work the ship say that the spirits aboard are benign, if not outright friendly.

Visitors interested in an encounter with Navy veterans of World War II who may not have survived the war can learn more about their service with a paranormal presentation aboard the Hornet. The presentation is followed by an after-dark tour of the ship's ghostly hot spots.

Halloween overnight events begin Friday, Oct. 21, but private overnight stays are available for groups. For more information, visit the USS Hornet Museum website.

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