An American tanker named the SS Watertown was heading down the California coast to New Orleans via the Panama Canal in December 1924. During this voyage, deadly oil fumes in the cargo tank overtook two crewmembers. The two crewmembers were James Courtney and Michael Meehan. As is the custom of sailors, the two deceased crewmembers were given a burial at sea off the Mexican coast by Captain Tracy and the remaining crew. The ship continued on its voyage to New Orleans.
Just before dusk following the burial, the first mate reported seeing two faces in the waves off the port side of the ship. These heads continued to appear daily while the ship was in the Pacific. Sometimes lasting ten seconds before they would fade and then reappear. However, once the ship arrived in the Atlantic Ocean the neither Courtney or Meehan were seen.
Upon arrival to their destination, Captain Tracy reported to the shipping office: The Cities Service Company. Presumably Capt. Tracy went to the shipping office to report the deaths and to fulfill their reason for going to New Orleans.
Prior to departing for the return trip to California, the first mate purchased a camera. The crew members once again appeared once the ship was in the Pacific Ocean. Captain Tracy took six photographs of the faces. He then locked the camera and the film in his safe until he could locate a commercial film developer. Captain Tracy delivered the film to a developer who noticed nothing out of the ordinary in the first five photographs, however, the sixth one revealed the faces of Courtney and Meehan clearly. To further credit the experiences of the crew, Captain Tracy took the photo to a detective agency to examine the negative. The agency confirmed the photo was not a fraud.
The crew continued to see the faces of their dead crewmembers although their appearances became less frequent. After the third voyage, the crew changed. There were no other sightings and no other photos taken of the ghostly pair.
Everyone knows that sailors are a superstitious bunch and have been since the beginning of time. Is it possible that the sightings were induced by mass hysteria? Did the two sailors quit their ghostly visits when the crew changed because they were a figment of imagination? Was the ghostly pair just an optical illusion?
My response is absolutely not to all three! If they were a figment of imagination or result of mass hysteria how is it possible that we have a photograph examined and declared authentic? Optical illusions are not something that can be reproduced time and time again in the outdoors in the ever-changing weather and sunlight. For optical illusions there would have to be a constant. There is a constant here – the two crew members sailing daily with their ship, crew, and captain and this alone would not produce a repeated optical illusion. The ghostly crew of the SS Watertown continued to fulfill their duty even in death!