Ghost Ships of Jones Island

Ghost Ships of Jones Island Thumbnail

Although some might think ghost ships are strictly limited to the exotic domain of warmer waters like those of the Caribbean, they are mistaken. You might be surprised to know that Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes have perhaps more than their fair share of spooky mariners’ tales. That’s probably because they are larger than most of us fully realize. In fact, the Great Lakes account for 20% of the world’s fresh water. They are so vast that many consider them to be inland seas. As such, they are as great a source of rich folklore as any ocean. One need only pick up a Frederick Stonehouse book to see that. In addition, it seems the Bermuda Triangle has nothing on us! Reportedly, we have our own Great Lakes Triangle.

Although many chilling yarns have been documented, to my knowledge the story above has escaped coverage until now. It appeared in the Milwaukee Sentinel on January 29th, 1893. It concerns unrest at the marine graveyard on Jones Island. The rotting hulls of many old ships were rendered to scrap there. According to the article, there were at least a few lake-weary hulks fed up with being picked over. The tug Maxon and a fishing smack called the Lena would “not go gentle into that good night”.

The nocturnal voyages of these phantom vessels must have been quite a sight against the ramshackle backdrop of Jones Island in the late 19th Century. At that time, much of it was tightly packed with the shanties of a small fishing village. Although the ghost ships as described in the article seem a little fishy, especially since no specific witnesses are quoted, who doesn’t enjoy a good legend? These tidbits may have been just the tip of the iceberg when comes to the folklore of the Kaszubes and the other early immigrant inhabitants of Jones Island. Sadly the majority of those old stories as well as any actual reports of paranormal experiences by residents are most likely lost to us. Treasures of the past so quickly melt away and then are gone forever.

Fortunately, today paranormal reports can easily be documented. Amazing stories from Jones Island still abound. It is now the home of the Port of Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, and Kaszubes Park, the smallest park in Milwaukee County. According to an article from the March 2009 issue of Milwaukee Magazine about the Port of Milwaukee, Jones Island is still, at least, an occasional home to ghosts. The article includes a compelling report of disembodied voices and apparitions experienced by the crew from a tug called the Wisconsin (bottom left on p. 50). Witnesses believe the ghosts are one or more of the crewmen who drowned when the tug overturned in 1941. We are intrigued and seek more details!

The search is on for additional Jones Island ghost stories! If you’ve spotted a ghost ship cruising Lake Michigan or sailed this inland sea with spectral crewmates, please call or email me, Allison Jornlin, at 414-807-7862 or We value your stories and think they deserve a place in Milwaukee history.


~ by mkeghosts on March 21, 2010.

2 Responses to “Ghost Ships of Jones Island”

  1. Neat story, goes very well with other Great Lakes tales. Jones Island has always seemed creepy to me.

  2. […] Jones Island</em> now houses the City’s waste facility. During Milwaukee’s time of high industry in the 1940′s, 50′s, 60′s and 70′s it was our Hell’s Kitchen, for rough-knuckled and heavy drinking longshoremen. Before that Kashubian Polish immigrants settled Jones Island as fisherman.  […]

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