Fondly known as "Old Ironsides," the oldest commissioned
vessel in the world’s navies today is the USS Constitution. Commissioned in
1797, and named by George Washington, the ship received her moniker during the
War of 1812, while she served under the command of Captain Isaac Hull. The
event took place August 19, 1812, just off Nova Scotia. One week earlier, the United
States, still in her infancy, surrendered Detroit to the British. The Brits
were riding high on this victory when the USS Constitution, and the British
ship Guerriere, bombarded each other at close range. They were so close, in fact, that during the melee they collided once.
The Constitution, built
far heavier and longer than her adversary, volleyed twenty-four pound cannonballs,
which decimated the Guerriere's mast. In
return, the British fired eighteen pound
cannonballs at the Americans, to no effect. The balls just seemed to bounce off
her thick oak hull. Recorded in a memoir of the incident, one British sailor
hollered out, " 'Huzzah, her sides are made of iron! See where the shot
fell out!" Thus the ship's nickname was born.
During her two hundred plus years of service, we find many old
reports of distraught sailors, with ships in peril, who were rescued by the
crewmen aboard the USS Constitution. Once
aboard they said they felt safe and at peace. Yet, at the same time, they could
feel a bit of sadness lingering in the surrounding atmosphere. Whispers abounded of ethereal apparitions,
from the very young to the very seasoned in years, wearing uniforms from the past still going
about their earthly duties. They said if one listened closely, one could hear
many different languages, antiquated in nature, yet the living were not
responsible for these voices. Some reported the existence of a ghostly officer
who invited various passengers to join his crew.
But what about ghostly experiences in the here and now? This
beautiful old frigate, now stationed in
Boston, still has a standing, living crew.
And indeed, this crew have reported brushes with the unknown. These brushes would
mesh quite well with an episode of the Twilight Zone.
An unseen presence once blew on the neck of an unsuspecting female
crewman... amorous ghost perhaps? After all, it has been quite awhile for some. And then one
night, the watch caught sight of a 24 pound cannonball, rolling off to the left,
then traveled back to its original spot, with no apparent motion of the ship to
cause the event. This particular
cannonball didn't follow any natural turns or arcs attributed to the ship.