Friday, June 29, 2001

Ghosts of the Mississippi

Written by: Darren Dedo
Case Filed: 06/29/01 - Vicksburg, Mississippi
Executive Producer: Rick Garner



The Mississippi River holds many mysteries, like disappearing ships and ghostly figures that wander steamboat decks. "From time to time we have crew members report...they heard something strange in the night, or they saw a figure out on the deck early in the evening, that just sort of vanished..."


Steamboats like the Delta Queen proudly cruise the Mississippi River. Captain Mike Williams has seen and heard some unexplained things while piloting the ship.
"Thought I heard strange voices and doors slamming...when no one else was onboard and things like that."


The culprit could be Mary Greene. The former ship’s owner and captain lived onboard until she died. Williams believes Greene is still keeping any eye on the Delta Queen. "But, I always felt it was Captain Mary telling me to come check this...make sure that you’ve done this...little ways of telling you she wants you to look after her vessel. Sure, there’s something here."

The ghost of Captain Mary Greene has been reported in several spots on the Delta Queen. Passengers say they see a ghostly figure peering through windows.

Chief Engineer Dennis Shenk hasn’t seen a ghost on the Delta Queen, but he’s encountered a different king of spirit.
"When you work on machinery that is 75 years old, you often see what the guys ahead of your have done. We’re constantly aware of that. This machinery was designed to last forever."

The ghost of the Delta Queen is just one Mississippi River legend. Sometimes, ships became ghosts themselves by vanishing under mysterious circumstances. "The Mississippi River to this day...the bottom is literally paved with wrecks of boats and unfortunate steamships, flat boats, and keel boats." Enter the steamboat Iron Mountain. The steamboat nosed into Vicksburg, Mississippi, one day late in March 1882 for supplies. Landers restocked, it resumed it’s journey, soon out of sight of the usual group of dock workers and loafers. That was the last time the Iron Mountain was ever seen.

"This was not the mystery that it’s been taken to be." Historian Mark Rummage has studied the Iron Mountain mystery for several years and feels the story is more mundane than mystery. "The boat, which was again a steam towboat and not a river boat, was basically snagged. It’s not something that was terribly uncommon."

Vicksburg Historian Gordon Cotton has also examined the legend of the Iron Mountain.
"And called me and said ’What is this ship’s anchor doing in the middle of our cotton field?’ All I could think of was possibly it was an anchor from the Iron Mountain, because parts of it were found, I understand. So, there was definitely some steamboat had lost an anchor and wound up in the middle of a cotton field in Madison Parish or Omega Landing. I can’t help but wonder if it was the Iron Mountain."

In trying to solve this mystery, we researched countless documents and libraries, and contacted historians, convention and visitor bureaus and even river boat captains. Our discoveries mirrored Mark Rummage’s findings. However, we also uncovered two solid pieces of new evidence: a full description of the Iron Mountain and the only known image of her in existence.


The Iron Mountain steam towboat simply sunk with no loss of life. As with many legends, it began with fact but few people ever get the chance to pull apart fact from fiction. She may not be a ghost ship, but her legend lives on thanks to the Mighty Mississippi.

Additional Resources:


Captain Mike Williams Raw Video