By far the most famous fictional ghost ship is The Flying Dutchman. The ship has become synonymous with the phenomenon so that “Flying Dutchman” is often used as a generic term for any apparition-type ghost ship. The term may also refer to a real ship that was reported to be seen – often as an apparition – after sinking, or to a ship found floating with no crewmembers on board. According to folklore, the Flying Dutchman is a ghost ship that can never go home, but must sail “the seven seas” forever. The Flying Dutchman is usually spotted from afar, sometimes glowing with ghostly light. If she is hailed by another ship, her crew will often try to send messages to land, to people long since dead.
Versions of the story are numerous. According to some, the story is originally Dutch, while others claim it is based on the English play The Flying Dutchman (1826) by Edward Fitzball and the novel The Phantom Ship (1837) by Frederick Marryat, later adapted into the Dutch story Het Vliegend Schip (The Flying Ship) by the Dutch clergyman A.H.C. Römer. Other versions include the opera by Richard Wagner (1841) and The Flying Dutchman on Tappan Sea by Washington Irving (1855).