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Ghost hauntings at sea

Posted on 26/08/2010

MV Ross Revenge, the ship where Radio Caroline made its final offshore broadcast in 1990

A researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London is presenting her study on the ghosts and apparitions which haunt the ship belonging to offshore pirate broadcaster Radio Caroline, at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual International Conference on September 2.

Kimberley Peters, from the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, joined a crew of enthusiasts and former disc jockeys restoring the MV Ross Revenge, the ship where Radio Caroline made its final offshore broadcast in 1990. Kimberley’s presentation, entitled ‘Between the trash heap and the sea: a story of ghostly hauntings and unfulfilled dreams onboard the MV Ross Revenge’, is the final part of her thesis.

She worked on the ship over a period of 18 months and it was during this time she began to log stories she heard of the crew’s encounters with apparitions and ghosts. One crew member told Kimberley: “Having finished the work we were sitting in the studio listening to the radio, when we heard footsteps coming up the stairs. I looked up just in time to see someone coming round the landing and going up the next set of stairs to the bridge. Of course when we went to investigate, no one was there and the doors were still bolted.”

Another explained: “I was facing towards the door when I felt two firm fingers tap me on my shoulder which I thought was one of the guys having a laugh but when I turned around there was no-one near me.”

Kimberley says: “I cannot say whether such ghostly experiences were real, but they were real enough for the crew members who experienced them.”

Her research was borne out of an interest she had in exploring social and cultural geography in the context of ship and sea spaces and she decided to focus on the vessels of the offshore broadcaster Radio Caroline.

Radio Caroline was first heard on the airwaves on Easter Sunday, 1964. At the time a monopoly existed which permitted only the BBC to make transmissions in UK territory. Yet the BBC displayed what ranged from mild indifference to outright hostility towards new music which was emerging at the time - The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Dusty Springfield, with the ‘pick of the pops’ show airing only once a week. The owners of Radio Caroline saw that there was a demand for pop and rock n’ roll music, and they recognised that if you placed the station on a ship, beyond the boundary of UK territory, you could effectively reach the millions of eager listeners on shore, but be well beyond the legislative reach of the government.

Radio Caroline was wildly popular in the sixties, with more than 10 million listeners. It continued to broadcast legally at sea for 26 years, closing in 1990 with the government’s introduction of Schedule 16 in the Broadcasting Act which prohibits broadcasting from the waters outside the territorial boundary.

Kimberley concludes: “From logging these stories, I interpret them to relate to a legacy of unfulfilled dreams. In 1967 DJ Johnnie Walker broadcast grand dreams for the station; that its ship would sail into UK territory, with legions of listeners lining the Thames. It was hoped Radio Caroline would be accepted and made legal by the government. Those dreams never materialised. The Ross Revenge was tugged into Dover following a storm in 1991, where only a scattering of people watched its arrival. It was then officially impounded. I argue there is a sense of failure which pervades the organisation and this is made real through the ghostly experiences on the existing ship. Therefore restoring the ship is a method of (literally) exorcising the unfulfilled past (or ghosts) and building towards a new future, as the crew hope the ship will someday become a floating pirate radio museum.”


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