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W-File: gh_griffinship.html

Type: Ghost Ship
Location: Washington Island/Green Bay Harbor, Wisconsin

Source: The National Directory of Haunted Places by Dennis William Hauck


The Phantom Ship Griffin

Green Bay

Green Bay Harbor. The phantom ship Griffin lurks in the fog off this pleasant lakeside community. The ship belonged to Robert Cavelier de La Salle, the famous French explorer. At the time it was the largest vessel to sail the Great Lakes, and Indians believed the 60-foot-long ship was an affront to the Great Spirit. Metiomek, an Iroquois prophet, placed a curse on the Griffin. On August 7, 1679, La Salle docked the ship on Washington Island in Green Bay harbor and embarked on a canoe trip down the St. Joseph River to search for a water link to the Mississippi River. His ship returned to Niagara on September 18 and was never seen again, except as a ghostly outline in the fog. Legend says the Griffin "sailed through a crack in the ice," fulfilling the Indian curse. (The town of Green Bay is in northeast Wisconsin, at the junction of I-43 and U.S. Hwy 41. The ghost ship sailed from Detroit Harbor on Washington Island, off Door Peninsula on the northeastern tip of Wisconsin.)

Source: The Ghosts Of Door County by Geri Rider, pages 31-34. Published 1992.

The following story doesn't name the Griffin, but the description sure seems to match. - Jim


Considering the vast number of ship wrecks in the Door Passageway, it would be amazing if there weren't some unusual tales involving that treacherous area of water between Washington Island and the northern tip of the Peninsula.

It was an overcast night in late July. An old moon hung low in the sky, lending a yellow glow to the wispy clouds surrounding it. The Kelly, a small cruiser, was coming through the Door from the east headed for Gill's Rock to tie up for the night when her crew saw a sight they'll never forget.

The two couples constituting that crew had spent the day in Rowley's Bay exploring the Mink River and Newport State Park and had left in the late afternoon, planning to reach Gill's Rock before dark. However, the protected waters of Rowley's Bay had given no indication of just how rough the open water of Lake Michigan had become during the afternoon.

When they left the protection of Rowley's Bay, they were faced with rolling three and four foot waves and a gale force wind that took their breaths away and strained the small boat's motor. The trip to Gill's Rock would take much longer than the morning trip over. The sun dropped below the tree line of Newport State Park, and dusk settled over the small boat.

After rounding Spider Island, they ran north along shore. The Peninsula offered some protection until they passed Gravel Island and crossed Europe Bay, but when they headed out around the North Port dock into open water, the small cruiser was buffeted by a strong northwest wind that whipped the waves into white caps. The cross currents in the Door waters made steering even more difficult. It was all the motor could do to push the craft through the rough waters.

Dusk had fallen making the Peninsula a dark, hulking shape to their left. A lone gull flew overhead, its wings flapping wildly as it too struggled to make headway in the strong winds.

The outline of Pilot Island and beyond that Detroit Island could be seen when they crested a wave. "Look, there's a light!" yelled one of the women over the howl of the wind.

"It's a ship. I can see lights on the ends and along the sides. It's huge," called her husband. They all peered through the night trying to catch a good look at the boat vaguely outlined in the gloom.

"Is it the ferry headed for Washington Island?" questioned one of the women. "How late is it? Would they still be running?"

As they crested the next wave, the ship passed just beneath the moon. Three masts, full sails billowing, were silhouetted against the yellow half circle of the moon. The boat itself, a wooden sailing ship of the type used in the Great Lakes in the 1800's, was lit by the golden glow of the moon overhead. It cut through the rough water of the Door headed south, toward Gill's Rock.

The small cruiser dipped into the trough of a wave. When it crested the top of the next wave, the ship had vanished. The small boat crossed where the tall-masted sailing ship had ridden in the waves just moments before, but it was gone as though it had never been.

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