USS Forrestal


USSForrestal In Action

The Ghost That Stalks The Carrier Forrestal


By James Donahue

October 2005


He may still be there but now that the Navy carrier U.S.S. Forrestal is decommissioned George, the nickname of a ghost that stalked her decks is rarely seen now.


It was said the George, who usually appeared in khaki uniform like an officer or chief would wear, lurked in the ship’s storage areas below the waterline. One of these areas was once used as a ship’s morgue.


While Navy officials thought the stories were “cute,” and allowed stories to be told about the Forrester ghost, many of the men serving the carrier saw nothing cute about it. They were often frightened by apparitions, flickering lights, strange sounds, locked doors opening, and voices on disconnected telephones. Many would not venture into certain areas of the ship alone.


Lt. James E. Brooks, who once investigated the ghost reports, was quoted by the Associated Press as writing that George was believed to be the ghost of a chief killed during a 1967 flight deck fire that killed 137 sailors in the Gulf of Tonkin on the coast of North Vietnam.


There have been numerous personal stories.


Petty Officer James Hillard said he was checking out some footsteps when he saw an officer in a khaki uniform. He said he followed the figure into a compartment and when he looked “there was nobody in there, and I swear that is where he went,” he said.


Daniel Balboa, a petty officer in charge of the officers’ mess, said he heard strange noises without finding anything. He said one night while checking temperatures in food-storage freezers, he kept finding open doors that he had shut behind them. He said that was impossible since each door had to be opened by the key that he was carrying.


Another unnamed pilot said he was stationed aboard the Forrestal when it was stationed in Florida during the time Hurricane Andrew struck. He said the ship went out to sea to assess damage from the storm. He said he was out on the port quarter of the fantail having a cigarette with some friends when he noticed a man dressed in the old Navy outfit that included a white sailor hat, blue chambray shirt and blue dungarees. He said the man was there one second, and when he looked up again, the figure had vanished.


Bryon “Barney” Haslam tells a story about the time he and another sailor were working the night shift in the ship’s boiler room. He said they both fell asleep between the two main steam boilers while watching the fires. All of a sudden he said he was awakened by someone shaking him and saying “hey.” Haslam said his partner was still asleep. He checked the boilers and discovered that the fire in one of the boilers had gone out due to some bad fuel. “We were 50 gallons of water away from being vaporized when raw fuel would have lit off the back wall of the affected boiler. I don’t know if it was a Forrestal ghost or my guardian angel but someone saved my life.”


Tim Madrid said he was an 18-year-old sailor stationed with a fighter squadron in 1982. He said the birthing space was right below the flight deck. He said on several occasions he saw a sailor walk right into a bulkhead and disappear. “I attributed these visions to exhaustion,” he said. “On other occasions I would hear voices in the night crying for help, only to awaken thinking I dreamt it.” He said he later learned that a number of sailors died in their sleep in that very area of the ship during the fire.


After the Forrestal was decommissioned in 1993, it was taken to the Philadelphia Navy yard. There, welder Stan Shimborski said he was hired to dismantle some equipment in the freezer and food storage area. He said the other side of the department he was working in had been used as a morgue.


“I no sooner got down to work and I hear this clanging noise. I’m thinking it’s another worker down there. I get out a wrench and I clang back, ‘clang clang.’ A few seconds later, I hear this return clang, ‘clang, clang.’ For the heck of it I clang again, ‘clang clang.’ Again a few seconds, ‘clang, clang.’ I decided to see who it was. I go through the doors and at the end of the long room is a chief petty officer horribly burned and just staring at me. And he slowly fades away. Needless to say I got out of there real fast.!” Shimborski said.


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