A warship with a new life as a museum sits placidly off the docks in Norfolk, Virginia, today connected to the science learning center known as Nautilus. This ship saw battle not only in WWII, but also in the Korean War where it was labeled the most “famously temperamental,” ship in the oceans. Today, its war days are behind it and instead it educates thousands of visitors about the history and struggles this Iowa Class ship experienced, and the experiences of the Naval crew aboard. With enough firepower to destroy a mountain, the U.S.S Wisconsin has a much more peaceful environment now than it did during wartime. But it also houses a few ghosts of the past wandering the decks to this day. 

The U.S.S Wisconsin was originally ordered and built between 1941 and 1943, giving it the perfect launch date to help in the Pacific theater during altercations with the Japanese, and later the Koreans. The ship was outfitted with some of the largest and most deadly artillery the ocean had ever seen, firing a full broadside assault would rock the boat with enough force to push it four feet in the opposite direction. Legendary for their size and strength, the Iowa Class of ships were some of the most deadly used in the Pacific. 

The Wisconsin was also known as temperamental after an altercation off the coast of South Korea, on March 15th, 1952, after the ship received its first direct hit from a smaller ship. The story goes that the Wisconsin turned about and fired its entire arsenal of 9 large caliber guns. The ship was completely obliterated, as well as any other ships that might have been caught in the firepath. Another US ship that was escorting the giant warship signaled at the ship “Temper, Temper,” before moving on to complete the mission at hand. This gave the Wisconsin it’s famous distinction as being the most temperamental ship on the seas. 

After its work in the Korean War, the ship was typically only used for training missions off the coast of Hawaii. It was decommissioned in 1988, but would be brought back to life one more time for Desert Storm in 1991.  It would not see battle again after this altercation, and it would eventually be moved to Norfolk harbor in 1995, where it remains to this day. The city of Norfolk would take over stewardship of the vessel in 1998 and it would be refitted to be a teaching tool at the museum and learning center, Nautilus. 

The stories of the vessel’s haunting are obscured a little by the colorful and fascinating haunted tours that the ship offers during the Halloween season, with full casts of actors playing former members of the ship and leading guests through a terrifying mystery aboard the ghost ship. Those who have been on the ship longer, however, tell stories of hauntings with a little more meat on their bones, including a terrifying story of a man who passed too soon on board the warship. 

This man was repairing the air conditioning unit when it was accidentally turned on by others in the ship, assuming he had finished his work. Any work he would have done was ended immediately, including the man’s life. His death was instantaneous with the chopping blades of the air conditioning, and he’d be one of the few casualties the ship ever saw. Legend on the ship says the man still haunts the location of his untimely and gruesome death, sometimes being seen walking around corners only for no one to be present in the walkway. 

Another of the haunting mysteries includes an opaque misty white shadow that is said to follow some employees on board to this day. One man tells the story of walking through the berths at night and feeling the unease of being watched. When he turned around, he saw the white shadow and quickly backed up the other way. He watched the white mist dissipate and stood dumbfounded, staring at the place it once was. Others still report the appearance of this white mist around the ship, especially at night when it terrifyingly walks the halls and galley. 

The history of the ship is a storied and powerful tale to this day, with the U.S.S. Wisconsin being one of the jewels of the Iowa class of warships. You can visit it today, learn more about its naval history, and maybe catch a glimpse of a spirit, still trapped in the riveted steel of the famous ship. Visit the Nautilus in Norfolk, Virginia and find out if the hauntings are real. Or, you could visit during the Halloween Ghost Ship shows and find yourself frightened either way. Just don’t get on the bad side of this powerful and temperamental ship. 

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