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The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman (in Dutch: "De Vliegende Hollander") is a legendary ghost ship from 17th-century nautical lore. This supernatural phenomena which has existed for hundreds of years, is said to occur out at sea and involves the apparent manifestation of an old spectral ship that proceeds to try and hail signals to nearby ships as the long dead crew try to contact the living.

The presence of this frightful vessel is seen as a harbinger of doom for any ship that has seen it, often involving storms or other hazards that could result in the sinking of the ship.

The Flying Dutchman itself was said to be the doomed vessel of a captain who went mad at sea and somehow damned himself and possibly his crew to an eternity of sailing the Seven Seas - wherever the Flying Dutchman sails the weather is said to change for the worse, another sign of its omen as a bringer of storms and catastrophe.

In Popular Culture

  • Scooby Doo featured a Flying Dutchman ghost modeled after the illustrator Howard Pyle's 1900 depiction of the character.
  • "The Flying Dutchman" is both the name of a ghostly Dutch pirate (a flying Dutchman) and his haunted pirate ship which is sometimes dubbed "The Flying Dutchman" in the Nickelodeon animated comedy series SpongeBob SquarePants. The former is voiced by Brian Doyle-Murray, and the latter is based on the vessel Queen Anne's Revenge.
  • Carl Barks wrote and drew a 1959 comic book story where Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck and Huey, Dewey, and Louie meet the Flying Dutchman.
  • In the One Piece manga, Vander Decken is the Flying Dutchman's captain. The ship also makes an appearance with Vander Decken in the One Piece anime TV series as a major Villain in the "Fishman Island" arc.
  • In Soul Eater, the Flying Dutchman is the soul of the ghost ship.
  • In the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon episode "Return Of The Flying Dutchman", the legend of the Flying Dutchman is used by Mysterio to frighten villagers and plunder their wealth.
  • In 1967, the Flying Dutchman featured in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea episode "Cave of the Dead".
  • In a 1976 episode of Land of the Lost, the Marshalls discover the captain of a mysterious ship that appears in "the mist". Later in the episode it is discovered that the ship is the Flying Dutchman.
  • On January 2nd, 1982, in a Fantasy Island episode "A Very Strange Affair; The Sailor", Peter Graves plays a portrayal of the Flying Dutchman in the hopes of breaking his curse by meeting someone who is willing to die for him.
  • In The Simpsons, Captain Horatio McCallister or just simply The Sea Captain is a sea captain and owner of The Frying Dutchman Restaurant.
  • A 1961 The Twilight Zone episode "The Arrival" depicts an airplane that arrives at a busy airport. The airplane is discovered to have no crew, passengers, or luggage. At the tail end of the prior episode ("Two"), Rod Serling advertises "The Arrival" as a retelling of the Flying Dutchman tale. It also gets a mention in the closing narration of the episode "Death Ship".
  • A 1971 Night Gallery episode "Lone Survivor" (hosted by Rod Serling) features a shipwrecked survivor who claims he is a type of human Flying Dutchman. He appears to the crews of several famously doomed ships before they sink, including the Titanic, the Lusitania, and the Andrea Doria.
  • In the television series Supernatural, a ghost ship heralds the death of the victims of a first mate's ghost. The ship is compared to the Flying Dutchman by one of the characters.
  • The pilot episode of the TV show White Collar, sees the protagonist figure out the FBI cannot track a suspect and have given him the nickname "The Dutchman", and a link to the ship is made.
  • In Xena: Warrior Princess's Season 2 episode "Lost Mariner", the Flying Dutchman motif is merged into Greek mythology, presenting the wanderer as a hero who offended the sea-god Poseidon.
  • The story was dramatized in the 1951 movie Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, starring James Mason (who plays the Dutch Captain Hendrick van der Zee) and Ava Gardner (who plays Pandora). In this version, the Flying Dutchman is a man, not a ship. The two-hour long film, scripted by its director Albert Lewin, sets the main action on the Mediterranean coast of Spain during the summer of 1930. Centuries earlier the Dutchman had killed his wife, wrongly believing her to be unfaithful. Providence condemned him to roam the seas until he found the true meaning of love. In the only plot device taken from earlier versions of the story, once every 7 years the Dutchman is allowed ashore for 6 months to search for a woman who will love him enough to die for him, releasing him from his curse, and he finds her in Pandora.
  • In Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean films, the ship made its first appearance in Dead Man's Chest under the command of the fictitious captain named Davy Jones. The story and attributes of the ship were inspired by the actual Flying Dutchman of nautical lore.
  • The 1797–98 poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge contains a similar account of a ghost ship, which may have been influenced by the tale of the Flying Dutchman.[14][15] One of the first Flying Dutchman short stories was titled "Vanderdecken's Message Home; or, the Tenacity of Natural Affection" and was published in Blackwood's during 1821.
  • In the 1998 Doctor Who novel titled "Vanderdeken's Children" by Christopher Bulis, the Eighth Doctor describe the crew of a Ghost-Ship as the title of the story, as in the Metaphorical descendants to The Flying Dutchman.
  • This story was adapted in the English melodrama "The Flying Dutchman; or the Phantom Ship: a Nautical Drama", in three acts (1826) by Edward Fitzball (1792–1873), music by George Rodwell, and the novel "The Phantom Ship" (1839) by Frederick Marryat. This in turn was later adapted as "Het Vliegend Schip" ("The Flying Ship") by the Dutch clergyman named A. H. C. Römer. In Marryat's version, Terneuzen, in the Netherlands, is described as the home of the captain, who is called "Van der Decken" ("of the decks").
  • Another adaptation was The Flying Dutchman on Tappan Sea by Washington Irving in 1855, in which the captain is named Ramhout van Dam. Irving had already used the story (based on Moore's poem) in his Bracebridge Hall (1822). Hedvig Ekdal describes visions of the Flying Dutchman from the books she reads in the attic in Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck (1884).
  • John Boyle O'Reilly's The Flying Dutchman was first published in The Wild Goose, a handwritten newspaper produced by Fenian convicts being transported to Western Australia in 1867.
  • British author Brian Jacques wrote a trilogy of fantasy/young adult novels concerning two reluctant members of the Dutchman's crew, a young boy and his dog, who were swept off the ship by a wave on the night the ship was cursed; however, the same angel who pronounced the curse on the ship and crew appeared to them and blessed them, charging them to help those in need. The first novel was titled Castaways of the Flying Dutchman and was first published by Puffin Books in 2001. The second was titled The Angel's Command and was released by Puffin in 2003. The third and final book of the trilogy (due to Jacques' death in 2011) was titled Voyage of Slaves and was released by Puffin in 2006.
  • In the 2013 novel The Flying Dutchman by Russian novelist Anatoly Kudryavitsky, the ghost ship rebuilds itself from an old barge abandoned on the bank of a big Russian river, and offers itself as a refuge to a persecuted musicologist.
  • The comic fantasy Flying Dutch by Tom Holt is a version of the Flying Dutchman story. In this version, the Dutchman is not a ghost ship but crewed by immortals who can only visit land once every seven years when the unbearable smell that is a side-effect of the elixir of life wears off.
  • The Roger Zelazny short story "And Only I Am Escaped To Tell Thee" tells of a sailor who escapes from the Flying Dutchman and is rescued by sailors who welcome him to the Mary Celeste.
  • Ward Moore in his 1951 story "Flying Dutchman" used the myth as a metaphor for an automated bomber plane which continues to fly over an Earth where humanity long since totally destroyed itself and all life in a nuclear war.
  • Amiri Baraka's 1964 play titled "Dutchman" uses the metaphor of ship-lost-at-sea to express the way White liberal America has alienated African Americans in their own country.
  • Richard Wagner's 1843 opera The Flying Dutchman is adapted from an episode in Heinrich Heine's 1833 satirical novel The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski (Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski), in which a character attends a theatrical performance of The Flying Dutchman in Amsterdam. Heine had first briefly used the legend in his Reisebilder: Die Nordsee (Pictures of Travel: the North Sea) in 1826, which simply repeats from Blackwood's Magazine the features of the vessel being seen in a storm and sending letters addressed to persons long since dead. In his 1833 elaboration, it was once thought that it may have been based on Fitzball's play, which was playing at the Adelphi Theatre in London, but the run had ended on April 7th, 1827 and Heine did not arrive in London until the 14th. Heine was the first author to introduce the chance of salvation through a woman's devotion and the opportunity to set foot on land every seven years to seek a faithful wife. This imaginary play, unlike Fitzball's play, which has the Cape of Good Hope location, in Heine's account is transferred to the North Sea off Scotland. Wagner's opera was similarly planned to take place off the coast of Scotland, although during the final rehearsals he transferred the action to another part of the North Sea, off Norway.
  • Pierre-Louis Dietsch composed an opera Le vaisseau fantôme, ou Le maudit des mers ("The Phantom Ship, or The Accursed of the Sea"), which was first performed on November 9th, 1842 at the Paris Opera. The libretto by Paul Foucher and H. Révoil was based on Walter Scott's The Pirate as well as Captain Marryat's The Phantom Ship and other sources, although Wagner thought it was based on the scenario of his own opera, which he had just sold to the Opera. The similarity of Dietsch's opera to Wagner's is slight, although Wagner's assertion is often repeated. Berlioz thought Le vaisseau fantôme too solemn, but other reviewers were more favorable.
  • Amiri Baraka (formerly known as LeRoi Jones) wrote the play Dutchman in 1964. The play's abstract nature makes it difficult to draw a direct correlation between it and the myth, but its emphasis on fate and doom recasts themes of the legend in terms of race relations in the contemporary United States.
  • The Flying Dutchman is a cheat unit in the original Age of Empires computer game. It is a ship that can travel on both land and sea.
  • In the 1993 multiplatform horror videogame Alone in the Dark 2, Detective Edward Carnby investigates a missing girl who he discovers has been kidnapped by the undead One-Eyed Jack who, in the game, is captain of the undead crew of The Flying Dutchman.
  • The Flying Dutchman is depicted in the sandbox platformer game Terraria as a flying wooden ship with four destructible, broadside cannons. It appears within the Pirate Invasion as a boss enemy.
  • The Flying Dutchman is also used as a warship in the videogame Warship Battle:3D.



  • The Flying Dutchman has been captured in paintings by the late American painter Albert Pinkham Ryder, now in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., and by Howard Pyle, whose painting of the Flying Dutchman is on exhibit at the Delaware Art Museum.
  • Dutch artist Joyce Overheul also adapted the name of The Flying Dutchman onto her crochet pattern designs (The Flying Dutchman Crochet Design), resembling the similarity of her designs 'roaming' the world just like the ghost ship once did.
  • Flying Dutchman Tobacco was a popular blend for pipes and smoking. Many of their tins are still readily collected by those who appreciate packaging art and design.
  • The story was adapted by Judith French into a play entitled "The Dutch Mariner", broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 13 April 13th, 2003.
  • The Efteling amusement park in the Netherlands has a roller coaster called The Flying Dutchman which features a character named Willem van der Decken (nl).
  • Worlds of Fun amusement park within Kansas City, Missouri has a swinging boat ride dubbed "The Flying Dutchman".
  • The Haunted Mansion attraction in Disneyland features a painting of the Flying Dutchman before it became a ghost ship that transforms into a ship with torn sails sailing during a storm.
  • In Disneyland Shanghai, the park's Pirates of the Caribbean Ride features a battle between ships under the sea; one of which is the "Flying Dutchman".
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines references the endless traveling aspect of the story by having The Flying Dutchman painted on the rear sides of on all its aircraft with regular livery.
  • The nickname of Lebanon Valley College is "The Flying Dutchmen", and its mascot "The Flying Dutchman". The nickname references the college's location in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
  • Hofstra University in Long Island, New York was unofficially named "The Flying Dutchman" and has many references to Dutch culture around the university including residence halls.
  • Hope College in Holland, Michigan is also the home of "The Flying Dutchman" because it was founded by settlers from the Netherlands in 1866.