The Haunted Shipwreck of the Jersey Turnpike

2009 August 4


For years I’d been intrigued by “the haunted shipwreck of the Jersey Turnpike.” I first spotted it on one of my many I-95-northbound sojourns on the way to New York City; there it suddenly appeared, a ghostly apparition glimpsed from the passenger-side window, half-washed up on the shores of some strange Jersey waterway between Exits 9 and 10. On these first few glimpses, the sight was odd enough to beggar belief: from a distance, the wreck resembled a Mississippi steamer that might not have been out of place in a Mark Twain story. Stranded in the shallows like a beached whale, its ruined hull spoke of mystery and disaster. But as time went on, and the wreck continued to reliably appear in a conveniently-placed breach in the highway barrier-walls, it became a totemistic icon of good fortune, a faithful if mysterious mile-marker suggesting that the spires of the city would soon be glimpsed beyond the Jersey gas fields.

So it was not without distress when, on my most recent bus ride home from my parents’ house in Maryland, I could not help but notice that the ghost-ship was gone. Digital camera at the ready in hopes of finally taking that snapshot I’d been meaning to get for the past decade or so, the surreal spectacle stubbornly refused to appear in its appointed place. A little internet research revealed that, alas, the “Mary Murray” (as I now learned the phantom ship was called) had indeed been dismantled and sold for scrap.

As this article from details, the Mary Murray provided ferry service between Staten Island and Manhattan for 45 years. Named for a Quaker woman who provided assistance to patriots during the Revolutionary War, the craft was once known as “the leading lady” of the Staten Island ferry fleet. After being decommissioned in 1982, the rusting hulk languished on an offshoot (the aptly-named “No Name Creek”) of the Raritan River near East Brunswick, New Jersey for nearly twenty-seven years before its recent dismantling. offers a great slide show of the Mary Murray through the years, and photos of the wreck can also be found on this flickr page as well as on

On a further sad note, the owner of the Mary Murray, George Searle (who had apparently had plans to turn the ship into a museum and whose daughter referred to the ship as “his glory”) passed away almost exactly a year after the Mary Murry was hauled off, probably of a broken heart.

(Thanks to jag9899 at for the photo as well as and for the information.)

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