Halloween is the perfect time for ghost stories, and behind every good ghost story is a tale that weaves fact and fiction, lined with mysteries that remain unsolved and enough scares to make your spine tingle and your skin prickle with goose bumps. Horror movies and games live and die by this ideal — to mesmerize the audience and to keep you at the edge of your seat. That brings us to Man of Medan, the first of Supermassive Games’ Dark Pictures Anthology series, and the ghost ship that inspired its setting: the SS Ourang Medan.
Man of Medan will be a major step for Supermassive Games. This will be part of a new gaming franchise, and these games will be released for PC and Xbox One (they’ve previously focused on crafting titles for Sony’s PlayStation systems). Man of Medan will have gameplay elements similar to Supermassive’s previous title, Until Dawn, where you make various decisions that can affect the outcome of the story and the lives of the survivors.
In case you forgot, here’s the creepy announcement trailer, as well as some gameplay footage:
The SS Ourang Medan
The “Man of Medan” isn’t actually a person; rather, it’s the name of a ship — the Dutch freighter SS Ourang Medan. Translated from Malay and Indonesian, “Orang/ourang” actually means “person” or “people”. The game’s title and the ship’s Anglicized naming is just a rough translation of that.
Based on gameplay videos, we know that our characters will be looking for some adventure in the deep blue sea, only to encounter unspeakable horrors as they explore an old World War II wreck. That wreck, the SS Ourang Medan, has long been the subject of many ghost stories.
The tale tells us of a particularly eerie SOS message received by American vessels (the City of Baltimore and the Silver Star) that were navigating the Straights of Malacca in the late 1940s. The distress signal read:
“S.O.S. from Ourang Medan. We float. All officers including the captain, dead in chartroom and on the bridge. Probably whole of crew dead.
What followed was several seconds of indecipherable and frantic Morse code beatings. Then came two chilling words that were clearly heard:
From Rescue To Absolute Horror
When the Silver Star crew boarded the Ourang Medan, the would-be rescuers could not believe the sight that greeted them. Everyone was dead — all the crew, the officers, the captain, and even the ship’s dog. All the bodies were face-up, dead eyes staring at the sky or the ceiling, mouths open in a silent and eternal scream.
Not a single living soul was found alive on that ship. The team frantically searched all cabins and corridors until they arrived in the ship’s boiler room. In there, they saw corpses piled on top of one another, all with the same frozen scream in their expressions.
The crew members of the Silver Star tried to tow the ill-fated Ourang Medan to port. However, a mysterious fire suddenly engulfed the latter. The American sailors hurriedly abandoned their efforts as the Ourang Medan exploded into a ball of fire and sunk to the depths of the Southeast Asian waters.
Myth And Mystery; Fact And Fiction
To be fair, that’s how the tale has been commonly told over the years. Theorists believe it to be the work of paranormal forces and demons — after all, what else could have caused the terrified expressions and shock on the victims before they died? Others also posit the involvement of aliens, because, naturally, stories of ghost ships tend to feature this idea.
Skeptics, meanwhile, think that there was a scientific explanation. Given that the SS Ourang Medan was trying to avoid authorities, it could be due to the vessel’s cargo. Perhaps it held cyanide, sulfuric acid, or nitroglycerin? These chemicals, as well as carbon monoxide poisoning, were theorized as the leading cause of the deaths of all those aboard and the ship’s eventual explosion.
It’s also worth noting that the primary source for this ghost story, or at least the one that inspired it, is an Italian writer by the name of Silvio Scherli. There was rumored to be one survivor of the incident, a German sailor who, on his deathbed, told the tale of the ship’s last hours to a missionary. That missionary eventually spoke to Scherli, who wrote about it.
The Man Of Medan
Fact and fiction have blended as time passed. All semblance of truth was lost, either through history’s whims or those of tellers of tall tales. There are also those who’ve simply debunked all of the above as an elaborate hoax, one that simply kept mariners both wary and entertained, and, in today’s digital world, something to keep writers of mystery blogs and list articles — and maybe the occasional book author — preoccupied.
What’s clear, however, is that the dark legend of this ghost story endures. Whether you believe in it or not, the most that we can hope for is that Supermassive Games and Man of Medan can capture the essence of fear, terror, and mystery that surrounded that long-forgotten ship. At the very least, it should give PC owners something to keep us from playing with the lights off.