Archive | February, 2019

Mystery of the ghost-ship S.S. Ourang Medan

17 Feb

Ourang Medan

Depending on which report is accurate, a curious radio message was received by numerous ships traveling along the Straits of Malacca, situated around Sumatra and Malaysia in either June 1947 or as late as February 1948. At the time, the origins of this message – an SOS – were not known. The message itself was divided into two parts, separated by Morse code that could not be deciphered. Those that received this message insisted that the transcript went:

All Officers, including the Captain, are dead. Lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead. … I die.

Nothing else was transmitted after this chilling conclusion. Two ships, both American, picked up the messages and felt compelled to investigate. With the help of British and Dutch listening posts, the coordinates of the vessel thought to be transmitting were triangulated.  It was the Dutch freighter S.S. Ourang Medan – above extract courtesy of Historic Mysteries.

Having come across the above story, i thought it was the perfect mystery to kick off my latest Spire action thriller with. Crypto, Spire 5 will be out sometime in May this year, but to whet your appetites, you can read the prologue below…





Si Rosser

Schmall World Publishing

First published in Great Britain as an e-book by Schmall World Publishing

Copyright © Simon Rosser 2019

The right of Simon Rosser to be identified as the author of the work has been asserted herein in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved.







Pacific Ocean – 400 nautical miles south-east of the Marshall Islands. 10.06.1948


THE DUTCH REGISTERED freighter ship, the SS Ourang Medan listed to port as she was hit broadside by a large wave, which sent foaming, freezing Pacific Ocean seawater cascading over her forward deck.

The ship had left the Chinese port of Xiamen two weeks earlier and was on route to Costa Rica. Stored beneath the decks in her hold was a cargo of coffee, raw sugar cane, twenty-five gold bars and a single large steel container, which had been encased in a wooden crate, and which had taken ten men the best part of three hours to haul on board.

On the bridge, Captain Jacobus raised his forearm and wiped the sweat from his brow as he stood at the helm, his other oil-covered hand gripping the large wooden wheel as he wrestled to keep the ship on course. He reached down and yanked the wheel lock up from the pedestal, left the helm and opened the bridge door which headed out onto the deck to get some fresh air. A strong, wet, wind hit him full on in the face. He looked up at the night sky which was beautifully clear; billions of stars, pin pricks of light, winking in the heavens. A good sign at least, the ocean should calm down soon, he thought.

He realised he was still sweating profusely, the salty sweat was trickling into his eyes, and he wiped his brow once again. He’d been feeling unwell for the last two days, and now he was developing a sore throat and stomach cramps, which had worsened in the last few hours. He put it down to the sleepless nights he’d had since they’d left port, but was now wondering if it had anything to do with the hooker he’d spent his last night with at the port two weeks earlier. He hoped he’d not caught anything from her, and cursed under his breath at the thought.

The ship listed again, the hull creaking ominously as the vessel’s steel panels and rivets responded to the relentless pounding of the ocean. He took one last look at the heavens and headed back inside, unlocked the wheel and adjusting it slightly to bring the ship back on course.

“Anders, can you take over for a while. I’m going back to my cabin to lie down for half an hour,” he shouted.

Anders, who was operating the vessel’s bilge pumps, stood up and grabbed the wheel. “Yes sir,” he said, nodding at the captain in response.

Captain Jacobus left the bridge, grabbing the stair rails to steady himself as he descended towards his quarters. He made his way along the corridor on the lower deck, feeling increasingly sick as he went. He reached his cabin and hurried in, closing and locking the door behind him. He staggered to the bathroom, and projectile vomited into the basin as he entered.

“Jesus!” Jacobus groaned, as he ran the tap to wash away the vomit. He splashed cold water onto his face, dabbing it dry with a towel, before closing the bathroom door and falling onto his bed. He shook his head to try and expel the feeling of nausea and fog now engulfing him. Was it something I’ve eaten? Surely it couldn’t have been the hooker? No sexually transmitted disease could cause such rapid illness, he reasoned.

He thought back to when they left port, the cargo that had been loaded on board. He grabbed the ship’s freight itinerary log from his bedside table to remind himself exactly what was in the hold.

Jacobus flipped through the pages looking for the 08 June entry. He hadn’t forgotten the gold bars of course, but there was something else, in bulkhead five; the large steel container. It had taken ten men to haul it on board, the stamp on the lid had read, ‘Fragile – Restricted.’ The object, he knew had arrived at the Chinese port from McMurdo, in Antarctica, some weeks earlier.

He pushed the logbook back into his bedside draw and stood up with the intention of going down to the hold to check the container out, but immediately collapsed onto the floor, vomiting again before he could reach the bathroom.

Jacobus felt his body convulse, go into spasm, like something was crawling inside his veins and invading his body. He felt excruciating pain, and then his eyes rolled back until the wooden slatted ceiling of his cabin came into view momentarily, before blurring quickly and then fading to black as he lost consciousness.



Up on the bridge Anders was starting to feel as sick as a dog. He wiped his brow, now soaked in sweat, and checked the control panel in front of him; course and speed all looked okay. Where the hell had the captain gone?

The ship lurched to starboard as another wave hit, and Anders clung onto the wheel in response. He wasn’t feeling right. He had tremors in his hands and his legs were suddenly growing weak as if his body was now too heavy for them, and he felt his knees starting to buckle. The tremors in his hands started extended along to his arms and then he collapsed onto the bridge, losing consciousness momentarily, a terrible pain gripping his body.


In the ship’s Communications Room, Second Officer Frans Erik, the vessel’s telegraphist could hear the men in the dining area shouting at each other. Erik left his desk and staggered along the corridor towards the Mess Hall to find out what was going on.

He opened the Mess Hall door. What the hell? he wondered, as he entered, seeing the state of the men inside. A fight had broken out between at least three of the crew. One man, who Anders recognised as Eddie McNamara, a tough-looking Scottish chap from Troon, near Glasgow, was being restrained by two other seamen. McNamara was foaming at the mouth, blood trickling down his temple from an open wound. At least fifteen other seamen were gathered around, watching as McNamara frantically struggled to break free from the men restraining him, his eyes bloodshot, and darting around the room like a wild animal.

“What the hell is going on here?” Second Officer Erik shouted.

One of the seamen turned around, a short stocky sailor by the name of Smith. “The Scot has gone crazy sir. He went down to check the hold about two hours ago and then suddenly went fucking nuts. He’s bitten poor Eddie Daniels in the neck. He’s in a bad way at the back of the mess,” Smith said, tilting his head towards the end of the Mess Hall.

Erik moved towards the Scot and the men restraining him. “What the hell is going on here?” he shouted, attempting to make sense of the situation.

McNamara was staring at him through bloodshot, crazed eyes. Erik studied him, realising something was seriously wrong. He’d never seen a man looking so frenzied and intent on hurting him.

Before Erik could ask another question, McNamara appeared to suddenly take on superhuman strength and broke free from the men restraining him. He lunged at Erik, immediately sinking his teeth into his left shoulder, before thrashing his neck back and fore like a crazed rabid dog.

Second Officer Erik felt his flesh tear, and lightning bolts of pain radiated from his shoulder area, as all eighteen stone of the powerful Scot, with his stinking breath, pinned him to the floor.

“Get him off! Get him off,” Erik shrieked.

It took five crew men to wrench McNamara free. As soon as the man was pulled off, Erik staggered to his feet, blood pumping from the wound on his shoulder. He placed his left hand on the torn flesh, turned and fled the mess, leaving the crew to deal with the Scot as they saw fit. He didn’t care, he just wanted to escape the carnage and craziness of what had just happened.

He felt his way back along the corridor and back into the Communications Room, the wound on his shoulder throbbing with pain and pumping blood. Was he going to bleed to death? Get an infection? He reached for the bottle of rum he had in the small cabinet by the desk, pulled the cork out with his teeth and poured the amber liquid onto his bare shoulder, gritting his teeth in pain as the liquor penetrated the wound.

He quickly started feeling dizzy, and his head started to fog up and spin. What the hell was going on? He sat at the desk and reached for the key of the telegraph machine and started frantically tapping out a message.


Dash…dash…dash…dot…dash…dot…dot – We need help. This is the SS Ourang Medan, location, approximately 400 nautical miles south-east of the Marshal Islands. The crew are going crazy…fighting has broken out in the Mess…Captain is sick and crew members are dying…I die.


Second Officer Erik felt his arms shaking and with his last ounce of strength he reached for some paper and scrawled a note, a last message. He grabbed the empty rum bottle, shoved the note inside and replaced and sealed the cork, turned and tossed it through the open porthole into the ocean.

With all his strength gone, he fell off his chair and collapsed onto the floor, the pain from his shoulder wound radiating into his head and upper body. His eyes then rolled up to the ceiling, his face contorting in pain as he felt an inky blackness envelop him.

Whilst you’re waiting for Spire 5, why not try one of the other gripping Spire adventures by clicking on the links below…. happy reading.

Also by the same author;

Tipping Point – Robert Spire 1

Impact Point – Robert Spire 2

Melt Zone – Robert Spire 3

Cataclysm of the Ancients – Robert Spire 4


Cataclysm of the Ancients: Fast Paced Science Fiction Thriller

4 Feb



Rhodes, Greece – 226 BC


THE FLOTILLA OF fishing vessels cut through the crystal-clear blue Aegean Sea, their sails billowing in the wind, the sand-coloured fortified stone walls of the town shimmering in the afternoon sun just two nautical miles ahead. The three vessels had been on the open sea for three days and nights, and were now returning home with their specially adapted hulls full of sardines and tuna, at least two weeks’ supply of fish for the stalls, markets and taverns of the town.

Admentos bit into his orange as he watched a dolphin race alongside the hull, leaping out of the ocean as it reached the bow. “Welcome my friend, but be careful,” he said, “one day, fishermen not as friendly as I might try and catch you too.”

The dolphin was joined by another, both now playing together, tracking the vessel back towards the port.

“I can see our friends have joined us again,” Theoros laughed, as he joined his friend at the bow.

“Same two dolphins, I’m sure. The dorsal fin, the triangular section of flesh, is missing,” Admentos said, pointing.

“You know why they follow us home?” Theoros shouted.

“Tell me your theory, my friend.”

“Odysseus; he always throws them half a medimnos of fish, when we get close to port. The large fish aren’t so stupid; they know they have a meal waiting.”

“If I see him do that, I’ll personally throw him into the water with them,” Admentos said, finishing his orange. He wiped his mouth, ran his hands through his thick black wavy hair and glanced to the port side. The two other vessels which had been out fishing with them were two boat-lengths away, playing catch-up with his boat, which he’d proudly named Alcaeus, after his father, an accountant from Athens. The name meant strength, and his father had proven to be a strong man and had educated Admentos well.

Theoros nodded his head towards the town and the fortified port walls that surrounded it, now coming into view. He shook his head in wonder; the awe-inspiring sight of the Titan Helios loomed up from the breakwater, towering over the port in all its glory. The sun’s golden rays lit up the huge bronze statue like a glowing furnace. “There he is, welcoming us home as ever, from our short voyage.”

“Helios has kept us safe for the last fifty-four years. The Cypriots and the sons of Demetrius have not dared attack us again since,” Admentos said proudly, shielding his eyes from the sun’s glare reflecting off the giant bronze Titan. The statue’s right arm was raised towards the ocean, as if in triumph. The sunlight reflecting off the clenched fist as if it were a burning flame.

“May he do the same for another thousand years,” Theoros added, just as the young Odysseus emerged from the vessel’s wooden cabin carrying a large urn. Odysseus looked up, his eyes widening as he saw the two of them.

“And what do you carry in that urn, Odysseus?” Admentos asked, “I hope you are not stealing our fish to give to the dolphins?”

Odysseus stopped and placed the urn down on the deck, shook his head and ruffled his curly blonde hair. “No, I have water to clean the deck.”

“Show me,” Admentos demanded.

Odysseus gingerly picked up the urn and slowly walked towards the bow, where the fishermen were leaning against the bulkhead. As he approached them, he sidestepped and briskly emptied the contents of the urn into the ocean. He then dropped the urn onto the deck and ran to the rear of the boat.

“Odysseus, there seems to be fish in your water!” Admentos shouted, as he ran after the ten-year old, the son of his brother Theras.

Odysseus was already leaning over the stern bulkhead watching the dolphins jump out of the ocean, playing with the half-dead fish, before gulping them down.

“No…no, please, my father will kill you if you touch me,” he screamed, as Admentos grabbed the boy around his chest and turned him upside down.

“You know what we do to people who steal our fish?” Admentos shouted, as Odysseus playfully tried to escape from his grip. “We throw them into the ocean!” Admentos then lifted Odysseus onto the wide, flat, horizontal surface of the bulkhead, grabbed his ankles and proceeded to dangle him over the edge of the vessel.

Odysseus screamed, then laughed, and then screamed again. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Pull me back in, I won’t do it again.”

Theoros stood behind his friend, laughing as he pulled Odysseus back up and lowered him to the deck. “Next time; I’ll drop you in and you can swim back to port with your friends. Your father will thank me for it,” Admentos said, a smile spreading across his tanned face.

The other two fishing vessels had now caught up with them, as they closed in on the harbour. The statue of Helios towered over the small boats, its massive bronze feet rising up from the huge marble plinth it stood on; in itself, a magnificent sight to behold at this distance.

Admentos craned his neck and looked up towards the top of the statue. Gulls drifting on the warm air currents above began to swoop down; chasing the boats towards the port, daily routine telling them that food would soon be available.

Admentos shouted to Odysseus. “You can make up for your theft by getting the ropes ready.”

Odysseus nodded and ran to the cabin.

Fishermen sitting on the fortified walls on the approach to the port, waved as they pulled up their lobster baskets from the sea bed.

As the flotilla passed the breakwater and the huge marble plinth upon which Helios stood, a strange vibrating hum, like no sound they had ever heard before, emanated from somewhere above them, seemingly from the Titan itself.

“Can you hear that, Admentos?”  Theoros shouted.

“What in the name of Zeus is that?! Admentos yelled back, shielding his ears.

The fishermen lining the port walls started to run, some stumbling, as they looked up towards the humming statue of Helios towering above.

As Admentos and Theoros gazed up at Helios, a blinding pure white flash, like a powerful lightning bolt, shot out from both sides of the statue’s torso, one point hitting the port wall and the other arcing over the port, into the mountains behind the town. A violent explosion caused rock from the fortified wall and harbour to erupt around the small flotilla of boats, the calm port waters suddenly became a maelstrom, tossing the fishing vessels like they had been transported into the middle of a violent storm.

Odysseus appeared from the cabin, his eyes wide with fear.

“Get back in the cabin, Odysseus,” Admentos screamed.

Admentos’ and the other men’s cries were drowned out by a series of thunderous cracks, quickly followed by a dark shadow that enveloped the port blocking, the bright sunlight.

“Helios! The Titan is falling!” Theoros screamed in terror.

The Titan snapped at its knees, and fell in three large sections, bronze screeching and bending, as the statue collapsed towards the land just beyond the port.

The three fishing boats tried to turn away, but it was too late. Admentos looked up at the collapsing statue of Helios as the Titan’s outstretched arm broke off from the shoulder and struck his vessel, crushing the wooden boat as if it were made from matchwood.


The Colossus of Rhodes lay where it fell, until 880 years later, when the ruins were sold by Arab invaders to a Jewish merchant from Emesa, Syria, who painstakingly removed the broken statue and bronze scrap, transporting it away on 900 camels.




CIA Headquarters,

Virginia, USA.

Present Day





DR VINCENT KRAMER swiped his identity card through the security scanner. The pad illuminated with a green light, and he walked through the steel security door into corridor B12, which ran along the west side of the building. He casually wiped away a bead of sweat that had formed on his temple, as he continued along the corridor to the Vault – the CIA’s secret records hall. The security cameras above would be monitoring his every move, but he had the necessary clearance to be in this section of the building, so it wasn’t a problem.

He reached the vault door and swiped his card through a second scanner. A light on the pad turned green, before a pencil-thin red laser shot out from a slot in a featureless black panel on the wall in front of him, and began scanning his iris. Kramer stood still for the few moments required, until the laser completed its task.

Two loud clunks resonated up, from somewhere inside the door, as two large steel bolts retracted into the wall. With a hiss of high-pressured air, the two-foot thick reinforced steel door slowly opened.

Kramer walked into the Vault, a rectangular room the size of a football field, and inhaled the room’s air, which had a hint of musty cardboard and old paper to it. This was despite the air within the Vault being recycled on a weekly basis, to ensure the old paper and documents kept there were preserved as well as possible. He figured that the air must have been almost a week old and hadn’t yet been replaced.

The soft strip lighting in the ceiling above the first third of the room, clicked on as he stepped on to the small landing area beyond the security door. The steel lump of the door slowly closed behind him, sealing him in the room, which always unnerved him. What if the unlock mechanism failed, how the hell would I get out?

Spread out before him were 1970s-style light grey filing cabinets, and racking, which extended up from the black and white tiled floor to a height of eight feet or so. There were eight rows of cabinets with aisles in-between, each one wide enough to drive a small forklift truck along. Each row was marked alphabetically A, through to H, and beyond that block was another similar block, marked I-P. A third, identical block, was positioned at the far end of the room, labelled Q-W. At the very back of the room was the final six-cabinet block, identified with the letters X, Y and Z.

Kramer headed down the steel steps, to the tiled floor ten feet below and walked along the aisle directly in front of him towards the third block of cabinets, which housed Row S. As he passed along the hundreds of individual drawers and racks he was effectively walking further back in time, as far as the documents and materials kept in the secure drawers were concerned.

Commencing in the year 2011, the most recent entry in Row D, he walked to the end of the section, back to the year 1722. He’d never looked at the documents in this section, but made a mental note to view them one day, when he had more time. He knew there were even older documents kept in the vault, dating back to the year 1508.

He continued to the middle block of cabinets, the lighting in the ceiling above him automatically clicking on, just as the lights in the first section blinked out, thanks to the eco-sensor picking up his movement within the space. All it did was scare the hell out of him. The Vault gave him the creeps as it was, made worse by the fact that two thirds of the vast room was always in darkness. He looked back. All he could see was a series of red LED lights glowing on the exit pad, on the wall next to the security door which was now shrouded in darkness.

He wiped his forehead again, cursing under his breath for having to be in here in the first place and for the position he found himself in. He prayed he was doing the right thing; the right thing for his wife and daughter, who were being held captive at this very moment, in their own home, and had been for the preceding forty-eight hours. On Saturday night, four men had forced entry into his home, just outside of Fairfax. They had somehow evaded the sophisticated security system he’d installed, before rounding them all up at gun point. The men were dressed, from head to toe, in black. They’d looked like an elite special ops unit; the kind of force he imagined had captured, and killed, Osama Bin Laden, except these bastards were in his own home, in the middle of a suburban street in Virginia.

Of course, he’d promised the kidnappers he’d do whatever was asked of him, to spare his family’s life, and had naturally assumed they wanted some high-level security information about America’s interests abroad. Computer programmes, or operating systems for the US’s drones perhaps, or even the future schedule/timetable of the President himself. The information his captors had demanded, however, had left him slightly flummoxed and, in an odd way, even more concerned. The best he could hope for was to be able to find and obtain the information for them, extricate his family from danger and then alert the secret service of the circumstances. The bastards needed to be caught. He’d insist he and his family be given new identities, before being relocated. The entire situation was a nightmare.

Kramer reached Row S, in the third block of cabinets. The Vault behind him was now in darkness, the red glow from the LED lights on the exit pad the only light visible. He looked up and checked the wall-mounted camera, close to where the wall met the ceiling above. The camera could clearly see him; however, by pulling out two of the drawers above the one he needed to get into, he could create a large enough obstruction to block the camera’s view. He reached up and pulled on the drawers, which squeaked on their runners as they extended out. Kramer then pulled out the drawer marked ‘Sp’ and started rummaging through the dividers, until he reached the folder he was searching for – Sphinx Remote Viewing Studies 1974.

He carefully pulled the manila A4 folder from its place and opened the flap, a slight tremor now evident in his hands. Thankfully, the documents were inside. He thumbed through the paperwork within the folder; just three A4 sheets appeared to be relevant. He pulled them out, rolled them into a tube and shoved them behind his belt, in the front of his trousers. He then quickly replaced the folder and closed the drawer labelled ‘Sp’ followed by both drawers above it. The tapes would show him looking in the cabinets in Row S but, hopefully, they wouldn’t record him actually stealing the documents.

Kramer walked hastily back through the vault, the energy saving lighting, tracking him back to the front of the room, blinking on as he passed into each section. He dabbed his forehead with his handkerchief as he ascended the steel steps to the Vault door. He reached the top landing, glanced back to the cabinets he’d just come from, now shrouded in darkness, and swiped his card across the door exit pad. The red lights blinked green and, as the large steel door clunked slowly open, he slipped out to the main corridor beyond.

Kramer headed back along the lengthy corridor, opened the security door he’d gone through earlier, and walked down another black and white tiled corridor; towards the cafeteria in the building’s older section. The time was 3.30 p.m.; he only had fifteen minutes before the arranged meet.

He ordered a latte to go and exited through the café’s rear glass door, onto a small paved terrace area. He casually strolled passed the Kryptos sculpture; towards the main car park. The mid afternoon sun was already bathing CIA Headquarters with its fading rays of light. A few miles to the east, lights were already blinking on in the suburbs of Washington D.C.

A black SUV with blacked-out windows was waiting for him, as instructed, at the rear of the vast car park, close to the perimeter fence, which bordered a large wooded area. Kramer nervously sipped his coffee, his stomach churning as he approached the vehicle.

The driver’s window slid down a few centimetres and a man, with a Middle-Eastern accent, directed him to walk around to the passenger side.

Kramer nodded and walked around the rear of the SUV and stopped at the front passenger door. He pulled the rolled up documents out from the top of his trousers.

The window slid down a fraction. “Are those the papers?”

“Yes,” Kramer replied.

“Show me.”

Kramer unrolled the documents and held them against the window. “I want to speak to my wife and child…”

The man, in the vehicle, cut him off. “Give me the papers – pass them through the gap.”

Kramer raised a shaking hand and pushed the rolled up documents through the gap in the window. “Now, let me speak to…”

The passenger window slid down six inches or so.

Kramer stepped back.

“You have my word that your wife and daughter will be fine. You have performed your task admirably, but I’m afraid this is where your journey ends,” the slim-faced Middle-Eastern man said, as he opened the window further and looked Kramer in the eyes, his right hand gripping the handle of a gun fitted with a long suppressor.

Kramer dropped his coffee, which hit the tarmac with a wet thud, just as two bright flashes flared out from the long black tube pointed at his chest. Kramer collapsed to the ground, the searing pain eating into him.

The black SUV screeched off as Kramer lay on the tarmac, gasping for air. His last vision was of his own blood slowly mixing with the light brown coffee he’d been drinking moments earlier.

Cataclysm (138x220) (138x220)