I read this after 2000 but from the language used it might well have been written as well at set in Victorian times.The name of the ship was The Kamchatka it may have been spelled a little differently but was obviously the Russian peninsula. It reminded me of playing Risk as a small child.

The protagonist is a passenger who has been assigned to this cabin. There are two bunks. He barely sees the man who sleeps in the upper bunk.

The protagonist goes to complain to the ship's surgeon. He says his cabin is damp, smelling of seawater and unhealthy. He asks that the cabin be cleaned and aired out. The surgeon on hearing the number of the cabin becomes distressed. He offers to share his own much larger cabin with the protagonist explaining that four passengers who slept in that fateful cabin in previous voyages have all thrown themselves overboard. The protagonist refuses the kind offer. He would rather not bother to move.

The man who was sleeping in the upper bunk in his cabin disappears. The crew search for him and worry he has thrown himself overboard like the others.

The protagonist finds the porthole in his cabin open and fastened back. He complains to the steward whose job it is to close it. It is dangerous to leave it fastened open. The steward looks upset. He closes the porthole and fastens it closed with sturdy brass fastenings. He mutters that it will be open again pretty soon. The protagonist says if that firmly sealed porthole comes open again he will give the steward a sovereign.

He locks the cabin door and goes to sleep. He awakes to a draught coming through the once more open porthole. It is dark, the steward had put out the lights shining in from outside so he could sleep. He senses someone in the other bunk, throws his hand into it and grabs a damp cold smooth arm. The being escapes his grip and flees.

The protagonist gets out a railway travelling lantern he owns for reading after lights are extinguished. He lights it. The porthole is once more securely fastened open. When he next sees the steward he gives him the promised sovereign.

The ship's captain offers that the protagonist can share his own cabin and implores him to leave the one he is in. The protagonist is curious and cannot be persuaded to move.

The next night the captain comes to the cabin to try to protect his passenger. Something unseen again opens the porthole from the outside and moves into the upper bunk. The captain stands with his back to the door to prevent it escaping, he calls to the protagonist to take his place at the door so the captain can investigate the bunk. The protagonist instead approaches the bunk he wrestles with a creature like a drowned corspe with immense strength. The creature tries to strangle him. Then it attacks the captain knocks him unconscious and flees through the open porthole.

Both men survive. The ship's carpenter drives nails into the cabin door so noone can enter it again.


1 Answer 1


This is surely The Upper Berth by F. Marion Crawford, a short story first published back in 1894.

The plot goes essentially as outlined in the question. The passenger ship is called the Kamtschatka, and crosses the Atlantic. The narrator is a man called Brisbane, who stays in state-room 105, lower berth. He had hoped to have the cabin to himself, but the upper berth was occupied by another passenger. During the night, however, the other passenger unlocks the port-hole and seemingly leaps out.This is not the first time this has happened, Brisbane is told it would be better for him to change cabin:

“There’s been four lives lost out o’ here to my own remembrance, and that in four trips. Better give it up, sir—better give it up!”

Brisbane nonetheless stays on, and the captain assists him to find out what is happening. "Something" appears in the upper berth that night:

“It was something ghostly, horrible beyond words, and it moved in my grip. It was like the body of a man long drowned, and yet it moved, and had the strength of ten men living; but I gripped it with all my might—the slippery, oozy, horrible thing. The dead white eyes seemed to stare at me out of the dusk; the putrid odour of rank sea-water was about it, and its shiny hair hung in foul wet curls over its dead face.”

After a scuffle the thing leaps out of the porthole. Brisbane and the captain survive the encounter and the door of the cabin is screwed shut permanently. Although the ship remains in service, the cabin is never again offered to passengers.

The story is available from Project Gutenberg.

  • 1
    Wow, that was quick! Thank.you @Clara Diaz Sanchez Commented Apr 15 at 9:55

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