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The true story behind “THE DARK PICTURES: MAN OF MEDAN”

Thursday, September 12, 2019 | Games

THE DARK PICTURES: MAN OF MEDAN has received mixed reviews. Even though I gave it a 4/5, I still keep finding new and weird things about the game. Admittedly, it has great potential and is much more fun with friends. The controls still leave something to be desired and the quick time events can suck it, but there was one thing that I loved about it: the story. If the idea of a ghost ship filled with a dead crew out in the middle of the ocean sounds a little crazy, well you’re in for a surprise. The story is true and remains a mystery to this very day. 

Well, possibly. The first mention of the mysterious story of the SS Ourang Medan shows up in 1948 in a Dutch-Indonesian newspaper, and the date of the incident can be anywhere from 1940 to 1947/48. The word Ourang is from the Malay word Orang, meaning “man” and Medan being the largest city in Indonesia. So, Ourang Medan literally means “Man from Medan.” If you thoroughly searched the ship in the game, you will find a sailor’s cap with “g Medan” on it, indicating that this is meant to be the story of the ghost ship the SS Ourang Medan.

The story goes that ships in the Strait of Malacca began receiving an SOS signal in Morse code that read “All officers, including the captain are dead. Lying in chart room and bridge. Possibly whole crew are dead… I die…” If you played the game, you may recall in the introduction of the ship, one of the last remaining people alive on the boat was the communications officer sending out an SOS to nearby ships in Morse code. When you search the cabin, you see a note next to the body with “I die” written on it. It is impressive that there are these little details hidden in the game, but the story gets weirder. 

A notification was sent out to the ships in the areas for to BOLO (be on the lookout) for the ship, and eventually it was found listlessly drifting in the middle of the Indian Ocean by a ship called the Silver Star. This ship had no idea what it was about to sail into. Seconds after boarding the Ourang Medan, the crew of the Sliver Star saw bodies lying on the deck of the ship. There was no outward sign of injury and the men looked like they had died of fear, their faces and bodies frozen in unnatural positions. Even the ship’s dog didn’t make it out alive, seemingly dead from fear itself. As they delved further into the ship, they found more bodies, as if the officers and sailors had died at their posts. There was no blood, no injuries and no sign of attack, just the dead bodies of the sailors frozen in time and fear. 

As the crew of the Silver Star entered the belly of the ship, they noticed that the triple digit air of the hot summer day began to grow colder and colder, in some places dropping by as much as 60 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no damage to the Ourang Medan, so it was unlikely that the ship was attacked or boarded and then the sailors killed. So what HAPPENED to this crew? The Silver Star decided to tow the Ourang Medan to land but it didn’t make it far. Not long after hooking the ships together, The Ourang Medan began to smoke excessively. The captain of the Silver Star ordered that the tow line be cut and almost immediately, the Ourang Medan exploded and sank to the bottom of the ocean. 

There are several theories as to what happened to the crew and one of the most likely is the fact that they may have been carrying a deadly nerve agent called Tabun, which may have been taken from the Japanese post-WWII after it was initially developed by the Germans. Tabun causes the body to contort which would explain the position of the bodies on the ship and could have easily dispersed by the time the crew of the Silver Star had arrived. Another theory is that the Ourang Medan could have been transporting potassium cyanide, which creates a deadly gas when mixed with sea water. But, it is unlikely since the crew of the Silver Star wasn’t affected as they boarded the ship. 

The problem with the story of the Ourang Medan is that the ship doesn’t appear on any official ship registries but that could be due to the illegal substances being transported. It was mentioned by the Coast Guard in 1952 which gives the story some solidity but the fact remains that no one knows what really happened or if the story is even truly real. So, the idea of the “Manchurian Gold” being the real enemy in the game isn’t too far off from the real story, or what could be the real story.

Regardless, I am happy that this strange story of a ghost ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean was turned into a game and the story was passed on to a new generation of people. 

Do you think that the legend is real? Was it translated well into THE DARK PICTURES: MAN OF MEDAN? With the announcement of the next chapter called NEW HOPE, it makes me wonder if this is the first in an anthology of legends and stories of the unknown. Information about the Ourang Medan is courtesy of the YouTube channel, Bedtime Stories, which covers many stories like the Ourang Medan. There is an alternative version, according to Wikipedia, that a sole survivor was found on an island and mentioned that the crew perished from some badly contained sulfuric acid.

It would seem that the true story of the Ourang Medan will remain a mystery. 

D.D. Crowley
D.D. Crowley is an avid video game lover and all-around horror nerd. Since she played "Resident Evil" as a child, the genre has both fascinated and terrified her. She has been writing for nearly the same amount of time and enjoys sharing her love of horror with the world. Her favorites include zombie and found footage movies and survival horror video games.