Palmyra Atoll – Paranormal Paradise or Gateway to Perdition?

PalmyraAtoll01Cryptozoology lovers and paranormal fans may find this mysterious report very interesting. Do monsters or ghosts or things unimaginable walk the mystically beautiful shores of this far-away paradise, or can science explain some of the weirdness that occurs there? CryptoVille tries to sort it all out.

Some people say the island known as the Palmyra Atoll in the Northern Pacific ocean is cursed. You’re apt to believe it, too, after you hear and read the stories associated with the place.

First off, I think it’s worth noting that an atoll, according to the dictionary, is “a ring-shaped coral reef or a string of closely spaced small coral islands, enclosing or nearly enclosing a shallow lagoon.” In the case of the Palmyra Atoll, the ring encircles the rim of a sunken volcano. I believe this provides an important clue right from the start. I’ll get to that later in the article.


There are no year-round residents despite there being a huge and lush variety of flora throughout the island. It’s full of all sorts of wildlife as well, plus the nearby bounty of the sea.  From what I’ve read, it sounds like an ideal tropical paradise. Who wouldn’t love to get-away there, at least for a while?

But what do we know? First impressions can be deceiving. Upon closer inspection, things start to get weird on and around the Atoll.

Story Begins

American sea captain Edmond Fanning discovered the atoll in 1798 on his way to Asia. The night before the discovery, Fanning suffered a series of foreboding dreams that brought him a fierce sense of impending doom. It seemed as though he was receiving some kind of psychic premonition.

He finally got up and went to the deck where he quickly spotted a treacherous reef about to ram his ship, the Betsy. Fortunately his quick reaction saved his ship and its crew and they continued on towards Asia.

Unfortunately for Fanning, another sea captain got credit for Fanning’s discovery. Captain Swale of the good ship Palmyra encountered the atoll in 1802 and so the atoll was named after Swale’s ship.

PalmyrasStrawnIslandLegend Builds

Early explorers began to notice strange happenings around Palmyra Atoll. Most often seamen saw “ghost lights’ dancing around the then uninhabited islands that comprised the atoll.(Photo left Strawn’s Island, part of the Palmyra Atoll.)

Many ships narrowly escaped the treacherous reefs in the area. Some sailors swore the reefs would suddenly appear out of nowhere as if the entire atoll was some kind of malicious, calculating monster trying to destroy passing ships and their crews.


Not all ships escaped the treacherous reefs. The Angel, an American ship, crashed on a reef in 1870. The crew made it to shore but were later found violently murdered, their corpses strewn about the island.

The Esperanza (Spanish for Hope), a Spanish pirate ship, crashed into a reef and some of that crew survived. They made it to the shore with quite a bit of their plunder: Incan silver and gold stolen from Peru. Apparently the rest of the treasure fell into the sea with the wreck.

The pirates waited a year to be rescued, but no one ever came. So they buried the treasure, built some rafts, and set off to get help.  Only one member of the crew survived but later died of pneumonia. He never did say where the loot was buried.

Other ships wrecked over the years and some survivors made it to the shore. It seems that their troubles were only just beginning at that point. According to Brent Swancer in his article, The Cursed Paradise of Palmyra Atoll,

“[The survivors] claimed that the forests were home to shadowy beasts that watched from the cover of trees and that the trees themselves seemed to whisper and creak in unsettling ways. The sea and lagoon of the island were no less unpleasant and un-welcoming. The sea life was said to be poisonous to eat, and there was a staggering number of highly aggressive sharks prowling the waters there. Many who survived the wrecks of their ships were ravaged by sharks before they could make it to land, and it was said that it was unsafe to so much as wade in the lagoon.”

PalmyraGIsUS Navy in WWII

The atoll was transformed during World War II by the American Navy. They built a big runway for their airplanes and used it for refueling planes and submarines in the area, as well as a staging area for raids upon the Japanese.

US sailors also felt the effects of the mysterious curse. Many were overwhelmed by the often documented feelings of dread and profound fear. Some military men actually insisted they be transferred off the island to escape the terrible feelings it evoked in them.

Other sailors fell victim to irrational and often violent outbursts. Fighting amongst the men was not uncommon and there were even some murders reported within the ranks. Suicides were also on the rise.

On one occasion a plane crashed on the island and was witnessed by many. They went to search for it and could never find a trace of the crew, any debris, or any fire related to the crash.  What happened to the plane remains a mystery to this day.

PalmyraDownedPlaneAnother time, a plane took off, got airborne, and instead of flying due North, it flew due South and was never seen or heard from again. The report said this incident happened during the daytime, under clear conditions, and that the crew were all capable and very experienced.

Finally, another plane was approaching the airstrip without any trouble, when all of a sudden it crashed into the ocean. The crew escaped but were then attacked by those ferocious sharks who still seem to lurk in that area.

Tragedy of Mac and Muff Graham

The tragic tale of this well-to-do couple is dramatic and fairly sordid. It goes on for a bit like any good soap opera, so I’m going to save it for the podcast of this episode rather than write it all down here. So stay tuned for that podcast, coming in (hopefully) a few weeks.

PalmyraResearhStationToday’s Visitors

A tremendous sense of doom and foreboding still permeate the area to this day. Scientists on geological surveys of the atoll report the same negative feelings. (Photo right of the Palmyra research station sign.)

I’ve got a theory about what might be causing all these problems and it all starts with electromagnetic fields (EMFs). These emissions are quite common in areas with volcanic and earthquake activity. Let’s not forget, the entire Palmyra Atoll sits atop the rim of a large volcanic caldera.

I’m doing some more research into EMFs and what, if any, effect they can have on the human brain. When I get that all sorted, I’ll write an article about it and share it here on CryptoVille.

In the meantime, what do you think of the Palmyra Atoll? Would you like to go there?


  1. Very interesting. I think you’re right. Between the dangerous shallow coral reef and large number of sharks surrounding the island and the possible magnetic anomalies, together I can see why they would turn that tropical paradise into something out of a night mare.

  2. Have you found something out ? I just heard about this atoll today.. As I believe in curses and stuff, I got really curious about this place. Wow.

    • Hi Liz! I’m sorry I didn’t answer you sooner – I didn’t realize the comment was here. WordPress almost always lets me know when someone comments.

      I’m working on some updates which are on my “to do list.” I also never made the podcast about this – ugh!! Will try to get to that too. Boy, I hate when real life gets in the way of CryptoVille!! 🙂

      Thanks for visiting CryptoVille! … Susan (CryptoVille)

    • Hi Mich! Yes, it’s a strange place for sure! I am working on a couple updates, things I discovered since this initial article. Please stay tuned to CryptoVille and you’ll see them when I can get a chance to post them. If you want to be sure to not miss them, you can join the email list which sends you an email with the latest article each time I post one.

      Thanks for visiting CryptoVille! … Susan (CryptoVille)

  3. Hi Mich, I produced The FBI Files series on the Discovery Channel and we did an episode on Mac and Muff Graham. I’ve been fascinated with the Atoll ever since. As a documentary filmmaker I’ve been to 36 countries and some pretty amazing places but we didn’t film there. We shot in Hawaii and Virginia Beach to simulate it. It’s on my bucket list and I am working on a movie script that would take place there. Also as diver and underwater cameraman this place would be fantastic.

    • Hi Dean! It certainly sounds like you’ve had some wonderful and exciting adventures! Good luck with the new movie!

      Thank you for visiting CryptoVille! … Susan (CryptoVille)

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