Years before the Titanic sank, two mysterious books were published that seemed to predict the disaster

Years before the Titanic sank, two mysterious books were published that seemed to predict the disaster

The Titanic

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Did two fictional stories predict the tragedy?

  • The Titanic - a ship billed as an "unsinkable" luxury cruise liner - sank on April 15, 1912.
  • Over 1,500 people died in the disaster.
  • Two fictional stories penned in 1886 and 1898 describe events that share uncanny similarities with the tragedy.
  • W.T. Stead, the author of one of the pieces, ultimately lost his life on the Titanic.

The Titanic disaster has inspired countless stories.

That's not surprising. A luxury ocean liner sinking into the freezing Atlantic Ocean on its maiden voyage, dooming over 1,500 people, makes for a tale charged with pathos and danger.

Starting with "Saved from the Titanic," a short silent film starring one of the survivors, artists have churned out work after work detailing the chilling events of the April 15, 1912 disaster.

Libraries are stocked with plenty of non-fiction books and novels about the doomed ship. Critics praised the highly accurate 1958 British drama "A Night to Remember," which boasts a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score. A 1997 Broadway musical about the disaster earned five Tony awards. And, of course, that same year, James Cameron came out with his blockbuster epic, Titanic, which broke a ton of box office records. The hit still earns bit actors residuals.


But two fictional stories written before the disaster are truly remarkable. They include details that bear an eerie resemblance to what happened during the real-life catastrophe. Of course, it's important to note that transatlantic ocean liners were a major facet of travel in the late 19th and early 20th century. But some of the coincidences are uncanny, nonetheless.

The first work was written in 1886 by W.T. Stead, a prominent spiritualist and investigative journalist.

"How the Mail Steamer Went Down in Mid Atlantic, by a Survivor" tells the story of an unnamed ocean liner that sinks in the Atlantic. In the story, the protagonist is a sailor named Thompson, who grows concerned over the lifeboat shortage on deck. Sure enough, the liner collides with a small sailing ship in a fog.

As the ocean liner sinks, women and children are given priority seating on the lifeboats, but chaos reigns and only 200 passengers and crew members of the original 700 people on board survive the disaster. Thompson himself survives when a lifeboat circles back around and pulls him from the water.

Stead concludes the piece with a word of advice: "This is exactly what might take place and what will take place if the liners are sent to sea short of boats."


In a horrible twist of fate, Stead lost his life in the disaster, and in another strange twist, he reportedly was convinced he'd die by either lynching or drowning.

The second novella - "The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility" by Morgan Robertson - boasted even more startling similarities to the sinking of the Titanic.

The story follows the fictional ocean liner Titan, which ultimately hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sinks. And the name and circumstances of the plot aren't the only details that fit the real-life disaster - the History of the Net breaks down a number of striking connections between the real-life and fictional ships.

Like the Titanic, the Titan was described as the largest ship afloat at the time. In fact, the sizes and lengths of the ships are quite close, as well as the speed at which they crash into the iceberg. Both liners have a dangerous shortage of lifeboats. In the story, the Titan was both dubbed "unsinkable," and proceeded to sink on a cold April night.

The Titan's sinking resulted in the deaths of all 2,500 people on board, save 13. Over 1,500 people died on the Titanic, while 705 survivors made it out.


After the sinking of the Titanic, the book was reissued and Roberston was labeled a clairvoyant. He said that he simply was knowledgeable about maritime operations saying, "I know what I'm writing about, that's all."