Turns Out The ‘Cannibal Rat Ship’ Was Used As A Casino By The Mob

The story behind a mysterious ship wrecked sea vessel that was found on a beach in California has been revealed after a TV documentary uncovered its fascinating past – which included it being used as a casino by gangsters.

New Information

Science Channel documentary “What On Earth?” delved into the murky history of the vessel that was originally discovered back in 2016. It has remained under investigation ever since as experts have attempted to find out what caused the ship to end up as a wreck.

Situated close to the Californian city of San Diego, the 300 feet long ship was initially believed to have originated from Pre-World War I Russia.

The ship was thought to have potentially been the MV Lyubov Orlova that was due to be scrapped. That vessel went missing off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada in 2013 when its tow-line broke as it made its final journey to the scrap.

The shipwreck of a gambling and prostitution ship
Image Credit: en.wikipedia.org

“Cannibal Rats”

There had even been rumours at one point that the ship had become overrun by “cannibal rats” according to one contributor to the documentary. This was allegedly possible due to the rats not having any other source of food on the ship.

However, investigators read deep into the archives in San Diego and it soon appeared that the ship wrecked on the Californian beach was constructed from a different material to that of the MV Lyubov Orlova. The ship was actually built using concrete.

President Thomas Woodrow Wilson, who reigned from 1913-1921
Image Credit: politico.com

Further investigation began to link the wrecked ship to a vessel by the name of the SS Monte Carlo. The archives stated that 12 concrete ships had been built to be used within the Quartermaster Corp of the US Army post-World War I.

Concrete Over Steel

On 12th April, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson took the decision to use concrete to build ships overseen by the Emergency Fleet Corporation. This was due to steel supplies becoming rare after the global conflict of 1914 to 1918.

If constructed in the correct manner then concrete could float on water. The ship, operating as an oil tanker, had initially been launched in 1921 shortly after World War I had finished. It was first christened as the SS McKittrick.

The S.S. Monte Carlo that later became a gambling ship
Image Credit: ibtimes.co.uk

Once the war ended, the ship was retired from service and was reportedly sold off to Ed Turner and Martin Schouwiler. It was then taken under management by the mob in 1932.

Once in the mob’s hands it was given a makeover and turned into a floating casino just in time for the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles that proved to be a hit with the public.

Unsurprisingly, the ship earned the nickname of the “sin ship”.

Prohibition-Era Artefact

During the time of the Great Depression, Prohibition era America saw a huge rise in creative methods being used to offer US citizens the chance to drink liquor and gamble without being prosecuted.

The SS Monte Carlo provided such an outlet and the mob were more than happy to manage the venue and rake the profits. It sailed off the coast of Long Beach.

Operating as a casino with a speak-easy, the ship turned over healthy revenue for the mob. The bar with bootlegged booze would give ordinary members of the public an opportunity to get their drink and enjoy a flutter.

It is rumoured that there was also a prostitution service offered on board.

A Mob Money-Maker

Records show that the ship seemingly came loose from its anchors 3 miles off the coast of Coronado Beach in international waters during a storm on New Year’s Day in 1937.

The ship sailed out into the ocean before hitting landfall on the coastline of Coronado City. City authorities took official ownership of the vessel. Its concrete body made it too heavy to move and so it had remained hidden beneath the surface until last year when a high tide allowed the ship to be revealed once more.

Silver dollars from on-board the SS Monte Carlo
Image Credit: coronadotimes.com

It is believed that the ship generated more than $3 million per year at the height of its popularity. It has also been said that there could still be a huge treasure trove that belonged to the mob present on the wreck.

Edward “Bud” Bernhard, the man credited with discovering the wreck back in 1937 as a 14-year-old boy, confirmed that he had found hundreds of dollars on the wreck.

Bernhard is quoted as saying, “I’m convinced there is $100,000 in gold and silver coins deep in that wreck”.