|Milwaukee Journal, April 30 1937|
Port Washington, Wis., (AP) —Sheriff Ben F. Runkel Friday continued a search tor Capt. George Doner, who disappeared from the steamship O. S. McFarland while steaming to this port from Sheboygan Wednesday night.
The sheriff sent deputies to the lake shore north of here to hunt for the captain's body and asked commercial fishermen to be on the lookout. Coast guardsmen also cruised over Lake Michigan.
Runkel said ship's officers told him the captain had worried throughout a cruise from Erie, Pa., because the vessel's compasses were not functioning properly.
The disappearance of Captain George Doner is perhaps the most famous example of the many strange phenomena recorded in what is unofficially known as the "Lake Michigan Triangle." In April of 1937, the “O.S. McFarland” left Erie with a load of coal, bound for Port Washington,Wisconsin. On the evening of the 28th, Doner retired to his cabin, telling the crew to inform him when they were nearing their destination. It was a calm, dark night. The following day was his 58th birthday, and he had been sailing the Great Lakes for a quarter-century.
On arriving at the harbor of Port Washington, the captain was signaled to bring the boat between the piers, so it could be tied to the docks. After receiving no response, a search was immediately done of every inch of the ship, with no sign whatsoever of its captain. Other boats soon joined in the hunt, combing all the nearby waters, but to no avail. Captain Doner was never seen again.
It is of some interest that the "McFarland's" compasses had not been working normally during the voyage. Travelers through the more famous "Bermuda Triangle" have often reported the same problem, leading to theories that the area is plagued with some sort of periodic magnetic disturbance.
The crew said that the day before, the captain was "almost in a trance" and in "a highly nervous state" from sleeplessness and his concern over the compasses, leading them to speculate that in his dazed condition, he had accidentally fallen overboard. (They all discounted the idea of suicide, saying that Doner "was not that kind of man.")
Incidentally, when looking into this story, I discovered that the "O.S. McFarland" was previously named the "M.A. Reeb," and before that, the "Kensington." Such name-changing is, as most of you probably know, believed to bring bad luck to a ship.
It certainly brought bad luck to this particular ship's captain.
[Note: Virtually all modern-day retellings of this tale give the captain's name as "Donner." However, contemporary newspaper stories, as well as the gravestone put up in his memory, spell his surname as "Doner."]