Cannibal rats aren't likely to be swarming off a derelict ship onto the British Isles anytime soon, but headlines about the prospect were sure swarming over the British press on Thursday.
"Ship of Ghouls!" The Sun screamed. The tabloid's story spawned many other headlines of that ilk, sometimes with capital letters for extra emphasis. "GHOST ship crewed only by CANNIBAL rats feared to be heading for Scottish coast," the Daily Record declared.
It made for the tastiest click bait since "Sharknado!" But alas, there's not much behind this rat tale.
The part about the missing ship is factual: The Russian-registered cruise ship Lyubov Orlova was seized by Canadian authorities in 2010 when the ship's owner went into debt. Last year, the ship was supposed to be towed to the Dominican Republic for salvage, but a tow line broke loose in the North Atlantic and the vessel was set adrift. The Canadians let it float off after they determined it wouldn't be a threat to offshore operations. No one has spotted it since last February. (The "Where Is Lyubov Orlova" website is keeping track.)
The part about the cannibal rats comes from a Belgian salvager named Pim de Rhoodes. "She is floating around out there somewhere," The Sun quotes him as saying. "There will be a lot of rats and they eat each other. ... If I get aboard I’ll have to lace everywhere with poison."
The stories also speculate that a recent spate of storms could drive the Lyubov Orlova toward the English, Scottish or Irish coast. However, the BBC quotes representatives of the Irish and British coast guards as saying they've seen no sign of the ship. Or the rats.
If you're looking for more of a reality check, plus a broader perspective on the scores of ships that are lost on a yearly basis, check out this report from Quartz. But if you're looking for more entertainment, check out the #RatGhostShip chatter on Twitter:
Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding +Alan Boyle to your Google+ circles. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.