Terror Aboard UB-65: The True Ghost Story Of The Jinxed Submarine & The Spirit Of A Dead Officer
The ghost story of the German UB-65 submarine and its mysterious encounters with the spirit of a dead second officer before its unexplainable demise. Even before it set sail the U-boat had seen its fair share of death and disaster.
Night was falling at the end of a bitterly cold day in January, 1918, as the German submarine UB-65 slid into the English Channel looking for action. She was 15 miles off Portland Bill as the grey winter twilight deepened. The sea was rough and sheets of spray drenched the conning tower.
The U-boat's starboard lookout, screwing up his eyes as he peered over the bridge, was astonished to see an officer standing just below him on the heaving deck.
What in God's name was he doing there? He must be mad. Come to that, how on earth did he get there anyway? All the hatches on the conning tower had been firmly battened down.
He was about to hail the officer to warn him that he was in great danger, when the figure on the deck turned and gazed up at the bridge. Even in the twilight, the lookout recognised the face, and his blood froze.
It was the ship's former second officer, killed in an explosion on the maiden voyage, his body buried in the military cemetery at Wilhelmshaven. It seemed hours before he could move his lips. "It's a ghost," he yelled. The U-boat's captain rushed to his side, and he too saw the upturned face, before the figure melted into the gathering darkness.
This was not the first time that the Phantom of UB-65 had appeared to strike terror into the hearts of the men who sailed in her. They had begun to dread the ghost as a harbinger of doom.
Ever since her keel was laid, disaster had followed disaster until UB-65 became known as a jinxed ship. The submarine had been built in 1916, one of a fleet designed to operate off the coast of Flanders and create havoc in the Channel. Her crew was made up of three officers and 31 ratings.
Only a week after work started on her, things began to go wrong. A girder being swung into position slipped from its chains and crashed down killing one workman outright and pinning another to the ground. He could not be released for an hour and then died in agony.
Before the submarine was finished there was another accident, this time in the engine room. Three men, overcome by fumes, died before they could be rescued.
On her trial run UB-65 ran into a fierce storm and a man was washed overboard. While she was on diving tests, one of the tanks developed a leak and it was 12 hours before she could be brought to the surface. The atmosphere was thick with poisonous fumes and when at last the hatches were opened officers and men staggered out half dead with suffocation.
But it was on her return from her maiden voyage that the UB-65 suffered her most violent shock. As she was taking in torpedoes a warhead exploded and in the terrible explosion that followed, the second officer was killed and several men badly injured. The officer was buried with full naval honours and the submarine had to go into the dockyard for repairs.
Some weeks later, just before the vessel was due to sail, a member of the crew crashed unceremoniously into the wardroom. Chalk white with shock, he gasped out, "Herr Ober-Leutnant, the dead officer is on board." The captain accused him of being drunk, but he swore that not only he but another rating had seen the dead officer walk up the gangplank.
The captain and other officers ran to the deck where they found the second seaman crouching against the conning tower. He explained in a voice barely above a whisper that the dead officer had come on board, walked towards the bows and stood there with folded arms. After a few seconds, he vanished.
The captain, fully aware of the impact such an incident would have on his superstitious crew, circulated the rumour that the whole thing had been a practical joke. Nobody believed him. Everyone knew the ship was haunted. On each tour of duty the U-boat carried its ghostly second officer. Men on watch jumped at every shadow. Word spread throughout the German navy that the UB-65 was haunted and nobody was anxious to serve on her.
Eventually, the authorities felt it was time such nonsense was stopped and sent a commodore to investigate. The high-ranking officer questioned the entire company. At first he could hardly conceal his impatience with what he believed was a superstitious fantasy. After hearing all the evidence, he was so impressed that he admitted he could understand the request by almost every member of the crew to transfer to another ship. Officially, the requests were never granted, but one by one men were switched. The UB-65 was withdrawn from active service, and, while in dock at the Belgian port of Bruges, a Lutheran pastor was quietly taken aboard to carry out the rite of exorcism. When she went to sea again the U-boat had a new captain and crew. The captain refused to tolerate what he called "damn nonsense" and threatened any man who spoke of ghosts with severe penalties. Strangely enough, the ship carried out two tours of duty without trouble, but when the unbeliever was replaced, the spirit reappeared. The next trip was the worst of them all.
During May of 1918, the UB-65 cruised in the Channel and later off the coast of Spain. The ghost was seen three times. A young petty officer swore he saw an unfamiliar officer walk into the torpedo room. He never came out again. After two more sightings, the torpedo gunner went mad, screaming that the ghost would not leave him alone. He threw himself over the side and his body was never recovered.
In spite of her terrible history, the UB-65 managed to escape the massive onslaught on the U-boats which came in the final months of war. On July 10, an American submarine patrolling at periscope depth spotted her on the surface. The Americans prepared to attack and were on the point of firing when the UB-65 blew up. The explosion was "tremendous, almost unbelievable," said an eye witness. When the smoke cleared all that was left was debris.
Many rational theories were put forward to explain what had happened. It was suggested that the submarine had been rammed by another German sub or perhaps the UB-65 herself had fired a torpedo that ran wild. But spectators admitted that none of them quite accounted for the force of the explosion.
The nearest another could guess was that by some means the mouth of a torpedo tube had been damaged so that when one was fired it fouled and detonated the rest of the torpedoes in the craft.
The company of 34 men went down the UB-65 that day, or was it 35? For the ghost of the second officer was never seen again.
Now you have read the story of the haunted UB-65 submarine, make sure you check out the true stories of the ghosts that have plagued the homes of the Royal Family.