The Curse of the Ivan Vassili: The Legend of the Russian Ghost Ship

Updated: Jul 14

A tale filled with unexplained aggression and mysterious suicides, the legend of the cursed Russian ghost ship has terrified a nation for decades. Did the mysterious cursed ship of death really exist?

The Ivan Vassili
The curse of the Ivan Vassili has terrified seamen for decades

The Ivan Vassili started out its life in St Petersburg back in 1897, the Russian ship was built as a steam freighter, with the purpose of moving freight across the Baltic Sea from Russia to the Gulf of Finland. It was built of thick iron plates over a strong wooden hull and equipped with the very best steam engine that had a range of 2500 miles at a speed of 8 knots, it was a fast and reliable sea vessel that boasted a perfect record until 1903, when the tensions between the Russian Empire and Japan were at the brink of war. It was at this time that the Ivan Vassili took a dark plunge into the murky world of death and the paranormal.

As war appeared to be on the horizon, the role of the Ivan Vassili changed and it became a military supply ship for the Russian Navy. The ship was given the task of making the long and treacherous journey towards Port Arthur, Manchuria, and Vladivostok to deliver supplies to the other ships that were stationed there.

It was over 3,000 miles around the tip of Africa, making a stop off at Cape Town, South Africa along the way to resupply their coal for the last leg of the voyage. After this stop something changed within the ship, an unexplainable force began to let the crew know that they were not alone. The crew started to get a constant feeling of being watched and followed, they heard footsteps when no one was in sight and would experience the feeling of bitter cold that would come from nowhere.

It was also reported that a deep sense of extreme negativity would fall upon the crew, to the point that arguments and even fights would break out between crew members for absolutely no reason.

Ivan Vassili Ghosts
Legend says that the Ivan Vassili was cursed by the darkest of paranormal forces

One evening, a petrified and completely breathless sailor ran to his captain, the man explained that he had been on lookout when a ghostly figure enveloped in a glowing mist marched straight across the deck and approached a lifeboat before vanishing.

The man told his captain that just setting eyes on the figure had caused him to become disorientated and put an overwhelming sense of fear and dread in him.

Following on from this terrifying experience, the next night things got even worse, the men, without any prior warning, flew into a rage and started a wild fight between themselves, one of the men involved, out of the blue just threw himself overboard and fell to his death in the deep, dark ocean.

After the fight, the crew had no explanation as to why the brawl had occurred, they all said that it was as if a malevolent force had overcome all of them and taken control.

Unfortunately for the crew this only got worse, a couple of nights later the exact same scenario happened again, the men became frightened for no apparent reason and got filled with an overwhelming need to fight with each other. During the fight between the crew, yet another man jumped over the side of the ship and plunged to a watery grave, just like the previous incident the crew immediately settled down and none of them could explain what had made them get into such an aggressive and agitated state.

The men started to talk between themselves and rumours arose that an evil force had taken up residence on the ship which had the sole intention to harm or kill them.

When the ship reached Vladivostok more than a dozen petrified crewmen fled the ship, some of them, in that much of a state of fear even jumped off the side and swam the rest of the way to shore.

Ivan Vassili ghost stories
The story of the Ivan Vassili is still one of the most terrifying ghost stories from the sea

The deserters that tried to flee from the Ivan Vassili were quickly rounded back up and placed under armed guard, they were forced back onto the ship and told that they would continue their journey on this cursed vessel and were sent on their way to Hong Kong.

Not long after the ship set sail for its next destination, another violent fight broke out between the crewmen, yet another man jumped over the side of the ship and plummeted to his death while another man is said to have dropped dead of fright on the spot.

When the ship was approaching Hong Kong, the captain, Sven Andrist climbed onto the edge of the deck and without saying a word, threw himself into the freezing water, killing himself.

The crew of the Ivan Vassili had now come to the conclusion that their ship was cursed and if they stayed any longer they would, without doubt, meet the same fate as their fellow crewmen before them. The terrified crew fled again, this time they managed to evade capture and left the vessel as an empty container of death just sitting in the port.

Although the crewmembers were now convinced that an evil force was possessing the Ivan Vassili, the Russian government saw it as a perfectly good ship that just needed a crew.

They found a new Captain, as well as a new crew, and sent the ship on its way to Sydney, Australia, to pick up a shipment of wool.

The cursed vessel made it to Australia without any further incidents, until they pulled into the port and the new captain suddenly pulled a pistol out, put it to his head, and shot himself dead for no apparent reason at all.

The new crew, although they had experienced no paranormal activity on their first voyage, had heard the stories of the previous incidents and the tales that the previous crew told of the ship being cursed and haunted and refused to go any further on the vessel.

The Ivan Vassili yet again needed a new crew, this was now posing as a more difficult task as the sinister reputation of the ship quickly spread around, and it took months before a new complete crew could be gathered.

The doomed ship was once again set out to sail, this time it was being sent towards San Francisco, California. Whatever terror had gripped the previous men didn't take long to return, before they had even got halfway through their voyage, two men had died, others had gone insane and been locked away in their quarters, while the captain had taken his own life by shooting himself in the head.

The terrified crew decided to change course and head back towards Russia, where the Ivan Vassili was permanently put out of service, and eventually dragged back out to sea and burned.

According to the legend, when the flames consumed the cursed ship, the people in view heard devilish screams and shrieks coming from the vessel until it slipped into the dark waters beneath.

A fantastic and terrifying story that came from Russia, did the events actually occur? That we don't know, however, if you speak to many Russian seamen this story is a true account of what happened and stands as a grave warning about what can happen out at sea. Now you have read this story make sure you check out the black eyed children of Cannock Chase.


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