“The Iron Coffin”: The German Navy’s Cursed and Haunted Submarine

From the time she was being constructed, in 1916, there was something sinister and evil about the German submarine UB-65.

Before she was even launched, an accident in the Hamburg shipyard occurred, where a steel girder broke from a crane, crushing a ship builder to death. A second worker was also badly injured.

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Investigators could find no reason for the accident, and within a few months, the submarine had put to sea, undergoing trials. Three engineers, testing the ship’s batteries, were overcome with deadly fumes. Again, an inquiry was launched, but failed to determine the cause of their deaths.

Despite her early record of tragedy, the submarine was commissioned, and placed under the command of Kapitanleutenant Martin Schelle, a 29-year-old veteran of the Kaiser’s Navy.

She soon put to sea in an operational capacity, and found herself in the middle of a fierce storm. Captain Schelle used this opportunity to test his boat’s ability to surface in rough seas, and upon breaking the surface, a sailor was washed overboard to his death.

German U-boat

Unexplained Malfunctions Aboard UB-65

Soon after, ballast tanks sprung a leak, and the submarine plunged to the bottom of the sea. Seawater rushing inside caused the dry cell batteries to leak the same toxic fumes that had earlier killed the engineers.

This time, however, the crew was fortunate and suffered no fatalities. UB-65 remained on the bottom of the ocean for 12 long hours, before she was finally able to surface.

Returning to harbour, engineers could again find no explanation for the malfunctions. The crew were beginning to feel their ship was cursed, and many no longer wanted to serve on UB-65. She had soon earned the nickname “The Iron Coffin” within the U-boat fleet.

After leaving port, another tragedy occurred. An exploding torpedo killed the second officer, and wounded several others. Schelle returned to port, the officer was buried, and things started to get really eerie.

Ghost of the Second Officer Appears

While still docked, shortly after the funeral, a seaman claimed to watch the dead officer walk up the gangplank, towards the bow of the ship, and disappear before his very eyes.

More sightings were soon being reported. A lookout claimed to have seen the dead officer standing on the deck of the ship, in rough seas. At first, the commander dismissed the ghost stories, but then he reportedly came face to face with the dead man himself. Whether he admitted it or not, Captain Schelle was now a believer.

The high command finally agreed to have a priest bless the ship, a feat almost unheard of in the no nonsense German Navy. She docked in a port in Belgium, where the ritual was carried out.

After the ceremony was completed, the crew was broken up, and assigned to other ships in the fleet. A new crew was assigned to UB-65, and the captain demanded there was to be no further talk of ghosts.

The change of crew seemed to have no effect. The ghost of the officer was reported on several more occasions, once walking through a steel bulkhead. A torpedoman, terrified by the spirit, jumped to his death in the sea.



The Strange End to UB-65

In July of 1918, off the south coast of Ireland, a U.S. submarine sighted UB-65. Before the American crew could take any action, the German boat mysteriously exploded, seemingly on its own.

UB-65 took her entire crew to the bottom of the ocean, leaving only a patch of oil, some debris, and mystery behind.

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