Skorpios is known across the world as the idyllic private island belonging to Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle “Ari” Onassis. The retreat even hosted the billionaire’s 1968 wedding to former first lady Jackie Kennedy. But the island is no longer in the public eye thanks to the introduction of strangely strict security measures.
Situated on the Ionian Sea, Skorpios is one of the Greek Islands. It lies to the west of the mainland and east of Lefkada island. And while the private retreat is unusual in its shape, it roughly covers an area of 3,280 feet by 4,921 feet. Today, it boasts sandy beaches and thick forests. This, however, wasn’t always the case.
That’s because Skorpios was largely barren when Aristotle “Ari” Onassis purchased it as a private retreat back in 1962. The Greek shipping tycoon bought the land for 3.5 million drachmas, which is the equivalent of around $12,000 in today’s money. And Ari soon set about transforming the arid island into an inviting idyll.
In order to create a tranquil retreat, then, Ari imported more than 200 types of trees to Skorpios. He then established great forests running the whole length of the island to make for a leafy landscape. And alongside helping to create widespread woodlands, he also made East Beach with sand taken from Greece’s Salamis Island.
But it wasn’t until 1968 that Skorpios would come to the attention of the wider public. For it was then that Ari tied the knot with Jackie Kennedy on the island. The Greek businessman and the former first lady of America had been long-term friends before then, of course. But romance had developed between the pair following the assassinations of her first husband, John F. Kennedy, and her brother-in-law Robert F. Kennedy.
The assassinations in fact left Jackie fearing for her family’s safety. And following the death of Robert in 1968, the concerned mother stated, “If they’re killing Kennedys, then my children are targets.” As a result, Jackie said of the U.S, “I want to get out of this country.”
So in Ari, Jackie seemingly found love and some semblance of security, and the couple married in October 1968. At the time of their wedding, the shipping magnate was 23 years older than his new bride. Yet despite Ari also being one of the richest men on the planet, his nuptials with the former first lady were surprisingly intimate.
The couple actually married in a traditional Greek Orthodox service. Jackie’s children – Caroline and John Jr. – were both involved in the celebration, as was Lee Radziwill, the bride’s sister. The nuptials were also attended by approximately 40 guests who were largely family members and close friends of the pair.
And following the couple’s wedding on Skorpios, they and their guests boarded the businessman’s super yacht
Christina for the reception. The island would therefore remain a special part of the pair’s lives and formed one of their six residences. Aside from the private island, you see, the newlyweds owned homes in Paris, Manhattan, New Jersey and Athens — and they also lived on board the Christina.
So thanks to the couple, Skorpios became one of the best known private islands on the planet. The retreat’s fame, however, came at a cost to the pair’s own privacy. In 1971, in fact, Jackie was snapped sunbathing naked on one of the island’s beaches. The photographs were subsequently published in Italy in 1972, provoking outrage in the States.
It turned out that Settimio Garritano had taken the revealing nude photographs of Jackie. The Italian paparazzo had actually managed to gain access to Skorpios by pretending to be a gardener. And after learning that the former first lady sometimes sunbathed naked, he took a boat to her preferred spot and hid the vessel behind some undergrowth.
From Garritano’s concealed position, then, he leered on as Jackie undressed until she was completely nude. In 2009 the photographer confessed that he’d struggled to believe the rumors about her habits at first. He told
The Telegraph, “It didn’t seem possible.”
But as Garritano had peeked out from behind the undergrowth, he had seen Jackie laid bare with his own two eyes. He later revealed, “Suddenly, she appeared and wandered around the patio area. I concentrated on just taking the pictures, not composing them. It was a matter of moments, not even minutes.”
At first, though, Garritano had struggled to sell the nude images that he’d captured of Jackie. That’s because a number of editors had simply refused to print them. However, the snaps then appeared in a 1972 edition of Italian magazine
Playmen. And while the decision to print the pictures caused a stir in the former first lady’s native U.S., her husband seemed unconcerned by the uproar.
Following the furor that the naked photographs created, you see, Ari reportedly said, “Sometimes I take my clothes off to put on a bathing suit. So does my wife.” The images were eventually published by the American magazine
Hustler in 1975 too. That edition consequently became the publication’s all-time best-seller.
But naked photographs weren’t the only scandal that Jackie became embroiled in during her marriage to Ari. In 1973, for instance, the shipping magnate’s son, Alexander, died aged 24 following a plane crash. But prior to his death, both he and Christina, his sister, apparently disapproved of their father’s marriage to the former first lady.
That’s because Alexander and Christina had reportedly hoped that Ari would reunite with their mother, Tina, following his affair with the famous Greek opera star Maria Callas. However, their father’s subsequent relationship with Jackie prevented such a reconciliation. Alexander even later attacked the couple, stating, “My father loved names, and Jackie loved money.”
Following Alexander’s untimely death, then, Christina’s dislike of Jackie seemingly intensified. And as Ari’s health deteriorated in the wake of his son’s passing, Christina sought to convince her father that the former first lady was cursed. She even pointed to the assassinations of Robert and John F. Kennedy in order to support her claims.
Interestingly, though, the so-called Kennedy curse has been a topic of fascination in the media for years. The idea came about, of course, after the prominent political family were dogged by a number of deaths and tragedies. Aside from the assassinations of John and Robert, you see, many members of the famous family have suffered early deaths in a range of unfortunate circumstances.
In relation to the Kennedy curse, though, skeptics have pointed out that many of the events experienced by the family could be considered normal. And in a large family like theirs, people say, it’s entirely possible for tragedies to occur at such a seemingly high frequency. So it therefore doesn’t mean that some kind of supernatural influence is at play.
At least one member of the family has publicly addressed the Kennedy curse, though. In 1969, in fact, Ted Kennedy accidentally steered his car off a Massachusetts bridge in an occurrence known as the “Chappaquiddick incident.” Though Ted himself escaped unscathed, the event led to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, his passenger.
And following the crash in Chappaquiddick, Ted failed to report the incident to authorities for several hours. As a result, he subsequently pleaded guilty to causing personal injury by leaving the scene of an accident. In a statement following his court appearance, too, the Senator questioned “whether some awful curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys.”
It’s not clear what Jackie herself thought of the Kennedy curse, though. Yet she has been accused of transferring the hex to the Onassis family by marrying the shipping magnate. Christina, for one, certainly believed that her father’s new wife had brought them bad luck. And her suspicions surrounding the former first lady must only have been intensified when her mother died in 1974 following an alleged drug overdose.
The Onassises’ string of bad luck continued when the family’s business empire ran into difficulties too. And at the same time, Ari’s health continued to fail. Soon, he too reportedly came to believe that Jackie had brought the Kennedy curse to his family. And as a result, the businessman apparently looked into divorcing his wife. He also changed his will to reduce the payout she’d receive in the event of his death.
So when Ari died in Paris in March 1975, Christina was named as his sole heir. However, Jackie contested her late husband’s will, and – after a couple of years of negotiations – she accepted a $26 million settlement from her estranged stepdaughter. Meanwhile, the shipping magnate was laid to rest on his beloved Skorpios — where his son also lies.
Sadly, the misfortunes that the Onassis family experienced didn’t end with Ari’s death and Jackie’s subsequent estrangement. Tragedy in fact struck again in 1988 when cardiac arrest claimed Christina’s life at just 37 years old. The former first lady herself also died at the relatively young age of 64. This was in 1994 after she’d contracting Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer.
Following Christina’s death, though, she was buried alongside her father and brother on Skorpios. The island and the rest of Christina’s share in the Onassis assets then passed to her only child, Athina Onassis Roussel. Athina subsequently became one of the world’s richest women. However, the heiress rarely frequented Skorpios. She in fact moved to Sao Paulo after marrying the Brazilian showjumper Àlvaro de Miranda Neto.
Given that Athina seemingly had little interest in Skorpios, then, the private island reportedly caught the attention of Giorgio Armani and Bill Gates. It’s rumored that both men even expressed an interest in buying the retreat at one time or another. However, Athina eventually sold the idyll to Russian heiress Ekaterina Rybolovleva in 2013.
Ekaterina is the daughter of billionaire businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev. She was, in fact, just 24 when she acquired a long-term lease of Skorpios, and the deal struck between the two women was reportedly worth $150 million. However, it was not immediately clear what the heiress would do with the island.
Yet one of Ekaterina’s first moves after acquiring Skorpios was to prevent tourists from coming to the private island. Visitors had previously been permitted, you see, although their access was confined to a couple of the retreat’s small coves. Under the new owner’s tenure, however, it seemed that outsiders would not be tolerated at all.
To ensure that no one could access Skorpios, in fact, Ekaterina employed a specialist team of bodyguards from the United States and France to patrol the island around the clock. They also apparently use advanced surveillance equipment. The heiress reportedly wanted to enlist a team of frogmen to guard the waters surrounding the retreat as well.
Yet it’s believed that those strict security measures were put into effect on Skorpios without permission from the Greek police. But in any case, they seemingly worked in deterring people from visiting the private island. In the years following Ekaterina’s purchase, mind you, a number of ghost stories have emerged from the tightly guarded retreat.
Following the sale of Skorpios, for example, a number of unexplained sightings were reported on the island. And they involved a silhouette of a man who apparently looked like Ari. This led to a spine-tingling tale. In his will, people said, the shipping magnate stated that the retreat must remain in the Onassis family. And so it was rumored that the businessman had started haunting his former home — maybe as a direct result of Ekaterina’s purchase.
Two such sightings were, in fact, apparently reported by a security guard who worked for Dmitry Rybolovlev. The unnamed man allegedly told Greece’s
Espresso newspaper that he first came across the strange shadow while patrolling Skorpios in 2016. The figure had seemingly worn a black suit and held a cigar in one hand.
The security guard reportedly said he had not seen the man before and had tried to approach him. But as he walked towards the silhouette, he apparently said, the shadow vanished into thin air. While on another occasion, the same man had allegedly noticed flickering lights inside one of Skorpios’ villas. But there had been no one in the residence, he seemingly said. And in an even spookier development, an electrician supposedly later confirmed that there had been no issue with the building’s power supply.
So, following these two unsettling experiences, the alleged security guard in question apparently realized that the man he’d spotted resembled the island’s late former owner. The incident had reportedly scared him so much, in fact, that he quit his job and never returned to Skorpios. Others who’ve frequented the island can also attest to a strange presence at the location.
For instance, another person who believed they’d seen Ari’s ghost on Skorpios was a fisherman from the nearby island of Lefkada. Speaking to Keep Talking Greece, he revealed that he’d seen a figure dressed in black approaching one of the villas. At first, he said, he’d believed his eyes had deceived him. But after hearing about the security guard’s spooky experiences, the angler then became convinced that he’d encountered the island’s former owner.
The rumored sightings of Ari’s ghost on Skorpios hit headlines in Greece in May 2018. Of course, there’s no way of knowing if the shipping tycoon is indeed haunting the private island. Given the wishes that he outlined in his will, however, there’s a chance that he wouldn’t have been happy about the new owner’s plans for Skorpios — which emerged in September 2018.
For it was around then that Sergei Tsernitsin, a representative of Dmitry Rybolovlev, thanked the Ionian Island Regional governor, Theodoros Galiatsatos, for helping a proposed development on Skorpios. Yes, Dmitry is reportedly planning to build a luxury resort on the island. This would consist of at least 12 villas and a number of restaurants and spas as well as a marina.
The project proposed by the Rybolovlev family would be the only luxury resort in Greece. It would also become the latest in a select number of destinations situated on private islands. As an official EU Natura site, however, Skorpios is protected. This means that buildings can only be erected on five percent of its acreage. Ari’s legacy on the retreat, then, shouldn’t be totally threatened after all.