My husband Mark calls me “The Ghostgeek.” I would eat, sleep and drink all things paranormal if I could. If there’s a book about ghosts, I read it. If there is a movie about ghosts, I see it. If there is a television show about ghosts, I Tivo it, to watch again and again. So, naturally, if I’m going to be traveling, I make sure I stay at a place that has a history of ghosts and haunting. Imagine my happiness when after a stressful couple of months, I am able to take a weekend off from the husband and kids aboard a cruise ship. Well, it wasn’t exactly a cruise, but the stately grand dame of her day, the RMS Queen Mary.
The Queen Mary is permanently docked at the port of Long Beach, California, just a short jaunt south from Los Angeles. Launched in 1936, the transatlantic luxury liner built by the Cunard White Star Line (known for building the Titanic), is now a hotel and museum. She was known to host the rich and famous and even more known for her years in military service.
The “Grey Ghost” as she was nicknamed during World War II, once served as a troop transport during the war carrying sailors back and forth from Europe. In, 1942 while sailing in her routine zig-zag pattern, the Queen Mary collided with the British ship, Curacoa, splitting the much smaller vessel in half. The Queen Mary’s wartime orders were not to stop. Hundreds from the Curacoa were lost at sea.
In 1972, the Queen Mary opened her first 150 renovated staterooms as a hotel. If you’re expecting her to be plush and modern, you might be disappointed. The ship is in an ongoing state of preservation. On the other hand, if you are expecting to be whooshed back in time to the 1930s and all of its art deco splendor, this is your place to stay. True to all historical places, the ship maintains as many original details as possible. The lobby and the hallways of each deck are finished in dark polished wood. The keys to each stateroom very well could be the original big brass keys used way-back-when. But my favorite detail of its past is the central air system in the rooms. Mine consisted of four large ocular holes that swivel to either cold or warm but constantly-blowing air into the room. If you do not want air blowing on you just simply swivel the round hole up so it blows onto the ceiling.
As a girl on a budget, my reservation was for an inside stateroom. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be something I would feel comfortable in because of its lack of windows and I can sometimes get claustrophobic. I was elated when I got to my door to find a cute room with period details on the port side of the ship. I even had a porthole that opened for the sea breeze. I must admit, I never think to take a picture of my room until after I have made a mess in it so pardon my junk. Notice the light colored round thing above the mirror and chest of drawers? That’s my central air system.
The accommodations aboard the Queen Mary range from opulent first class suites down to inside staterooms with twin bed arrangements. Even though she is a classic, she does offer modern amenities like wireless Internet. My room was rather small but it was perfect for just me. I did take a peek into some of the larger rooms and was amazed at the space.
I didn’t just pick to stay at the Queen Mary at random. The weekend I planned for had a purpose. I attended the Ghost-Fest Expo 2006. The Ghost-Fest Expo was hosted by Queen Mary tour guide Erika Frost, Psychic Jack Rourke, Beyond Investigations Magazine, and the Learning Light Foundation. It was a weekend filled with lecturers from every aspect of the paranormal, classes, investigations, and lots of booths selling a wide array of goodies.
Prior to my arrival for the weekend, I had signed up for two nights of investigating some of the most haunted parts of the ship. The investigations were hosted by staff from Beyond Investigations Magazine, a great bunch of guys and gals. Our first stop of the haunted “hot spots” was the infamous Room B340. If this room sounds familiar it’s the room in which the alleged video “fakery” occurred on the Ghost Hunters television show. The room is no longer used as a stateroom and was sparsely decorated, only giving the effect it was ever a stateroom at all by the fact that it had a bed and a couple of small tables.
According to Brian from Beyond Investigations, there is no particular information as to why there is ghostly activity in this room, yet it has been reported by quite a few guests through the years. When it was used as a stateroom, the common complaint was of the covers being yanked off the bed. There was a story circulating that once a murder had taken place in the room, but I do not know the validity of that story. It’s a creepy room just by looking at it, but personally I didn’t have any particular “feelings” attached to it. I also didn’t witness anything out of the ordinary.
I did however feel just a little creeped out when my back was toward a dark corner of the room, but I chalk it up to nerves. I prefer my back up against something. I’m weird that way.
The next stop on my haunted tour brought me to the most popular ghost spot on the ship; the pool. The indoor pool, decorated floor to ceiling in art deco tiles, once was filled with salt water and no doubt the social gathering spot of the ship. Today it hosts a myriad of spirits as well as a vortex in the changing rooms. The most reported spirit hanging around is a little girl named Jackie. It is not known exactly why Jackie is there, although some of our group did attempt to ask her. You do get a strange feeling in and around the pool. The lighting does lend to the freaky atmosphere. Although there are many light fixtures it’s surprisingly dim which makes picture taking difficult. Of course, you can’t very well take a picture in that lighting without the flash but the shiny tiles reflect back extremely easy. I’m sure everybody had the dreaded “orbs” in their photos. Here is my best photo of the stairs leading down to the pool.
The changing room area consists of a narrow corridor filled with tiny alcoves that once were covered by curtains. When I went inside, I didn’t see anything unusual but the air does feel different than the air outside. Is it because of the lack of circulation? Could be, however the air did seem to feel electrically charged. Besides the fact that the changing rooms supposedly have a vortex allowing spirits to come and go, there is also one spirit who likes to hang around back there all the time. He is described as an angry aggressive man. I walked the narrow hall of the changing area and was unnerved that every time I walked past an alcove, there was a dark figure standing inside. Unfortunately, the dark figures were people from our group trying to capture any ghostly evidence. Even if it wasn’t haunted, it would be a great place to hide and scare somebody.
Our third stop on the investigation was the Mauritania Room. The room, named after another well known Cunard White Star luxury liner, is located near the bow of the ship and used for private functions as well as business meetings. It has a strangeness about it because of its location so close to the front of the ship, the floor is bowed upward. The room does not lend itself to the art deco feel. It felt more like it was renovated during the 1970s with big rectangular florescent boxes on the ceiling.
The story about the room seems to focus more on a residual haunting. Cleaning ladies have seen women in period dress dancing about in the room. While a few people attempted to make some kind of contact with any spirits in the room, most, myself included, used it more as a rest stop between haunted locations do to the lack of feeling anything strange. We drank the water provided for us, and sat in the burgundy dining chairs waiting for our next stop.
Our final stop of the night is where I had my most profound experience aboard the ship. The boiler room no longer holds the ship’s huge boilers. It is now is a cavernous empty hull with rusty walls. There is a large wooden platform with a stage-like rise in the center of the room. This would surely be a great place for a Halloween party. On the other side of the stage, there is a wooden walkway that leads to a caged door. On the other side of that door is a small 10’ x 10’ sheet-rocked room with a large square cut-out in the ceiling. This small room is known as the Green Room. It’s not green, but during the 1980s The Walt Disney Company leased the Queen Mary and used the Boiler room as a staged production area. The little room was used as a back stage waiting area for guests of the productions hence the name.
As the legend goes, a violent spirit resides in and around the green room. No one knows exactly why he is there, but psychics have claimed his name is John Henry or “Hank.” During the days of the green room, it was reported that people, or women in general, were attacked in this small space. They were punched, scratched, even shoved into the wall. Most of the reports nowadays involve strange dark shadows that dart, movement, banging against the walls, and footsteps coming from just above the hole in the ceiling.
I was in the Green Room with some of the investigators when I began to feel very strange sensations. While the others were egging the spirit on to show himself, I literally felt like the air was so heavy around me, it was smothering me. My head was swimming and I began to instantly feel nauseous. When asked, no one else claimed to feel as I did, although they did say that the air felt rather heavy. I tried to lift my arm and it felt like I was lifting a huge weight in my hand. I began to get a little scared at the thought of almost passing out. But I was more afraid of walking out of the room and being alone and more vulnerable to the anry spirit. I was so happy when it was time to leave. I still felt sick in my room but it disappeared by bedtime. I did check for any scratches or markings the next day. Thank Goodness there were none.
The next night we ventured into the Engine Room where another famous ghost sighting occurs near watertight door 13. As the story goes, a young workman was practically cut in two while playing a game of chicken with the watertight doors during a fire drill. He has been seen in the engine room lurking about where he met his demise. I didn’t feel or see anything out of the ordinary in the Engine Room. It is surprisingly clean because it is included on the ships self-guided tour. Door 13 has even been altered to accommodate the people walking through.
Unfortunately, I was unable to visit the Cargo Hold of the ship during my weekend. The Cargo Hold is another spot with ghostly activity. I don’t know too much about this area other than what I was told by the Beyond Investigation team. Apparently this is the area that was damaged while colliding with the Curacoa. It also may have been a hold for prisoners during the war. Dark shadows and apparitions of soldiers have been seen as well as hearing German spoke when no one is speaking German. No one alive that is!
In between all my investigating at Ghost-Fest, I did take time out to listen to quite a few interesting lectures, purchase some books, meet some wonderful (and famous) people, and even say hello to a few old friends. When my weekend was over I felt exhilarated and sad at the same time. I had a wonderful weekend aboard the classic ship but I was sad my weekend was at a close. I plan to come back very soon and explore more of what the ship has to offer.
Though I visited the ship during a ghost conference weekend, the ghosts of the Queen Mary are there every day of the year. The Queen Mary offers a variety of ways you can experience the ghosts yourself. A Haunted Encounters passport includes a full day ghosthunting, including a walking tour, a Ghost Encounters video, a visit to the Paranormal Research Center, a scavenger hunt, and the Ghosts & Legends show, a special effects walk-through show that recreates some of the most popular ghost sightings. The Queen Mary’s “Attractions @ Night,” feature a few more in-depth ways to investigate the spirits after dark including fine dining at Sir Winston’s restaurant.
The Queen Mary does have more to offer besides her ghosts. Currently there is a black and white photography exhibit taken by MGM Studios photographer, George Hurrell, that captures the essence of the gilded age of Hollywood. Also coming in 2007 is a World War II exhibit.
For more information on accommodations, rates, and all the Queen Mary has to offer go to www.queenmary.com.