Queen Mary Haunted ocean liner, now a hotel. One of the most elegant and fastest passenger ships of the Cunard White Star Line, the RMS Queen Mary also served as a troopship during World War II. It now sits in drydock in Long Beach, California, reconditioned as a hotel. But it is the Queen Mary’s reputation as one of the most haunted sites in the United States that attracts visitors from all over.
Named for Princess Mary of Teck, consort to English monarch King George V and grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Mary was built by John Brown & Company Shipbuilding and Engineering in Clydebank, Scotland. The Great Depression halted work in 1931, but construction was eventually completed, and the ship made her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, first stopping at Cherbourg, France, on May 27, 1936. The crossing took five days, five hours, and 13 minutes. She and her sister ship, Queen Elizabeth, were the fastest large ships on the Atlantic passage. The Queen Mary won the Blue Riband award for speed against the previous winner, the Normandie, in August 1936 and again in August 1938, holding the record for 14 years until unseated by the USS United States in July 1952.
The Queen Mary embarked August 30, 1939, on her last peacetime voyage before war broke out in Europe, carrying over 2,500 passengers (including actor and comedian Bob Hope and his wife) and millions in gold bullion. By the time she docked in New York on September 4, England had declared war on Germany. Cunard docked the Normandie and Queen Elizabeth there also until the ships sailed for Sydney, Australia, to be refitted as troopships. The Queens were painted battleship gray and were so fast and elusive that they were nicknamed the “Grey Ghosts.” From May 1940 through September 1946, the Queen Mary transported over 765,000 military personnel, setting records for total numbers of troops carried by the ship in a single voyage. Nearly 13,000 war brides and children also crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary after hostilities ended. The grande dame of transatlantic passenger liners took her last passenger voyage in September 1967 and then became an attraction of the City of Long Beach. The Mary is now a first-class hotel, with restaurants and party facilities.
The Queen Mary may have been the “Grey Ghost” during World War II, but now the Queen Mary hosts ghostly guests throughout the historic passenger liner. One of the apparitions reportedly seen or sensed by hotel guests or visitors touring the ship is that of John Pedder, an 18-year-old fireman who was crushed to death in watertight door No. 13 on July 10, 1966. Apparently he attempted to squeeze through the doorway as it was shutting and did not make it through. Several tourists have told of seeing a young man in blue overalls hovering near the door, and one couple, who laughingly invited Pedder to join them on the tour, found engine grease on their faces at the end—and the engine room had long been dismantled.
On October 10, 1942, the Queen Mary was pursuing a zigzag course across the ocean and accidentally collided with one of its escorts, the light cruiser HMS Curacoa, splitting the smaller boat in two. All 338 crewmembers were lost and supposedly the anguished cries of the sailors and the crush of grinding metal can be heard from the lower bow area.
Perhaps the most haunted part of the ship is the firstclass swimming pool, now drained and off limits except to guided tourists. People report hearing splashing and laughing, seeing swimmers in bathing suits from the 1930s and 1940s, finding wet footprints on the pool deck, and even observing a young girl holding a teddy bear. No drownings were ever recorded, but the pool and adjacent changing rooms attract a lot of spiritual attention. A ghost girl named Jackie has been experienced by many visitors and has been recorded on Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP).
Other ghostly appearances—many of them chilling but not always based on events—include the cries of a baby boy supposedly born on ship who did not survive, a woman dressed in a white evening gown who haunts the first class lounge, and a ship’s officer named William Stark who accidentally drank tetrachloride that was stored in a gin bottle. Cabin B340, once an available hotel room, is no longer open, allegedly due to paranormal activity resulting from the murder of a purser. One of the most grisly stories is about the ship’s cook during the Mary’s days as a troopship. He was reportedly such a terrible cook that the crew mutinied and stuffed him in the oven, killing him. While individuals who visit or work at the Queen Mary acknowledge many unexplained incidents, no records exist of either a murdered cook or purser.
The Disney Company’s subsidiary Wrather Corporation took over management of the Queen Mary in 1980, moving Howard Hughes’s giant wooden airplane, the Spruce Goose, next to the ship as an added attraction. Jacques Cousteau’s Museum of the Sea also shared space with the Queen Mary for a time. Management difficulties closed the ship from December 1992 until February 1993. The ship and hotel are once again operated by the City of Long Beach (the Spruce Goose is now in Oregon). On February 23, 2006, the Cunard liner Queen Mary 2 saluted her famous namesake as the new ship entered Los Angeles Harbor on her way to Mexico, giving the original Queen Mary much-needed publicity.
FURTHER READING :
- Belanger, Jeff. The World’s Most Haunted Places. Franklin Lakes, N.J.: New Page Books, 2004.
- Crawford, Tom. “The Queen Mary, Long Beach, California.” True Ghost Stories from Ghost Source. Available online. URL: www.ghostsource.com/900spotlight.html. Downloaded July 27, 2006.
- “Facts & History.” The Queen Mary. Available online. URL: www.queenMary.com/index.php?page=queenMarystats. Downloaded July 27, 2006.
- “Ghost Ship?” Queen Mary Ghosts. Available online. URL: http://home.compuall.net/-dianerush/haunt.html. Downloaded July 27, 2006.
RMS QUEEN MARY 1126 QUEENS HIGHWAY LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA 90802 TEL: 1 (562) 435-3511 WEBSITE: www.queenMary.com The RMS Queen Mary made her maiden voyage on May 27, 1936, and led a colorful life as a transatlantic ocean vessel as well as a troop ship during World War II. During the ship’s years of service, she completed 1,001 Atlantic crossings before being permanently docked in Long Beach, California, on December 11, 1967. She’s seen her share of both good times and tragedies. During World War II, the ship was painted military gray and given the ominous name “The Gray Ghost.” Prisoners committed suicide on the ship during her military service. Allied soldiers died from heat exhaustion during a heat spell in the Indian Ocean, when 16,000 troops were aboard a ship designed to comfortably accommodate only 3,000. And while running a submarine-evading zig-zag pattern in 1942, the Queen Mary accidentally cut through the much smaller Curaçao, sinking the escort vessel in a matter of minutes. Ghostly legends abound aboard the floating hotel today. According to psychic Peter James, there are more than 600 active ghosts on the ship today. Some of the more prominent spirit personalities include: Jackie, a young girl who was believed to have drowned in the second-class swimming pool; a man in black who has been spotted in some of the administrative offices and has been known to open and close doors, appear, then disappear, and move objects around the office; and an engineer in the boiler room who was crushed by one of the water-tight doorways on the lower decks. Additionally, visitors have reported hearing phantom scrapes and screams from when the Queen Mary sliced through the Curaçao, and many have smelled cigar smoke, though no smoking is allowed on board. People have seen the specters of people dressed in vintage clothing, as well as other semi-materialized body parts floating around the ship. —Jeff Belanger Founder, Ghostvillage.com
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