Report by Haunted Auckland investigator, Barbara Caisley
The Queen Mary is a retired ocean luxury-liner, which had been converted to a floating hotel, conference, and wedding venue and tourist attraction at Long Beach, California. It houses three different restaurants as well as bars and shops and retail areas. It has become an icon of Southern California and is considered to be one of America’s most haunted locations. The ship offers various ghost tours including twilight tours and séances.
Construction of the ship began in 1930 in Clydebank, Scotland and Cunard Line spared no expense in the build. As a result by the time she took her maiden voyage in 1936 the Queen Mary boasted five dining areas and lounges, two cocktail bars and swimming pools, a grand ballroom, a squash court and even a small hospital. Among facilities available on board Queen Mary, the liner featured two indoor swimming pools, beauty salons, libraries, and children’s nurseries for all three classes, a music studio and lecture hall, telephone connectivity to anywhere in the world, outdoor paddle tennis courts, and dog kennels. The largest room onboard was the cabin class (first class) main dining room (grand salon), spanning three stories in height and anchored by wide columns. The cabin-class swimming pool facility spanned over two decks in height. This was the first ocean liner to be equipped with her own Jewish prayer room – part of a policy to show that British shipping lines avoided the racism evident at that time in Nazi Germany.
The cabin-class main dining room featured a large map of the transatlantic crossing, with twin tracks symbolising the winter/spring route (further south to avoid icebergs) and the summer/autumn route. During each crossing, a motorised model of Queen Mary would indicate the vessel’s progress en route. Woods from different regions of the British Empire were used in her public rooms and staterooms. Accommodation ranged from fully equipped, luxurious cabin (first) class staterooms to modest and cramped third-class cabins.
The ship was thought to have supposed to be named the Queen Victoria as history dictated that ships from the Cunard line had names that ended in “ia”. It is said however, that when the Cunard directors went to ask King George for his blessing of the ship’s proposed name they said “We have decided to name our new ship after England’s greatest Queen,” (meaning Queen Victoria, the King’s Grandmother) and the King is reported to have stated, “My wife (Queen Mary) will be delighted that you are naming the ship after her.”
The Queen Mary sailed the North Atlantic Ocean (from Southampton to New York) from 1936 till 1967 and was considered to be the grandest ocean liner in the world and to be the only civilized way to travel.
However in late August 1939 the Queen Mary returned to Southampton from New York under escort by the battle cruiser HMS Hood. She set out again for New York on 1 September but by the time the ship arrived in New York, WW2 had started and the Queen Mary was ordered to remain in port until further notice. Later the ship went Sydney, Australia where she, along with the Queen Elizabeth and the Normandie (the three larges liners in the world at that time) were converted into troopships to carry Australian and New Zealand soldiers to the UK. Stateroom furniture and decorations were removed and replaced with triple-tiered wooden bunks, which were later replaced by standee bunks. The wooden interior was covered with leather and the carpet, silver, china and crystal, along with the artwork and tapestries were removed and stored in warehouses. The ship was also used to transport Winston Churchill across the Atlantic for meetings with the allies and was used to return American troops home after the war. The Queen Mary’s hull, superstructure and funnels were painted navy grey and she became known as the “Grey Ghost”. She was the largest and fastest troopship and could transport up to 16000 men at a speed of 30 knots. She often travelled unescorted as her speed made it difficult for enemy U boats to catch her.
After the war the ship underwent a ten-month refit to be made ready for passenger service again. The Queen Mary initially, once again dominated the transatlantic passenger trade, however when transatlantic flights commenced in 1958 her popularity faded and she was retired from service in 1967. By the time the ship sailed her final crossing from Southampton to Long Beach where she is now moored, the Queen Mary had completed her 1,000th crossing of the Atlantic and had carried 2,112,000 passengers over 6,102,998kms. She was then auctioned off and Long Beach, California beat the Japanese scrap metal merchants to her.
The ship was put on a permanent mooring, encased in concrete and converted to house restaurants, office space, a hotel and a museum, which were all owned and managed by different companies. The individual businesses did not do well and struggled financially for many years. Eventually the entire ship was forced to close its doors to visitors and tourists on 31 December 1992. Fortunately in February 1993 the Queen Mary reopened with the City of Long Beach holding the lease. It was to be run as a single entity and although it has had several changes of owners and management it is still open as a tourist attraction, hotel, conference and event centre.
The ship is reportedly haunted and this has been part of the promotion and marketing of the attraction, with the Queen Mary now being rated by some as “one of the top 10 most haunted places in America”. The swimming pool is reputedly haunted by children, visitors have reported the apparition of a young sailor, the sound of young children playing have been heard in the nursery area, shadows have been seen in the corridors and Cabin B340 is allegedly haunted by the spirit of a person who was murdered there. At least 49 crew and passengers are recorded as having died during the Queen Mary’s service as a liner but it is not known how many died aboard the ship during her military service, as this information has not been released.
Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures and Most Haunted have all done shows on board. The ship offers ghost tours and séances, which explore the haunted past of the ship and paranormal events, which have been reported onboard. There is also a Haunted Encounters tour, which explores the ship inside and out and tells the ghost stories about the ship.
A Personal Recount of My Visit:
I have always been intrigued by the Queen Mary and the stories of apparitions, shadows, haunted cabins and especially the alleged paranormal activity around the old swimming pool area. At one time there was a “ghost-cam” set up in the pool area of the ship and I spent many hours over a period of years watching for any possible paranormal activity on that cam. Little did I know that this would become a common activity for me years later as a paranormal investigator! You can imagine my delight then, when I realized that, as part of a trip to the US, my husband and we would have two nights in Los Angeles and that Long Beach with the Queen Mary Hotel was a very short distance away.
We booked for two nights and settled into our very comfortable and luxurious cabin and spent the first day exploring the ship with the other day tourists. This was interesting and the audio tour revealed a lot of information and history of the ship. Later we had dinner in one of the restaurants on board and enjoyed a few drinks in the bar. The great thing about staying in the onboard accommodation was that after everything has shut-up shop and all the tourists and diners had gone for the day the place was almost deserted! It felt like we had the whole ship to ourselves and I was able to spend some time investigating the public areas, corridors and decks.
We were investigating an area just off reception when my husband asked me if I felt ok. He said that he had seen an orb shoot out of the wall as I neared it and that it had gone up my arm and then disappeared (as if into me). My husband had never before and has never since seen an orb but he insisted that that was what he had witnessed that night. Interestingly, the reason that I was drawn to that area was because I felt that there was spirit activity there and when we did the ghost tour the following day our guide pointed that area out as being a place where the apparition of a woman had been seen!
The following day we did the ghost tour which included a tour of the engine room and the bowels of the ship (which included seeing the propeller which is still in the water but is enclosed by concrete). There have been reports of the apparition of a young sailor seen there. It is thought it may be the ghost of a young seaman who was crushed in one of the engine room doors. We saw the corridors where shadows have been reported and went into the cabin that is reputedly haunted. The highlight of the tour for me was going into the swimming pool area where the cam that I had spent so much time watching had once been set up. The cam had been taken down months earlier as a result of the public tours commencing. To see this area in person seemed incredible to me and I was shocked to find that I actually knew more about this area, the history and reported activity than the tour guide did! The tour guide informed us that a medium had recently advised them that there was a portal in the old dressing room area and told us that if we wanted to, we could go and take some photos of that area. The only problem was, that there were no lights there so it was literally pitch black. Most of the tour group were reluctant to go near the darkened area and once a few of us had got to the dark doorway the group stood peering into the black. Of course the paranormal investigator in me came out and I was first in and to the end where the portal was reported to be. A couple of my fellow tourists followed me down but did not linger and I soon found myself alone in the pitch black area of the Queen Mary pool area where the spirit children supposedly came from!!! This was absolutely my idea of heaven and I really did think that nothing could top that experience of my visit to the Queen Mary. Little did I know that that would actually pale by comparison later that day! I was hoping that if I stayed there quietly that I would not be missed and that I might actually get left behind in this area but unfortunately the tour guide urged me to come out so he could relock the doors and we could move onto the next part of the tour. The group continued with the tour and walked through restaurants and bars while hearing stories of apparitions and paranormal activity.
Once the tour was over we were once again able to wander the boat ourselves and after a shopping trip to LA we continued our inspection of the ship. This time we concentrated on the forward section and discovered something interesting. We were in a retail area and at the back of the shop was a set of double blackout curtains, which seemed to be covering a large hole (double doorway size). Being a naturally inquisitive person (and with no staff apparently in the area) I put my head through the curtains and found that the scene was familiar. It was a corner of the locked swimming pool area!!! I could not help myself, and was through those curtains before even thinking!! If I was amazed at being in this area earlier that day, I was absolutely ecstatic to have the whole lot to myself to explore at my leisure!!! I spent at least an hour in the darkened area just looking, feeling, sensing and trying to talk to any spirits that may have been there. Unfortunately due to the clandestine nature of my visit I didn’t dare take photos in case the flash of my camera was detected and alerted staff to my presence in the locked area. When it was time to leave I was mildly worried that my departure through the curtains and into the store may be detected but once again there was no one (not even a staff member) in the store so my escape was easy. Unfortunately this retail area was closed that night when I tried to return so I had to once again cruise the halls, restaurants and decks in my search for paranormal activity.
The following morning I talked to staff onboard the ship and most (but not all) had a ghostly story to tell. Some told of shadows and apparitions, while others told me about cutlery being thrown and chairs being moved, another told me of footsteps being heard where no-one was seen.
It was with great sadness that we left the Queen Mary and with even more sadness now when I recall my explorations and encounters at a time when I only had the most basic of equipment. I will return to visit this grand and elegant ship one day and this time I’ll bring my equipment!