Haunted History: The ghosts of the Queen Mary
The RMS Queen Mary, named after Queen consort Mary of Teck and wife of King George V of England, was constructed by Cunard White Star Line starting in 1930 in Scotland, and was completed in 1936, after three years stalled due to the Depression. The ship was originally supposed to be called ‘Queen Victoria,’ named after King George V’s grandmother, but when informed that the ship was going to be named after “The Queen,” King George V assumed that “The Queen” meant his wife Mary, and when he gave his blessing for the ship, reportedly stated, “My wife will be delighted that you have named the ship after her.” Therefore, the name became “Queen Mary.”
Queen Mary made her maiden voyage from Southampton England on May 27th, 1936 as a passenger and Royal Mail ship, with King George V’s send-off at her launch, “Today we come to the happy task of sending on her way the stateliest ship now in being. It has been the nation’s will that she should be completed, and today we can send her forth no longer a number on the books, but a ship with a name in the world, alive with beauty, energy and strength! May her life among great waters spread friendship among the nations!”
During her time as a luxury liner, Queen Mary transported numerous passengers and catered to the rich and famous, such as Bob Hope, Clark Gable, Mary Pickford, and other high-class celebrities, and also to royalty; the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were passengers aboard this ship many times. And she certainly was built to the appeal of the class, with five dining lounges, two heated pools, two cocktail bars, a squash court, a ballroom, and a hospital. She also set a speed record for 14 years.
In 1939, after docking in New York harbor, Queen Mary temporarily ended her service as a passenger liner, and, as World War 2 reached new heights, she became a troopship. It was in New York that Queen Mary was stripped of all things that made her the luxury liner that had been well known for half a decade. Her beautiful colors were painted over to a drab camouflaged gray, and she became known as The Gray Ghost; a name that seemed to foreshadow to her future.
Due to Queen Mary’s size and speed, she was the fastest, and largest troopship in the ocean, able to carry 16,000 troops at 30 knots. Her years as a troopship saw the death and destruction World War 2 brought with it, and even collided with the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Curacoa in 1942. The Curacoa sunk as a result. Only 102 men were rescued from the Curacoa while the remainder of the crew perished in the collision, along with some of the 10,000 American troops who were aboard The Queen Mary. This collision is still dubbed one of the worst accidental losses in British naval history, and the Royal Navy pressed charges against Queen Mary’s owners, Cunard White Star Line, citing negligence on the part of the Queen Mary’s captain as the cause for the collision. The Queen Mary’s captain was eventually dismissed of the charges, and the collision was ruled as an unpreventable accident.
In 1947, Queen Mary was refurbished and continued services as an ocean liner before retiring two decades later, and after her retire, the city of Long Beach California bought Queen Mary for 3.5 million dollars to use as a floating maritime museum and hotel. It was during this quiet time, as she slowly rocked in the water, docked in Long Beach, that people began to notice the queer occurrences.
The deaths of the nearly 350 men during the collision of Queen Mary with HMS Curacoa is considered the most widely responsible for the hauntings aboard Queen Mary, as many of the ghosts that have been seen are often sporting Navy uniforms, similar to the ones that the crewmen of Curacoa wore, leading some to speculate that it is indeed some of the victims from the collision.
Aside from the deaths of the Curacoa crewmen, there have been at least 49 documented deaths aboard Queen Mary alone, deaths that mostly occurred during Queen Mary’s time as a troopship, but there is evidence that the number could be higher, as during some of the years she was a passenger liner, a handful of crewmen died in tragic accidents aboard.
It is the engine room that is considered the hotbed of paranormal activity. This is the location of the infamous Door 13, one that was known for constant malfunctions, and it crushed two crewmen to death. One of the crewmen was a young man of 18 who was killed by Door 13 during a watertight door drill in 1966, and he is the most widely reported apparition in the engine room, and sometimes has been reported walking the entire length of Shaft Alley before disappearing by Door 13.
Also famously haunted areas are both of the swimming pools. The First Class pool has been permanently closed, and in this room, sounds of splashing have been heard even though the pool is absent of water, and fresh, wet footprints have been seen trailing down the length of the poolside. On rare occasions, people have reported seeing faded people in 1930s swimwear in the pool area. The second class pool is the site of the only documented drowning. A young girl named Jackie drowned during the sailing years and is still seen in the second class pool area, and on several occasions, her voice has been heard saying ‘hello’ or ‘I’m Jackie.’ Her disembodied laughter has also been heard.
The First Class area is the second most haunted part of the ship, and a number of first class staterooms are said to be haunted. Sounds of an old, 1930s style telephone ringing will echo throughout the halls, even though there are no 1930s phones in any room, and disembodied voices will emanate from rooms that are empty. Lights and faucets will turn on and off, seemingly by themselves, and doors will open and shut for no reason. Some apparitions have been witnessed by hotel guests, visitors, and staff. The most common sighting in the first class area is that of a man in a dapper 1930s suit, said to be a very intimidating presence. No one knows who this man may have been.
Today, Queen Mary has been registered on the National Register of Historic Places, she has been recognized for her service in World War 2 for transporting over 300,000 troops across the Atlantic, and is, along with The Golden Gate Bridge and the Hollywood sign, one of the most recognizable of California landmarks. Book a trip and stay the night if you dare, and let this luxury liner transport you back to the mid-20th century. Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll come face to face with a passenger, crewman, or troop of the past.
All aboard that’s going aboard!