Would you spend a night on a haunted ship?
The prospect of spending a night aboard the Queen Mary, the most haunted ship in America, is either a dream come true or a nightmare, depending who you ask. When my wife and I had the opportunity to explore the eerie corridors and historic decks of a ship bigger than the Titanic, we jumped at the chance.
The Queen Mary has been in operation in one form or another since the 1930s, and her crooked hallways, elegant staterooms and magnificent engine room are bound to have their fair share of haunts, especially when you consider her rich history.
Photo by Ullstein Bild via Getty Images.
On May 27, 1936, the Queen Mary embarked on her maiden journey. For three years she was the grandest ocean liner in the world and the talk of Tinseltown. Elites of all kinds, from Bob Hope to Clark Gable, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and even Winston Churchill, partook of the elegance and grandeur that only the Queen Mary could offer.
By September of 1939 the Queen Mary had docked in New York and would leave her moniker behind as she transformed from elegant ocean liner to World War II troop ship capable of transporting up to 16,000 soldiers. Stripped of her luxurious amenities and painted a camouflage gray, the ship received a new name. Grey Ghost reflected her new look and stealth. It was a menacing name for a dark time but perhaps an apropos foreshadowing of her current legacy.
The Grey Ghost. Photo by Gordon Rynders / NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images.
At the end of World War II, the Queen Mary would undergo a 10-month retrofitting process to be restored to her original glory. In 1947 she was Queen again and would spend the next two decades of regular passenger service sailing across the Atlantic.
But those glory days weren’t meant to last. Due to the increasing popularity of air travel, the Queen Mary would begin her final voyage on Halloween in 1967, arriving that December in Long Beach, California, where she has remained docked and operated as a hotel and attraction ever since. It was the end of an era but the beginning of a legend.
Today stories of ghostly encounters aboard the Queen Mary are as numerous as her guests: reportedly dark shadows appear, ghostly apparitions visit at night, the scent of cigar smoke floods an empty room, invisible children laugh in vacant halls, and the spirit of a little girl plays in the nonoperational first-class swimming pool. These accounts are parts of a bigger picture that bring the rich history and lore of the Queen Mary front and center to ghost lovers everywhere.
My wife and I hoped to stay in the most haunted room possible. But ask an employee which room is the most haunted, and you’ll be met with the same response: “The entire ship is haunted.” Regardless which room you’re in, you have an equal chance to wake at night to a spectral stranger standing at the foot of your bed.
During the check-in process, I found myself looking around hoping to catch a glimpse of something out of the ordinary. No such luck, but while my wife and I waited, an employee at the counter did a double take and said he saw a shadowy figure walk in front of him. He paused and looked around before saying, “That is the first time I’ve actually seen something.”
We didn’t notice any shadow people, and whether he really saw something, I don’t know. However, he seemed genuinely surprised, and the moment created anticipation as we got our key and headed to our room.
It’s generally agreed that the most haunted level to stay on is the B deck. Fortunately, the front desk made sure our room was on this floor. We thought maybe we’d be lucky enough to hear the footsteps of spectral children or catch a glimpse of passengers from times gone by. If ghosts did take a stroll, they did so in the comfort of slippers. Unfortunately, the only activity we found was a large number of people allowed onto the ship for free after 3:00 p.m.
The halls of the Queen Mary.
It’s hard to comprehend the scale of the Queen Mary without walking the corridors. It’s a massive floating city that boasts 12 decks and a length of 1019.5 feet (310.74 meters). The halls seem to extend for miles and, when alone in one of them, you get the sense you’re in the unnerving hallways of the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Thankfully, my wife and I didn’t see any creepy twin girls asking, “Come play with us . . . forever and ever and ever.”
Come play with us . . .
The haunted B deck.
More of the haunted B deck.
The observation bar and art deco lounge.
We spent the late afternoon walking the beautiful corridors and exploring the various decks, restaurants and sights. As evening approached, we grabbed our cameras and prepared for the Paranormal Ship Walk, a two-hour evening tour through the most haunted areas of the Queen Mary, including the infamous room B340, the first-class swimming pool and the massive engine room.
Looking out into the night from B340.
Room B340 is no longer in service. According to our tour guide, poltergeist activity scared away anyone who cared to spend the night in there. Reports of lights turning on and off, sheets being pulled off sleeping guests and sometimes even an angry voice commanding guests to “Get out!” are all part of the folklore.
So many stories surround B340 that it’s difficult to discern exactly what’s going on in there. The most popular tale is that someone was violently murdered in the room and is still in it. Another is that an entire family was murdered there. Others say a wicked person died there and refuses to leave.
According to our guide, the number of stories may be due in part to Disney operating the Queen Mary for a handful of years and fabricating some of the haunted tales to create a sense of intrigue for their attraction.
In spite of the haunted stories, for a short time a former HR employee for the Queen Mary reportedly had her office in room B340. Because of the lore surrounding it, she would always knock and ask permission before entering. For a while, nothing out of the ordinary happened. But one day she forgot to knock and walked right in. Having been in a hurry, she placed her cup of coffee on her desk and got to work. Soon her desk began to shake violently, startling the poor woman. She wasted no time gathering her things and leaving and never stepped foot in that room again.
The door marker for room B340 has been taken down, so if you don’t know where to look, you might not find it.
The door to room B340.
Going on the tour is the only way to gain access to the room. After 8:00 p.m., it was pitch black. The only illumination came from camera phone flashes from among our group. As our camera added to the paparazzi light show, we viewed a room that had seen better days. On display: an uncovered floor, stained walls and a shower in desperate need of a bath.
An empty B340.
Employees must wash hands before returning to work.
No one is getting clean in here.
We spent a bit of time there, trying to avoid bumping into each other in the flashing darkness. The temperature never dropped. No angry voices shouted derogatory comments at us. I wasn’t even touched inappropriately by a ghost or my wife. The only above-normal thing of note in room B340 that evening was a menacing door that seemed to be a fan of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
Which may be the reason so many guests have requested a new room.
THE FIRST-CLASS SWIMMING POOL
The first-class swimming pool in operation. Photo by Fox Photos via Getty Images.
The first-class swimming pool is one of the most famous sections of the Queen Mary. No longer in service, it’s an eerie place riddled with stories of long-dead little girls who love to giggle, sing and taunt visitors.
Many people attribute the sightings and experiences to a specific five-year-old girl named Jackie, who’s believed to have drowned in the second-class swimming pool. But since that pool no longer exists, she comes to this one to play and make herself known.
Sometimes guests have heard water splashing, even though the pool remains dry. Other times, people have seen dark apparitions or the full appearance of a woman dressed in 1930s swimwear. Some have even reported wet footprints around the pool.
For a while, the pool stories and sightings were so numerous that a live video feed streamed online so internet visitors could catch the activity from the comfort of home.
With the amount of buzz surrounding the pool, we were excited to dive right in and see what we could find. Strangely, the tour route to the pool doesn’t go through the beautiful front entrance that welcomed swimmers in the ship’s heyday.
The former main entrance.
Instead, our guide walked us through a side hallway. The walls were a dirty tan and dismal green, seemingly a leftover paint choice from the Ghosts and Legends tour, a haunted attraction experience formerly offered by the Queen Mary.
The hallway in.
Admittedly the ambiance surrounding the pool is spooky. The lights are very dim, the massive space acts as a stage for something ghostly to take the spotlight and echoing sounds have a tinlike quality, making the area feel somewhat claustrophobic.
Forward of the first-class swimming pool.
Aft of the first class swimming pool.
A view from above.
The top balcony.
Our group’s cameras rolled as we glanced from one end of the room to the other, hoping to glimpse a ghostly little girl wanting our attention or maybe even a foreboding spirit ushering us out.
Finally it happened.
From the stillness of the room near the front entrance came a hollow crash. Startled, I looked toward a nearby red velvet curtain to my right. Something was behind it and had made itself known.
My curiosity piqued, I walked slowly toward the curtain and was met with a male head staring back at me, emotionless. I stood there numb. All I could do was stare back. His mustached face was round and dark and looked about my age.
It also belonged to the maintenance man who’d accidentally knocked over his plastic garbage can.
He didn’t stay long. His head disappeared behind the curtain, and I never saw him again.
THE ENGINE ROOM AND DOOR #13
The engine room.
They say as you get deeper into the Queen Mary, the paranormal activity and sightings increase. So we were thrilled to learn we’d now be entering the engine room, the lowest level of the ship.
A cold and dark place, the engine room is like a steel labyrinth of cogs, pipes and valves. It’s a far cry from the comfort of our king stateroom, and the many nooks and crannies offer perfect hiding spots for spirits of all kinds.
Further into the engine room.
A labyrinth of steel.
Deep in the bowels of the engine room in an area known as Shaft Alley is door #13, one of the watertight doors used to seal off the ship in case of emergency, which would allow the Queen Mary to stay afloat should these areas be breached and take on water.
As the story goes, an 18-year-old young man named John Pedder was near door #13 as it was closing. Accounts differ: Was he playing an old sailing game of “chicken” with the door to show off to his friends? Did he follow a direct order to close the door due to inclement weather? Or was he attempting to reach for his wrench on the other side of the closing door? However he found himself there, the end result was the same: John was crushed by the massive steel seal and lost his life.
Gone but not forgotten, John reportedly still patrols this alley and disappears around door #13.
The entire engine room is a sight to behold. It’s an underground jungle of steel and shadows with sounds that bounce and carry into strange corners. It’s easy to walk through door #13 and never know you passed it, unless you turn around and spy the unlucky number indicating the place of old tragedy.
My wife and I had taken a trip to the engine room earlier that day. On that first outing, we’d encountered a young lady stationed at door #13, dowsing rods held steadily over the railing as she asked questions aloud.
“Did you die here?”
“Would you like to communicate?”
“Are you here now?”
As she questioned the dead, we questioned her. Had she received any responses?
She enthusiastically told us how the rods would move when she asked certain questions. She felt that for a short time, someone or something was present and trying to communicate.
During our second trip, now with our tour group, the area was empty. As with the rest of the tour, we remained silent and listened for voices as we scanned the area. In the stillness, I remembered the young lady with her dowsing rods and wished John would make himself known to us, closing out the tour with a story we could tell our grandkids one day.
My wife was the last one to leave the area that evening, and although John chose to stay on his side of the veil, she felt a strong sense of unease. Perhaps it’s simply because the engine room can be an intimidating place, particularly when you’re the only one there, or maybe the residue of a horrible tragedy remains at door #13.
Left alone by door #13.
We wrapped up the tour a little after 10:00 p.m., and my wife and I headed back to our room. Although we didn’t experience anything remarkable on the tour, we decided to take one last walk around the ship close to midnight. At this time when things are silent and most guests are in bed, the true quiet beauty of the Queen Mary shines through. We enjoyed a final stroll through the hallways and kept our minds open for anything that might happen.
Still nothing out of the ordinary occurred.
That night we slept without incident, and the next morning we packed up our things and said good-bye to the Queen.
In the end there wasn’t anything paranormal to report. No disembodied voices, no shadow people, no strange smells and no one standing at the foot of our bed.
Although we’re not ghost-hunting experts and didn’t arrive with the latest paranormal equipment, we did come with open minds and enjoyed our time aboard the Queen Mary.
It’s beautiful, regal and has timeless appeal. I encourage you to visit and experience it for yourself. If there are haunts aboard the Queen Mary, they chose to remain in hiding for us.
Skeptics will say there’s nothing to the ghostly stories.
Believers will say the paranormal encounters throughout the ship are proof of the afterlife.
I say no matter what you believe, a night aboard the Queen Mary will stay with you forever.
Have you stayed aboard the Queen Mary? If so, comment below and tell us about your experience!