Magnificent and old, according to a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary (TQM), this ship is considered the SIXTH most haunted location in the U.S. Whether that is truly accurate is debatable, but nonetheless, TQM is reportedly extremely haunted. Located at 1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90802, many guests staying on the ship (now a fully- functioning and popular hotel), day visitors, and employees have seen, heard, or otherwise had an encounter with the unexplained on board this floating time capsule. The ship is “open” 24 hours a day because as mentioned it’s now a hotel, but the tours, shops, and dining areas all have varying hours.
Construction of TQM began in 1930 in Scotland; however, all work was halted only a year into the project due to The Great Depression. Work resumed in 1934 after the original British company in charge of building the ship merged with another British company to receive a loan from the British government, which was desperately needed to finish the project. The ship’s maiden voyage was in 1936 and was hailed as a “luxury cruise liner” for Europe’s most elite classes (including England’s disgraced king, King Edward and his mistress, American Wallis Simpson).
Nicknamed the Grey Ghost during WWII after it was painted a eerie grey, many deaths have unfortunately occurred on board TQM (49 to be exact). Therefore, there are many reported ghostly sightings. There could have been even more deaths on board during WWII, but due to security reasons records were not kept. Some of the more prominent ghosts are that of two young sisters named Jackie and Sarah, both of whom drowned in the second-class pools and now haunt the first-class pool area (most likely because the second-class pool area was destroyed); the ghost of John Pedder, a worker who died in the engine area after being crushed by an automatic closing door during a drill (the infamous Door #13); the ghosts of room #B474; the ghost of room #340; The Lady in White; and the ghost of John Henry inside the boiler room. These are just a handful of the alleged apparitions who live permanently on TQM, but many others have been either seen by guests/workers or detected via recorders and cameras.
Now a hotel and major tourist attraction, TQM is forever docked in Long Beach, California, where it’s sat since 1967 after sailing from England one last time. There are a few walking tours you can take on TQM, as well as viewing exhibits. The tours include: The Glory Days, Ghosts & Legends, and Haunted Encounters. They run throughout the day during different times, as well as at night. We took the Glory Days and Haunted Encounters tours, both with different guides, and each was an entirely different experience. The exhibits include: Churchill, Diana: Legacy of the Princess, Titanic in Photographs, the Shipyard (which is simply a huge Lego version of TQM), and the 4-D theater. You can either purchase these exhibits and tours individually (would not recommend) or as a package with the entrance tickets (would recommend). For the tours you must check in at the tour desk, and then be at the scheduled meeting spot on time.
On the Glory Days tour, we learned that while TQM was considered a luxury cruise ship, it wasn’t like the gigantic and extremely elegant and opulent floating cities that we call cruise ships today. When you think of TQM as being a “luxury cruise ship”, you must think about it in an early 20th-century context and simply cannot compare it to say, Carnival or Princess cruise ships of 2018. Due to the construction of the ship, passengers (and crew) had a difficult time when sailing through the rough Atlantic Ocean, while traveling between
England and New York City. Guests would be dressed to the nines in extravagant ball gowns and snazzy tuxedos, all while wading through an inch or two of seawater due to the rough waves crashing so high and breaching the doors to the inside of the ship. They’d also have to literally tie down anything and everything, because one second the ship would lean right, and then in another second it would lean left. They would have fancy dinners and concerts where all the tables, instruments, and people would have to be tied down to something; otherwise, they’d slam into the wall. While walking around on the ship, guests – millionaires, politicians, celebrities, and world leaders, mind you – would have to hold onto ropes and pull themselves to their destination. Regardless, it was very clearly considered a luxury ship in its heyday.
Also on the Glory Days tour, we saw the main and (at the time) beautiful and extravagant hangouts of the rich and famous, where we learned the above information, as well as about all the wood used to build the ship, the artwork, and the architecture. I was surprised to learn that all of the wood on TQM is original, as well as all of the artwork. It was very lucky that TQM was never fired upon during the war, because these things probably would not have been otherwise preserved.
Now onto the good stuff: the ghosts. The Ghostly Encounters tour was an entirely different experience than the Glory Days tour, to say the least. For starters, the size of our group was considerably smaller. About 35 people went on the Glory Days tour, while only maybe 10 (if that) were on the Ghostly Encounters tour. I’m certainly not complaining; however, it is something to consider if you hate people. Secondly, our tour guide for the Glory Days tour was like a well-seasoned history college professor, and our Ghostly Encounters tour guide was more like a super laid back bro-dude who Googled “Ghosts of the Queen Mary” for 7 hours and can now tell you everything you need to know. Do not get me wrong; I liked both tour guides and learned a lot on both tours, but the difference in personality and approach was interesting and noticeable.
This was my favorite part of the entire day, because not only was it about one of my favorite things – ghosts – but we also got to go into the bowels of the ship – places guests aren’t allowed unless they are with a guide. I had watched the Ghost Adventures episode about TQM (just like with Waverly Hills), so I was excited to finally see all the spots mentioned on the show.
While explaining about some of the ghosts, I think it’s best to break them down one by one.
Jackie & Sarah
Jackie and Sarah were sisters, aged either 5-6 or 6-8 (as with all good ghosts, nobody knows their exact ages), who both drowned in the second-class pool.
**Quick side note: even though TQM had first, second, and third class, all classes were luxurious and only the rich to very well-to-do could afford the trip. It was NOT like the Titanic, where second and third class were treated like poverty-stricken lepers**
Jackie is the more notorious and vocal of the two, after her voice was famously caught on video multiple times by renowned physic Peter James inside the second-class pool area. There have been various reports by guests and workers alike, who have either seen or heard a little girl (Jackie or Sarah) inside the pool area. Unfortunately, access to the pool is now extremely limited to non-existent, due to the floor rotting out, and is deemed unsafe. There is a window to look into, in an open area where guests are allowed, but if you’re lucky like us, your guide might let you pop your head through the actual doorway to the pool while taking the tour through the “no guests allowed without a guide” part of the ship.
Nobody knows exactly why this room is so haunted, but the working theory is that a staff member who was murdered in the room now haunts it. TQM stopped renting out the room because everyone who tried sleeping in the room was either physically harmed, or they and their stuff were messed with so much, that they couldn’t stand to stay there for long. Our guide told us about a couple who rented the room to “see what all the fuss was about” and immediately experienced activity as soon as they arrived. Things were thrown about, stuff was moved, doors and drawers would continuously open after being closed; the average ghostly stuff. Apparently, the final straw was when the couple left the room for an hour or so, only to return to find all their belongings AND all the furniture inside the room stacked on top of their bed. Being skeptics, the couple was pissed off and accused the TQM staff of rearranging their stuff to sell the “haunted ship” shtick. They demanded a new room, but after a while were convinced that it was not the staff and decided to remain in the room. It is said that once they made peace with the ghost, that night most of the extreme haunting stopped. Regardless, too many incidents like this occurred and eventually the room was pulled from the lineup of available rooms sometime in the 1980s. Only recently, in 2018, has the room become available to stay in again, for the low and extremely budget-friendly price of $499 per night!
The Lady in Red
Nobody knows exactly who is the Lady in Red – naturally – but she is said to haunt the “Queens Saloon”, which is basically a giant ballroom. She could also be the culprit of a ghost story told to us by the guide. According to ship legend, a few years ago three housekeepers saw a beautiful woman in a red ballgown (I don’t know why she’s in red inside one of the rooms they regularly rent out for parties, meetings, and events. She was so vivid that they didn’t think twice about her not being a real person. Two housekeepers went into the room first, and after noticing the woman staring longingly out the window, decided to let her be while they cleaned the other side of the room. Once the third housekeeper entered and saw the lady in red, she said that she would have to leave. She called to the woman multiple times, only to be completely ignored every single time. She finally said she was getting security and left. After she left, the other two housekeepers remained and kept cleaning. One of them looked up, and there was the lady in red, standing no more than a few feet away from them, looking dead at them. They screamed and ran out, and in ran security. The security guards also saw the woman, and it is said that she literally disappeared in front of the very eyes of the security guards and all three housekeepers.
Inside the ship’s engine room are multiple, extremely heavy water-tight doors designed to close in case of fire or flooding. While the ship was in operation, particularly during its war days, drills with these doors were commonplace. Apparently, workers on the ship in their late teens to early twenties liked to push the envelope and play risky games with their lives – not exactly a shock. One of these risky games included running from one end of the engine room to the other before all the doors could close. People usually made it… although some did not. Two people have reportedly been crushed by these doors, but the famous one is 18-year-old John Pedder, who was definitely crushed and killed by Door #13. It is not known for certain why he was crushed (since they obviously couldn’t ask him), but the prevailing theory – then and now – was that he was playing the deadly game of Door Chicken. John is a well-known TQM ghost, who is probably number 1 on the list of most-seen ghosts. A lot of people also report finding greasy hand prints on their person or belongings, as well as feel tugging on their arms, hands, or clothes while down in the engine room.
This room supposedly gave birth to the ghost known as Dana. Dana’s (alleged) story is very tragic, for she was supposedly murdered by her father after he already murdered her mother and two sisters. As legend goes, the father snapped, and after strangling the mother and two sisters in room #B-474, he shot Dana and finally himself inside the bathroom. For some inexplicable reason (as things with the paranormal usually are), only Dana, and not anyone else in her family haunts TQM. One of her favorite areas to haunt is the cargo hold area (again, rather inexplicable).
The Boiler Room
While we couldn’t tour the boiler room due to flooding, guests are usually allowed down there. We were able to view the boiler room from a window our guide showed us, somewhere deep inside the ship which I could probably never find again on my own, even if my life depended on it. The boiler room is HUGE and the ghost who supposedly haunts it is named John Henry. Poor John died somehow down there, and nobody knew it for quite some time. His body was eventually found, but talk about a perfect recipe for a ghost: work on haunted ship, die alone unexpectedly on haunted ship, body isn’t found for a while, nobody knows why you died = you are now at unrest.
The Ghosts of HMS Curacoa
The tragic story of the HMS Curacoa is sadly very real. During WWII when TQM was the Grey Ghost, it was customary for war ships to sail in a zig-zag pattern to evade the enemy submarines trying to sink them. There was an extremely large bounty on TQM (Hitler offered $250,000 and an Iron Cross to any captain who could sink her; this was A LOT of money in that time), so TQM had strict orders to never, EVER stop… no matter what. While sailing into port, TQM was doing what she usually did – zig-zag – and her escort boat, the HMS Curacoa, couldn’t keep up. The captain of that ship decided to cut corners and sailed straight in front of TQM instead of doing the zig-zag patterns in-sync with her. This proved to be an extremely fatal decision. TQM ended up sailing directly into the side of the HMS Curacoa and essentially severed the ship in two. Since TQM had her strict orders to never stop – she didn’t – and sadly most of the men on board of the smaller escort ship were left to die. About 337 men died that day, and it is said that a few may have boarded TQM as a result. Neither ship was far from port, so in some weird ghostly reality, the ghosts of the HMS Curacoa could have swum to shore and boarded TQM. It’s far-fetched, but hey, that’s my theory.
Other known ghosts
The ghosts mentioned above are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to spirits aboard TQM. There are very good reasons this ship is ranked so high on the World’s Most Haunted list and is a mecca for ghost-hunting enthusiasts.
Some of the other ghosts include: A cook who allegedly angered some WWII soldiers so much that they cooked him in one of the ovens; a woman in a 1930s era bathing suit seen near the pool area and decks; a young boy named Jeremy who can be heard and seen playing with Jackie; “Grumpy”, an angry spirit who lurks near the pool area; ghosts named Jack, Terrence, David, and Sarah (not to be confused with Jackie’s sister Sarah) who also frequent the pool area; “Fedora Dude”; William E. Stark, one of the ship’s officers who accidentally drank acid thinking it was gin; Daniel, a 5 to 6-year-old boy dressed in blue who haunts the Promenade supposedly looking for his parents (that’s heartbreaking); “The Dude” (no, not the Big Lebowski ), a man who earned that nickname because he is dressed very smartly, with a top-hat and tails, and whose hair is slicked back; and last but not least, a pair of boys who met their end at the bottom of a very steep – and terribly designed – staircase when the ship rocked violently, sending them flying to the bottom.
While TQM is home to many ghosts, it’s also home to some very interesting and educational exhibits. We spent all day on TQM, so we were able to do the tours and visit most of the exhibits: Churchill, Princess Di, the Shipyard aka Lego room, and the 4-D theater.
While unfortunately all the bunkers, rooms, and stuff inside the Churchill exhibit are reproductions designed for the movie “Darkest Hour“, those in charge did an excellent job. There is a cabinet and map room, where Churchill would have sat with his most trusted men, discussing their next moves during the war, staterooms that are excellently designed to show what a stateroom would have looked like back then for a man of prestige like Churchill, as well as other various war-time recreations. It’s not a very large or overly packed exhibit (that honor goes to the Princess Di exhibit), but history buffs will love it.
Diana: Legacy of the Princess
Unfortunately everything inside the Princess Diana exhibit is privately owned, and per the owners orders, pictures are strictly forbidden. I’ll do my very best to describe it for you… If you have a thing for kitschy, decorative plates, then the Princess Diana exhibit is for you! I have never seen that many collectible plates in. my. life. To be honest, I was slightly unimpressed with the Princess Diana exhibit. I thought that it would be the belongings of the beloved princess, maybe even jewels and crowns, but it turned out that it was mostly the damn plates, letters written by various royals and world leaders, old newspapers, dolls (yes, dolls), and photographs.
Half of the exhibit wasn’t even geared towards the People’s Princess but rather towards various members of the Royal Family, most notably the disgraced King Edward, Wallace Simpson, and of course HRM Queen Elizabeth. The last part of the exhibit was numerous dresses locked in glass containers, but I’m not sure if they were really Princess Di’s dresses or clever reconstructions like all the other clothing in the exhibit. I was underwhelmed with the Princess Diana exhibit, and would have much rather spent that hour and a half hunting ghosts.
The 4-D Theater
Last but not least (we didn’t get to see the Titanic in Photographs exhibit), is the 4-D theater. While we were there, the 4-D theater was playing two different shows and it was anyone’s guess which you’d get. One was about TQM and the other about sharks. As my luck would have it, we got sharks. I didn’t really understand what a 4-D theater was exactly, but boy did I find out. Basically it’s 3-D on crack. Not only did we have to wear the glasses, but water would spray us from the backs of other seats, real bubbles would be released into the air, things would grab our ankles, and the seats would move. It was quite the experience.
Overall, my day trip to TQM did not disappoint me and I’m so glad I was finally able to cross this place off my ‘most haunted’ bucket list. It had everything I love: the paranormal and history, and it was affordable, something that’s rare in the Golden State. Most expensive (in terms of what you get for what you pay for) was the food. There are multiple spots to eat lunch on the ship, and we ate in the Promenade Cafe. While the food was good (I got a club sandwich and fries), the prices were comparable to any other tourist attraction, like Disneyland, so buyer beware. Even though the food is a bit pricey, I’d still recommend eating on board TQM to soak up as much of the experience as you can. In fact, I strongly recommend spending the entire day on TQM to get the entire experience and who knows, you may even run into a ghost.