By Cheryl Knight
I recently had the opportunity to stay aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. This former passenger and briefly commissioned war ship is now parked in the Long Beach Harbor and includes a hotel, shops, restaurants, and various ship tours for those looking to get a peek at the past … and maybe even have some encounters with denizens who have since crossed over.
The Queen Mary’s fascinating history dates back to its passenger service, which began May 27, 1936. It was the biggest ship of its kind at the time, and was soon commissioned for war service from March 1940 through September 1946; it carried a total of 765,429 military personnel during its service. The ship then resumed passenger service until it was retired on September 19, 1967.
While the Queen Mary was one of the most famous ocean liners of its time, it was also known for tragedy, particularly due to one horrible accident during its WWII service. On October 2, 1942, while carrying troops to their destination, the ship was joined by six destroyers and the HMS Curacoa as an escort. The zigzag pattern of the destroyers caused heavy wakes and forced all eight ships to make constant minor course corrections, which soon proved disastrous. The Queen Mary ended up cutting through the Curacoa, severing the smaller ship in half. The results were devastating: 338 of the 429 people onboard the Curacoa drowned as the Queen Mary continued on, under orders not to stop for any reason. Those killed aboard the Curacoa are now said to be some of the spirits who haunt the Queen Mary.
Having always lived within 30 minutes of the Queen Mary, and having visited it before, I had always wanted to take an official tour of the ship. Now was my chance. We were staying aboard for two nights so we decided to take the ship’s Paranormal Shipwalk Tour. We were excited based on the tales of ghostly encounters we had heard over and over again from friends and ghost hunters, alike. We went in looking for some shred of proof to determine if the Queen Mary was, in fact, haunted.
The tour was labeled as “an authentic ghost exploration,” where we would visit all of the “Paranormal Hot Spots” not accessible to the general public. Tour participants had previously reported forms of unnatural activity, including audible sounds, smells, temperature changes, and visual activity. The tour lasted about two hours.
During the tour, our guide led us through the beautiful vessel that was retired more than 40 years ago. This was only my second paranormal tour ever (see my Whaley House blog for my first tour) and I was excited to potentially come into contact with the many spirits that are said to haunt the ship. I’m not going to talk about the entire tour here, but I will skip to the end. Why? Chad, who went on the tour with me, has written an article about the tour for the September issue of Paranormal Underground, and I don’t want to give away too much. LOL
But one thing is for sure . . . it was an evening I will always remember.
So, there we were toward the end of the tour, most of the group sitting in the dark in the foward cargo hold, about 6 of us standing behind the chairs, some 40 feet below sea level. Our tour guide began asking questions:
“Are there any spirits present with us tonight?”
“Are any of the spirits present from the ship Curacoa?”
“Please do something to let us know you’re here and want to make communication.”
And then the knocks began, seemingly as if in response to our tour guide’s questions, and seemingly from parts of the room where no living person was sitting or standing. And all I could think of at the time was, why do ghosts knock?
If spirits were indeed present in that area, why didn’t they move something, throw something, yell as loud as they could, materialize into a form that we could see visually — anything that would make us more “certain” of their presence. We also heard footsteps around and above us. But those can be explained quite easily. Even though no crew members we supposedly in the rooms above us, it was indeed possible that they were there. But the knocks. I heard them. They were clear. They were from corners of the room where no one was around. They were from directly behind me or from off in the corner to my left, where nothing stood between me and those knocks.
I ask, Why knock? because I had wanted definitive proof that ghosts wandered the Queen Mary. And while I can’t explain the knocking, and it did seem paranormal in nature, it isn’t enough for me to say that I came into contact with a spirit. But as Chad always says, hauntings or ghostly visitations are not always “in your face.” They can be subtle, so much so that if you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss that subtle activity. And while I didn’t see the full-bodied apparition I was hoping to see during our tour, I did have a paranormal experience on the Queen Mary, one that I can’t fully explain.