Docked just 20 miles south of Hollywood, the hallowed halls of the Clydeside-built passenger liner-turned-hotel & restaurant play host to oft-witnessed acts of ghostly apparition and spooky goings-on, amid the decaying grandeur of the ship’s luxurious confines.
24 November 2005
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JUST as Edinburgh’s catacombs inspired the creation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, so too the haunted corridors of the RMS Queen Mary offer chilling insight into a more modern work of macabre horror, The Shining.
Docked just 20 miles south of Hollywood, the hallowed halls of the Clydeside-built passenger liner-turned-hotel & restaurant play host to oft-witnessed acts of ghostly apparition and spooky goings-on, amid the decaying grandeur of the ship’s luxurious confines. As you walk through the once-shimmering ballroom among the gold-velvet upholstered chairs, you could almost imagine a young Jack Nicholson chatting to sinister barman Lloyd in the horror movie’s haunted Overlook Hotel.
Much of the reported paranormal activity bears a startling resemblance to Stephen King’s novel (albeit set in Colorado), adapted for the silver screen by Stanley Kubrick in the 1980 horror masterpiece that portrays a writer’s descent into murderous madness brought on by evil spirits in an isolated hotel. The Queen Mary even boasts a phantom grand-piano player, whose eerie notes shocked one visitor to the deserted hotel lobby – the piano lid was down at the time. Ballroom revellers replete in gowns and tuxedos are frequently witnessed by staff and visitors to the ship.
As Jenny Moore, of the ship’s Ghosts and Legends tour, says: “These ghosts are reliving the best years of their lives here. They’ve obviously enjoyed good times here and are hanging around for more.” More chillingly, a little girl’s voice is heard crying in many of the ship’s long, constrictive corridors.
Though the ship was launched from Glasgow’s John Brown Shipyard, it was more known for sailing more than 3 million miles as a luxury passenger liner before its final port of call in Long Beach in 1971. Currently a major tourist attraction that boasts an active Scottish society, in its heyday the Queen Mary played a pivotal role in world events. Winston Churchill is believed to have plotted D-Day from his bath in suite number M119.
After its maiden voyage on 27 May 1936, from Southampton to New York, the Queen Mary went on to race 2,552 passengers and $44 million in gold bullion across the Atlantic to the US on the eve of Britain’s declaration of war, on 2 September 1939. The 1,018-foot-long vessel proved invaluable as a troop carrier. Able to transport some 15,000 troops in one journey at speeds up to 30 knots, it became known in the Atlantic as the Grey Ghost. Appropriately, the ship actually boasts a Grey Ghost and a Woman in White.
A ghostly apparition of Churchill himself is said to have spooked a cleaner in recent years after appearing alongside a painting of the former British leader, who was famously a follower of the esoteric arts. Forty-nine deaths have been reported aboard the ship, with many of the sprits roaming the R-deck, the ship’s most haunted.
But perhaps the most infamous is that of the crushed crewman of engine room No 113, who died in a doorway during a test for water-tightness in July 1966. The ghost’s bearded and overalled apparition apparently left his mark on the face of a male visitor on the ghost tour. The guest emerged with a streak of grease painted across his nose after his chilling encounter. Spooky!
A Queen Mary manager in the early 1990s heard children’s voices while descending in a lift from E-deck to F-deck. She clearly heard a child’s voice crying “mommy, mommy”. There was more laughter and then a dog’s bark, a pet cat could also be heard. The child cried again before the voices subsided. The ship’s mysteries continue today. The attraction is well worth a visit on any trip to Los Angeles, perhaps aptly summed up by the tale of the ship’s launch in Clydebank in 1934.
As Lady Mabel Fortescue-Harrison, a prominent astronomer, announced then: “Most of this generation will be gone, including myself, when this event occurs. However, the Queen Mary will know its greatest fame and popularity when she never sails another mile and never carries another passenger.”
For more information on the RMS Queen Mary, visit http://www.queenmary.com/history/our-story/.