Llewellyn ran my article about the Old Charleston Jail yesterday. The full article can be viewed here: http://www.llewellyn.com/journal/article/2510
The Queen Mary has been called one of the most haunted places in the world, and perhaps there is a great deal of truth to that label. Brian Clune and Bob Davis wrote about the ghostly legends surrounding the ship in their 2014 book entitled Ghosts of the Queen Mary. The late Peter James (former resident ship psychic and probably most famous for the television show “Sightings”) thought that he had been in contact with about 600 spirits during the course of his employment on board the ship. What are some of the most popular stories that are discussed in the Clune/Davis book that could explain some of the hauntings?
- Allegedly, when the ship was being built in 1934, two men died and their corpses were later discovered close together, with a welding torch nearby. Peter James thought that the spirit called “John Henry” was one of these men.
- A spirit of a ghost girl, thought to have broken her neck from a slide down the forward third-class banister.
- During the war years, many people died onboard of heat stroke and exhaustion.
- People have heard sounds of screaming and rushing water in the area of ship where the propellers used to be. Perhaps this is a residual effect from the Curacao accident of 1942, which killed 338 men.
- There is a little girl spirit called “Jackie” that could be from the late 1940’s.
- An officer ingested poison and died on the ship.
- John Pedder was crushed in a watertight door (Number 13) in 1966 when he was working in the engine room.
Burials at Sea
I have another possible theory for all of these hauntings that I have not seen discussed in print or even heard anyone mention in passing thus far. Sometimes, passengers and crew members were buried at sea. I find this tradition to be particularly haunting for some reason. It just seems so lonely and unsettled. You can never really know what happens to the body, and no one can ever visit a grave. But, there is a purity in it too. After all, if you are a transient (and aren’t we all if we are brutally honest about it), you are just passing through, wherever you are, and no matter if you have been in the same place for the last twenty years, you are still just a transient here on Earth. Exhibits in the ship state that traditionally, a sailor would be sewn in his own hammock, but first, a stitch would be made through his nose first to make sure he was actually dead. In modern times, the burials at sea would be completed by wrapping the body in about three yards of canvas, and the last stitch was omitted from the customary historic ritual.
I consulted a research paper (“Interment without Earth: A Study of Sea Burials during the Age of Sail) by a student at Duke University by the name of Johnathan Pryor to learn more about the customs of sailors in handling the dead while at sea. Historically, there exists much superstition among sailors from every culture about having a corpse on the ship. There were important rituals that must be done in order to avoid invoking the anger of the dead. The body had to be washed, dressed and enshrouded, a service had to be held, and then the body would be committed to the deep. Often, the body would be weighted by a cannon ball, shackles, or chains to make sure it would not surface. Taking into consideration that there do not seem to be any records of burials at sea while the Queen Mary was serving as a war ship during World War II (from about 1939 – 1946), it really makes you wonder just how many men were thrown over, and if there is something to all that superstition after all.
There is a very famous (and haunting) image on file with the National Archives that is of a burial at sea on board the USS Intrepid after an attack during World War II.
As part of researching for my second book, I stayed overnight on board the Queen Mary and attended a ghost hunt late Friday night, March 20, 2015. I submit to you a personal report of my haunted experience with the famous ship:
Evening Ghost Hunt with Matthew Schulz, Project Founder / Investigator – ParaXplorer Project
Matthew Schulz is the RMS Queen Mary Paranormal Investigation Tour Host. The evening began at 11:00 p.m. and lasted until well over 3:00 a.m. Our first stop was in the engine room and we were briefed on the legend of John Pedder (a worker who was crushed by a watertight door on July 10, 1966 on Voyage 483 West) and introduced to dowsing rods and some other tools. We were allowed to wonder for a good deal of time in the area alone, or with a small group, and I ventured off by myself to explore and take photos. The lights were kept on (I would imagine it is for insurance reasons), so it was a little difficult to “get in the mood,” so to speak. Nevertheless, the photo opportunities were incredible, and it was a good experience to be down there without a large crowd or to feel rushed through at all.
The famous door where John Pedder was crushed:
Engine room shot:
Matthew played some of the Class “A” EVPs that have been captured down here and what is so amazing to me is that you can hear what sounds like the same male voice responding to different people over the years. I checked back with Matthew, and he clarified that the EVPs appear to come from an older gentleman, possibly an officer, saying “Get out!,” and “It restarts me.” The EVP possibly attributable to John Pedder was a “Yes” response to the question “Are you here, John?”
Our next stop took us to the boiler room and to the green room, where there was an impressive set-up of experiments. There were laser grids set-up for us to sit quietly and watch for shadows to break the light displays. There were also headsets in the green room that were connected to a recorder with a ten second delay to listen to any EVPS captured in real-time! While I did not personally experience anything while partaking in this part of the hunt, I did note how progressive and thoughtful this outfit was. I have yet to be anywhere where this type of technology is being used during public events. Typically, they just walk us through with a flashlight and that’s it. Matthew had quite the set-up going on!
The last area on our hunt was the first class swimming pool and dressing room. We walked (or scaled) across a dark catwalk to get there. I am struggling with how to write about my feeling and impression of this area without sounding like a melodramatic sap. The best way that I can think of to convey how it felt was that it looked as though I had stumbled upon one of those old Hollywood synchronized swimming movies. The area is extremely dimly lit, and it is hard to make out the colors in the old tile, although they appeared to be a mint green and yellow. While the pool has been drained for structural reasons, and is in a state of disrepair, it is evident that the room used to be quite the beauty.
It feels otherworldly, to say the least, and almost electrically charged. The strangest thing that happened here was that our entire small group was gathered closely together by the stairs and were listening intently while our guide spoke to “Jackie,” the famous spirit believed to be a little girl. Suddenly, we heard what sounded like the disembodied giggle of a little girl over our heads! The Ghosts & Legends tour that uses special effects was actually closed down for maintenance on my March 20, 2015 visit. It seems unlikely that given the approximate 2:45 a.m. time, that there would have been an actual child outside the room somewhere making the noise. Additionally, everyone in the group was legitimately shocked to hear this sound. There was no one above us, and I don’t believe anyone in the group made this sound. I saw everyone’s face and no one looked like they were guilty or having a laugh at everyone else’s expense. Is it possible that we were experiencing one of those DVP’s (Direct Voice Phenomenon) that Peter James used to report and that Brian Clune and Bob Davis have written about?
Things got weirder when we moved the party to the dressing room. It could have been a combination of the pitch darkness, the late hour, how tired I was, and the fear effect, but as we all divided ourselves up and claimed individual changing stalls for our own, I started to get a little bit uneasy. The uneasiness grew to a feeling of outright uncomfortableness, and then spiked to absolute terror. I was alone in the pitch dark, but ultimately in close range to a group of people, including our group leader, who had been very nice and accommodating to me coming alone on his tour without a small group of my own. I have no idea why I started to panic. After all, we were in the dark earlier in the green room and in the boiler room. I really had to talk myself down in my head. I started getting control of my breathing, and I had to keep repeating to myself that I was okay. There was a moment where I felt frozen, and I was afraid to turn around in my stall, because I had an image in my mind of a bad lady who had stringy long hair, black eye sockets, and rotting flesh. I rationalized that as long as I refused to acknowledge her existence, she couldn’t get me. This is a case of your mind running away from you, because there are no documents of anyone drowning in this pool, and Matthew had not been telling us scary stories in the dark. In fact, he had not even said anything about a woman haunting this area at all, our focus was completely on trying to make contact with Jackie, the child spirit. I was just standing alone in the dark, replaying every horror movie I had ever seen on a loop in my own head, like a crazy person. I felt my knees buckle, and I had to steady myself by bracing both arms against the walls.
Shortly after that, we all heard a loud knock, seemingly in response to a question, but that could have been anyone on the tour who was further down the hallway in the changing rooms. I got so exhausted and dizzy, I began to hallucinate. I thought I was seeing different mist type things at the end of the hallway moving about, but I would blink and shake my head and then there would be nothing but darkness again. I briefly considered curling up at the back of my stall and going to sleep. I wondered if they would find me, or if I would wake up by myself at 5:30 a.m. down in the bowels of the ship and have a heart attack down there when I realized I was all alone and lost. All of these events cycled through in the course of just a few minutes. Ultimately, I kept chewing on my tongue and reminding myself that I was a badass and I needed to get it together before somebody had to come and carry me out of there like a little baby. I finished the tour like a champ. When I returned home and began reading about the ship, I found out that many visitors have referred to this area as a vortex or a portal site. In fact, consider these excerpts from the Clune/Davis book:
Page 68: “There are many paranormal hot spots throughout the ship, but as we all know, the first-class poolroom is the center of all the activity that goes on in the ship and is located in the heart of the ship. The corridor of dressing rooms located in the poolroom is rumored to harbor a vortex where the spirits enter and exit, and many psychics believe that a vortex is always located in the heart of a building or location.”
Page 112: “This portal to the other side is purported to be located in the narrow aisle between the changing closets, three stalls back from the port side. It is said that if you stand at this spot, you will feel the hair on the back of your neck and on your arms rise, your skin will crawl and eventually you will begin to get dizzy. People have claimed that when they are near this spot, they get the feeling of being watched, their adrenaline will start to pump uncontrollably and they will have a strong urge to flee the cramped changing room area.”
When I came across these passages, I found myself covered in goosebumps from head to toe. Reflecting back upon my ghost adventure while on board the RMS Queen Mary, I am only left to wonder if there is something to those vortex claims about the first class swimming pool after all.
My guest post that ran today over on Mysterious Heartland. Lemp Mansion will be featured in my upcoming title with Llewellyn Worldwide (Haunted Hotels), to be released in October 2016.
Gather around, gather around. Open invitations have been issued to mark the transfer of ownership over at Preston Castle. PrestonCastleInvite-1
About thirteen years ago, the State of California leased the Preston Castle to the Preston Castle Foundation under a 55-year lease. As you might imagine, real rehabilitation strides can only be made with ownership. Now the property can go from preservation to rehabilitation. History or criminology buffs may know the building because it dates back to 1894, when it was the Preston School of Industry. The building pictured below (courtesy of Jerry Funderburgh, Vice President of the Preston Castle Foundation) was actually the administration building.
The Preston School of Industry was part of the rehabilitation movement to teach juvenile boys useful skills instead of resorting to incarceration alone, and it was in operation through 1960. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Paranormal buffs know the building from local legends and many television shows that have covered the unsolved murder of Anna Corbin, among other mysterious occurrences. I have always said that it would be on my list of locations if I ever get around to writing a sequel to Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums.
Castle Spirits is the in-house group that coordinates the many paranormal events that the Preston Castle Foundation schedules. In fact, they are hosting their very first paranormal conference the last weekend of May. Besides encouraging the paranormal events, the Foundation offers a wealth of programs for the entire community. They have wine tastings & tours, photographer’s day, flashlight tours, movie nights, and even a golf event planned soon! Such good news out of Ione, California.
To keep up with events over at The Castle, visit their site or “Like” them on Facebook:
I recently caught the Ghost Adventures episode on Nopeming Sanatorium in Duluth, Minnesota. I don’t watch a lot of television, and I especially don’t watch a lot when I’m working on a new book project, but I am glad I caught this episode. I thought the whole tone of the show was respectful, informative, and tastefully done. The history of Nopeming Sanatorium is very similar to that of Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky. Like Waverly Hills, Nopeming was built in the early 1900’s to serve as a tuberculosis hospital. It was then operated as a nursing home until it finally closed in 2002.
The owners were interviewed in an article for the Twin Cities Pioneer Press (linked below) prior to the episode airing. The building is not open to the public, and that was made very clear in the episode and in the article. Orison Inc. is a non-profit that assumed ownership in 2009. The reported goal was to turn the property into a charter school for special needs children. Funds are low, so the owners have listed the property as available for filming with the Minnesota Film Board’s website and they accepted the offer (it was not listed what their site fee was) from the Travel Channel for Ghost Adventures to film and investigate. My favorite quote from the article comes from Tanya Graysmark, who is on Orison’s Board of Directors: “I don’t think any of us believes it’s haunted, but Orison will gladly accept money from people who would have Americans believe otherwise.” I think that’s exactly the way to be.
People have strong opinions about the paranormal. It really is a subject sort of along the lines of religion, politics, and sex. I recently met a terribly rude lawyer who berated me and insulted my intelligence for writing “one of those ghost books.” He sneered at me and asked: “How can you write about that? I don’t believe in that.” I smiled sweetly and asked him how many books he’s been paid to author. His eyes opened wide, just like his mouth, but he couldn’t make a number come out. To me, the point is not really to prove anything. I am already secure in my personal beliefs and experiences, and my life’s purpose is not centered around trying to convince anyone who is essentially walking around empty and soulless. That’s your personal belief that you are going to have to deal with later, and I really just don’t care. I’m not your minister, your psychic, your healer, or your God. I’m just a fellow traveler, and I really hope if I ever met you that I didn’t try to make you feel like less of a person. I’m getting on a bit of a tirade here, I need to reign this in.
A controversial topic has always been if paranormal investigators are exploiting the history of a location. What Orison is doing is trying to save a building and they are exploring multiple income streams to make that happen. That’s admirable. That’s how businesses survive. If something isn’t working, you try something else. Community thinks you’re crazy for letting the paranormal people come to town? Is the community paying your utility bills?
The National Register of Historic Places contains a few locations that I can think of that have managed to offer full menus of programs to please every type of visitor imaginable. Eastern State Penitentiary, Weston State Hospital (Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum), Alcatraz, Utica State Hospital, and the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane can all be studied in a lesson on how to transform an abandoned building into something worthwhile. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is the one I am most familiar with, so I will talk about them. They have created a museum in the lobby area that relates to historic psychiatric treatment, along with an art exhibit from former patients. They run daily history tours throughout the Civil War wing, and the entire building. They host photography tours, serve as a filming location, and have events throughout the year – concerts, movies, festivals, just about anything you would expect from a cultural center of the town. Of course, they run ghost tours and ghost hunting events at night. The purpose is to become a center of culture and also make a profit while you do that. Those paranormal people will pay anywhere from $1,000 – $1,500 a night to shut a place down. That can sure help make a dent in those utility bills and property taxes.
Dan Turner, the historian who was featured on the episode, shared this historic postcard of the campus:
Like Waverly, Nopeming featured a bat-wing design to optimize light and air for the TB patients.
A modern exterior shot was also provided by Dan Turner:
The Ghost Adventures Crew was said to be the first organized paranormal team allowed access to the buildings for an investigation. When I heard that, I instantly had high expectations for the show because I know from my own little ghost adventures that these types of places can feel quite intense. Within just a few minutes of the show, when they were still doing their initial walk through, they captured an amazing shadow person in the tunnels! There will always be people who are critical of “evidence” and I am too. I can tell you that the image they showed from this tunnel is what I saw with my own eyes while I was exploring death row in Missouri State Pen in connection with Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums. Either I saw a legitimate shadow person or my eyes were playing tricks on me. I don’t know which one it was, but I can tell you that it felt legit to me while it was happening. Right or wrong, scientific or not, I am a person who has learned to trust my feelings. If I get a bad feeling about a place or a person, I bail. (This is a priceless life lesson, by the way. It’s okay to walk out – of old buildings, bad relationships, situations that just don’t fit your life anymore, etc. You don’t endure bad things and get a prize at the end. The prize comes when you leave and build something new).
After watching the show, I reached out to Dan Turner to get a comment about his opinion on paranormal investigators and how they can co-exist with the history of the buildings. Here is what he had to say:
“I may be biased because I appear on the episode as a historian, but I thought it was well done. I was impressed that roughly half of the episode was dedicated to explaining the history, interviewing former workers and the caretaker, and spending time speaking with a local Elder. It’s sadly rare to see Native Americans asked their opinion on anything on television, and to give the Elder the opportunity to explain his belief system boosted my overall opinion of the paranormal genre. The episode demonstrated that such shows can be more than ‘ruin porn’ spliced with orbs and commentary. I agree totally that paranormal groups can be excellent fundraisers, but convincing property owners that do not believe in ghosts often seem hesitant to start conversations. My hope is that Nopeming become a sort of northern Waverly Hills, and that historical and paranormal tours can coincide. The best way to teach history is to connect the past to the tangible; there is nothing quite like visiting a place and becoming fascinated with a space to pique one’s curiosity. Some would say that buildings like this do not have any connection to our modern world, but just look at the anti-vaccination movement! I’d like to show them some of the abandoned hospitals built around the country, where countless people died from diseases that we can protect ourselves against now. I want to point at Nopeming and say, “Do you want to live in a world where you get a bug and die painfully in a place like this, away from your friends and family?” Thank god I don’t need to worry about contracting TB or polio or smallpox or measles or diphtheria…”
Well said, Dan Turner. Thank you for your comment and for sharing your photos.
Property owners would do well to keep their personal beliefs out of fiscal decisions. Opening your building for paranormal investigators is the same thing as opening for photographers. Who cares? As long as you open with the caveat that you are allowing people in at their request and not because you are claiming the place is haunted, I see no harm in it. Everyone has a different motive for the form of leisure they select on any given day. We are living in a world where maybe we just want to leave our cookie-cutter houses and go see something new. Maybe we just want to go somewhere where somebody isn’t trying to sell us a McDonald’s hamburger and a t-shirt that falls apart after two washes. Urban exploration tours have been popping up all over the place – Detroit, Buffalo, even Chernobyl. There are a lot of people out there who will pay top dollar to experience something new. Make no bones about it, there is a market for paranormal and urban tourism. We have all seen Disney World. We weren’t impressed. Who is going to step up and compete to win our dollars?
Dan has an awesome website for further reading over at Substreet, that is linked below. His writings and photos concerning Nopeming are compelling, but the entire site is full of the same quality.