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.