The Haunted Queen Mary #MysteryMonday

Hey everyone. October is the time to talk about ghosts and hauntings, right? This month’s Mystery Monday is about the retired British ocean liner, RMS Queen Mary.

The Queen Mary in New York City (Public Domain)

The ship first sailed on May 27, 1936, as part of the Cunard-White Star Line. During World War II, she was converted into a troopship and ferried Allied soldiers during the conflict. After the war, the Queen Mary was refitted for passenger service. She was retired in 1967, left Southampton for the last time on October 31 of that year, and is now permanently moored in Long Beach, California.

There is a legend behind her name. The directors of Cunard decided to name the ship after Queen Victoria. They approached the reigning monarch, King George V, for his blessing. “We have decided to name our new ship after England’s greatest Queen.” King George replied, “My wife (Queen Mary) will be delighted you are naming the ship after her.”

The ship is now a tourist attraction with restaurants, a museum, and a hotel. Guests can book a room in any of the 347 original first class staterooms or suites. The restaurants offer both fine and casual dining, bars, and a royal Sunday brunch. It is also available for conferences, weddings, and social events.

But when the sun goes down, it’s said the Queen Mary, or some of her “permanent residents” come out to play.

One former ship tour guide is quoted as saying, “One day I was standing on the stairs of the pool, and out of the corner of my right eye I saw a woman, probably in her 60s or 70s, in black and white. So I went down the stairs and around the pillar, expecting to find her standing there, but she wasn’t anywhere to be found. It was only a matter of seconds… she couldn’t have gone anywhere.”

The former skeptic became a believer.

After her arrival in Long Beach, one of the first people to work onboard was marine engineer John Smith. He claimed to have heard something unusual in the ship’s bow several times during a two-month period. “I could hear the sound of metal tearing, water rushing. And then, men screaming. It sounded like there had been a rupture of the ship’s hull. It was frightful. I went up to the extreme bow section of the ship. The sound was there, but there was no water and nothing to cause it. I don’t believe in supernatural things, but in all my experiences as a marine engineer, I’d never seen anything like this.”

Later, John read about a tragic incident during World War II. The Queen Mary accidentally collided with a British cruiser named the Curacoa. Over 300 men were killed when the larger ship’s bow sliced the Curacoa in half.

Smith said, “After I read that article, I was so shook up and so overwhelmed, the very area where I heard that mysterious water rushing was the exact same area that was damaged when the ship hit the Curacoa. I said, ‘This is what it would have sounded and felt like if I had been in that compartment at the time.’ But I knew it couldn’t be.”

Dozens of other sightings have been reported including the sound of a little girl playing in the pool area and observations of a child’s wet footprints walking toward the locker room.

During a routine fire drill in 1966, a man named John Peddler was crushed to death by a watertight door. Some say Peddler still haunts the area, and his ghost has been observed by several people. If you visit the Queen Mary¸ the ship offers ghost tours and walks after dark. With my fondness for taking ghost walks, this is one tour I’d love to be a part of.

Update: After I wrote this post, The Queen Mary closed after the company that operated her filed for bankruptcy. The ship is in dire need of repair and it’s up to the City of Long Beach to either renovate or scrap the vessel.

The Mary Celeste #MysteryMonday

Hey everyone. Welcome to the first Mystery Monday of the new year. Today’s story dates back almost 150 years and is one of the greatest maritime mysteries of all time.

An 1861 painting of the Mary Celeste (then known as the Amazon) by an unknown artist. (Public Domain)

The Mary Celeste was a 282-ton brigantine ship that left Staten Island, New York on November 7, 1872, bound for Genoa, Italy with a cargo of around 1700 barrels of crude alcohol.

On board were Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs, his wife, Sarah, and their two-year-old daughter. Their seven-year-old son was left in the care of relatives. Also on board were seven crew members, all highly experienced and hand-picked by Captain Briggs.

On December 4, 1872, about 400 miles east of the Azores, the crew of the British ship Dei Gratia spotted a vessel adrift in choppy seas. The ship was seaworthy, her cargo intact, and had a six-month supply of food and staples. Not a single person was on board.

The Mary Celeste wasn’t leaking and had no structural damage. One lifeboat was missing, but the personal belongings and cargo remained on board. Of note, nine of the seventeen hundred barrels of alcohol were empty.

According to the ship’s log, the Mary Celeste battled howling winds and rough seas for approximately two weeks before reaching the Azores. The last entry was recorded at 0500 on November 25, but nothing out of the ordinary was reported.

Several theories abound about what happened. These range from pirates to mutiny, a natural disaster such as a waterspout, alcohol explosion, and alien abduction.

Piracy isn’t likely as the cargo, and personal belongings of the crew remained on board. The crew members had impeccable records, so mutiny seems unlikely.

Some theorize alcoholic fumes may have escaped, causing Captain Briggs to order everyone into the lifeboat until the danger had passed. The lifeboat could have drifted away from the main ship, and rough waters made it impossible for the crew to return.

A waterspout seems unlikely as the ship was intact and seaworthy. Alien abduction? I won’t even grace that theory with a response except to say, “Doesn’t someone always blame aliens for any unexplained event?”

The crew of the Dei Gratia sailed the Mary Celeste into Gibraltar. She eventually had a new owner and sailed another dozen years before her captain deliberately ran her aground off Haiti in what was believed to be part of an insurance fraud scheme.

Many believed the ship was cursed, so no one ever brought her back into the harbor. Over the years, she was allowed to drift in the sea, where she was finally swallowed up by the ocean, taking her secrets to a watery grave.