Los Angeles is supposed to be the City of Stars, but once those stars fade, where do they go? Do they stay behind, forever attached to their final location, spooking guests who dare to enter their domain? Or do they just simply disappear? Each week, Daily Bruin columnist Eli Countryman will set out to discover the truth by exploring supposedly haunted places in the Los Angeles area, rating their spookiness so you don’t have to.
The Queen Mary’s spooky reputation ran aground.
The former passenger vessel is known as one of the most haunted locations in the country, with most of its income now coming from haunted rumors that spur tours for people interested in the ship’s rich history. From 1936 to 1967, the Queen Mary transported many well-off travelers, but it also served a brief stint as a transport ship for military personnel and injured soldiers during World War II. Though the deaths recorded on the ship during its passenger years tally around 50, there is no record for how many lost their lives on board during wartime. Since retiring, the ship has become a hotel, and many visitors have reported ghosts and unnatural occurrences – from sheets being ripped off them in their sleep to a ghost haunting one of the women’s bathrooms.
With the rumored ghost sightings throughout the whole of the Queen Mary, I decided the boat would be a perfect location to explore. I took a “Haunted Encounters” tour, learning where many supernatural encounters supposedly took place, including the case of the “lady in red.” Legend has it cleaning staff in the third-class lounge called security on a woman who would not leave – a sighting that lasted over 10 minutes before she mysteriously disappeared in front of their eyes, making it one of the longest-recorded ghostly encounters on the boat, according to Tom Lane, the tour guide.
Two identical columns, decorated by mirrors, stood in the middle of the lounge. Between them, the woman supposedly sat in her chair on the night of the sighting, and she is often seen to this day. Lane said many tourists capture photos with weird shapes and lighting around the room, and they often believe it to be the lady in red.
Proceeding with the tour, we passed by a women’s restroom said to be haunted by Senior Second Officer William Stark, who died after ingesting carbon tetrachloride when the captain’s steward mistook the bottle for gin. Of the many supposed ghosts, the ghost of Stark is captivating because it is pinned to the death of a real person on board the ship, while many of the others are unknown ghosts.
Another story Lane shared on the tour was one related to the ship’s service during World War II. The Queen Mary collided with the HMS Curacoa, breaking the latter ship in two and killing 338 of the 439-person crew. Though none of the deaths took place on board the Queen Mary, Lane said many of the supposed ghosts may be the men killed in the accident.
I keep saying “supposed” because my trip to the Queen Mary was quite uneventful, save for a short journey I took of my own volition after the tour ended. The guide made it clear that ghosts rarely come out during the daytime, and my tour had started at 5:30 p.m., potentially explaining the lack of specters. However, many guests who stay the night claim to experience ghoulish occurrences, and I even overheard one of the women on my tour hushedly tell her friend that a light orb had appeared in the background of her photo in the third-class lounge.
After the tour, I dejectedly made my way to the top of the ship to view the horizon, yet my unguided adventure ended up being the only time I truly felt spooked. Walking through a few display rooms, I felt like there were more people around than just my friend and I, and one room – filled with old radios – creaked and groaned as we walked through. Other than the noises and my slight unease, nothing else stuck out. I experienced no ghost sightings, sounds, cold patches or suspicious happenings. Throughout my trek, the Queen Mary felt almost like any other boat.
I’m sure my experience would have been much more vivid and unsettling had I stayed the night, but after my unplanned expenses for the Haunted Hayride last week, I could not afford an overnight room. That being said, given the ship’s gruesome history, the stories of ghosts come as no surprise. And I will most certainly be back for an overnight stay once I’ve garnered the funds. The Queen Mary should be experienced properly – a tour is not enough.