Internationally recognised, the historic floating hotel and museum attracts thousands of visitors every year. It has also attracted a number of unearthly guests over the years. In fact, some say the Queen Mary is one of the most haunted places in the world with as many as 150 known spirits lurking upon the ship. Over the past 60 years, the Queen Mary has been the site of at least 49 reported deaths, not to mention having gone through the terrors of war, so it comes as no surprise that spectral spirits of her vivid past continue to walk within her rooms and hallways.
In today's episode we explore some of the history, the grandiosity and the ghostly tales that lurk on this magnificent and historic Grey Ghost.
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Speaker A: Hi everyone and welcome back to another episode of Haunted History Chronicles. For 31 years the RMS Queen Mary sailed the North Atlantic It helped defeat Hitler and was the ship of choice for the world's rich and famous. Now in retirement in the port of Long Beach, the stateless ship afloat plays host to tourists, travelers and plenty of spirits that roam her halls and passageways. Queen Mary is one known to many all over the world for differing reasons. The summit is known for its association with the Titanic. For others, it's known for its history as a passenger liner all those years ago. Many might know of its service during the war and the controversy surrounding it. The summit is known as the Haunted ship. Something may be seen on their television screens singing, whistling, screams, friendly comments and cursors are just some of the disembodied voices and VPs that have been captured by investigators over the years. For me, the Queen Mary is a destination I have long wanted to explore, bathe in the luxuriousness of the finery and walk its halls, maybe experience a ghost or two. It's a ship with a nod to my own birthday, October 2, and it's one I cannot wait to explore with you today. After the end of world War I, there was great demand for passenger trade between the European nations. The Cunard shipping line company was at the forefront of this, quickly designing replacements for its older fleet. The decision was made to build two significantly larger and faster vessels which would be more economical and replace their fleet of smaller ships. They sought out the best shipbuilder company of the day, john Brown and company. Shipbuilders history was being built. The economics of the world made work slow. Many shipbuilders in fact losing their jobs. The Cunard shipping line was also suffering financially. Maintenance on its older fleet was expensive and with passengers scarce during the depression years, trade was slow. Work on the Queen Mary continued slowly. The Cunard would ask the British government for financial assistance to complete the build, something they were willing to do if the Cunard would ally with their chief rival, the White Starline. In desperation, these two shipping giants agreed and the Cunard white star line was formed in April 1934. During its continuing build, a grim discovery would be made in the bottom sections near the double hull. The bodies of two men were discovered not too far from each other. A welding torch was found near the body of one of these men. This is an area of the ship that has gone on to have many reports of strange tapping sounds around the area known as the green room, which is located near the old boiler room stage. As the British government were the controlling shareholders, they would receive regular updates. Each month agents would arrive at the palace with the report. It was during one of these visits that the agent announced that they were going to name the liner after the greatest English queen, their intention being Queen Victoria. Hearing part of this announcement informed them of his pleasure, that his wife would be most pleased with the compliment. And so the intended Queen Victoria Job number 534 with Christened the Queen Mary, she would slide into the River Clyde on September 26, 1934, to the cheers of a gathered crowd. Over the next several months, no expense was spared fitting the Queen with all its finery. From allnate bronze doors and painted murals, every corner of the ship screamed elegance with three classes of accommodation, it had three nurseries, two pools elevators and salons. Gourmet meals were planned to cater to all passengers irrespective of class. She set sail on her maiden voyage on May 27, 1936. It was during this maiden voyage that a little girl from the third class was sliding down the staircase near the front of the ship. She was doing this when a large wave slammed into the side of the liner, causing it to pitch. The young girl fell and hit the deck hard. When medical staff arrived, it was discovered she had broken her neck and was pronounced dead. The Queen Mary was docked in handrails, retrospectively fitted in the hopes of preventing any further accidents and deaths. Reports of a spectral child appearing and vanishing near the staircase is one that's injured over the decades. In the following years, the Queen Mary sailed without any further incidents. She entertained celebrities such as Clark Gable, Carrie Grant, David Niven and Greta Garbo. She carried heads of state and diplomats. Just imagine the stories, secrets and dramas that she saw. Unfold dark clouds were gathering, though, over Europe, and the threat of war hung heavy in the air. On September 1, 1939, the Queen Mary, like people all over the world, heard that Germany had invaded Poland. On third September, England, along with France, New Zealand and Australia formerly declared war with Germany. The Queen Mary was about to embark on a dangerous new adventure that would see her in great peril, travel thousands of miles, break records and see great tragedy. On September 4, when the Queen Mary arrived in New York Harbor, captain was instructed to stand down and wait for further instructions. For months, the ship would sit idle, the journey back to England deemed too risky with German Uboats patrolling the Atlantic. Over the course of these next few months, the Queen Mary was slowly transformed into a sleep vessel capable of carrying thousands of troops. Most of the fine furnishings were removed and standard bunks installed. Coats of grey paint covered the outside. The port holes were carefully blacked out to emit no light. Sandbags were strategically positioned throughout the ship, and light antiaircraft guns installed on the decks. Expanded. Medical facilities were added, along with hammocks where bunks could not fit. The Queen Mary would begin her service as part of the British naval fleet by transporting troops from Australia to england. She would then go on to spend several months ferrying troops between Bombay, India and Sydney. On April 9, 1941 she left Sydney Harbor with a full compliment of Australian and New Zealand troops'bound for Egypt. Their purpose was to secure North Africa. Many of those men would not return home when America joined the war. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she settled into a pattern of sailing from Great Britain to North Africa, New York to Scotland gaining the moniker the Grey Ghost. For both her appearance and her ability to evade detection the speed and size of this liner was a real asset to the war effort and a threat for the enemy who would place a bounty upon her and her sister ship. The promise of large sums of money and a prestigious military war medal was offered to any Uboat captain that sank them. Because of this new danger she was placed into a convoy with antiaircraft cruisers and destroyers. It was during one of these eastbound voyages that the Queen Mary would be involved in one of the worst maritime accidents recorded by the British during World War II. On October 2, 11942 the Gray Ghost was traveling at a sustained speed of 28 knots in a prescribed Zigzag pattern to help evade Uboats when she spotted her escort fleet coming to meet her convoy. One of these escorts was HMS Curacao. Trying to make the speed of the Queen Mary was a difficult task. Even more so while Zigzagging on board the deck of the Curacao was Seaman Ernest Watson who noticed that the bow was swinging towards the cruiser. To his horror she continued to swing and was soon on a collision course with the Kurosaw. The gap narrowed inexorably between the two vessels as the stunned Watson finally found his voice and screened she's going to Ramas. Later he would describe how many of his friends had been so shocked that they had been unable to move. Within seconds there was a screech of twisted metal followed by the hiss of steam and the screams of those injured men trapped below. The impact of the collision had swung the Kurasau board side on and the troopship sliced through the ten centimer armor plating. It was all over in seconds. The troop ship continued on her Zigzag course leaving the Curacao cut in two with the four and aft ends divided by a 100 meters strip of ocean at the moment of impact. As the Curacao reeled into the water watson and many other seamen on deck were thrown into the freezing water. As they surfaced they watched in horror as the stern quickly sank taking with it the trapped men behind the watertight doors. The forward section followed soon after leaving the men in the murky water surrounded by debris, oil and drowned or mutilated bodies. Survivors clung desperately to whatever floating wreckage they could find. Rescue was within an easy reach. They were only about 20 nautical miles off the Irish coast and had rescued boats or crafts been launched, they would have been saved. This, however, did not happen. The survivors watched as the Queen Mary sailed on and disappeared over the horizon. A tough decision for the captain of the Queen Mary, Cyril Illingworth, who had to follow the orders he'd been given to stop under no circumstances until he delivered the troops on board to Britain. All he could do was signal nearby British destroyers to rescue survivors. Two reacted to that message, arriving 2 hours later where they found many bodies of sailors who died of hypothermia. Of the Curacao's 430 personnel, only 99 seamen and two officers survived for reasons of wartime security. The facts of the tragedy were hushed until the war in Europe ended. The case that followed would take almost four years to resolve. In June 1945, only a few weeks after Ve day, the admiralty commissioner sued the Kuan Ard White Star Line, claiming the Queen Mary was responsible for the disaster. It appeared to be a clear cut case. The Curacao's, captain John Boutwood, had given evidence to the inquiry and was acquitted without any reprimand. His testimony detailed that they'd been traveling about three knots slower than the larger vessel, which had been in the process of overtaking them. He'd been amazed when the troops ships continued turning starboard and closed the gap between the two vessels when the collision occurred. He and others on the bridge had clung to whatever was nearest. He desperately hoped they would stay afloat. He said it was impossible to give orders because of the noise of escaping steam from the boiler room. The Queen Mary's first officer gave evidence that he had taken over the helm less than two minutes before the collision. The ship was about 500 meters away and on the starboard bow. He wasn't concerned by the narrowing gap because he expected the curator sounds to take evasive action, believing the cruiser was the more maneuverable vessel and able to change course. The first officer had also been reassured by Captain Illingworth that the cruiser was experienced in escorting and would keep out of their way. At a later hearing, Illingworth had said he'd felt a bump at the time of collision and asked the quartermaster if they had been hit by a bomb. The answer was no and that they had in fact struck the cruiser. The judge held the cruiser responsible, saying the normal rules of an overtaking vessel keeping clear of the other did not apply here. He said the cruiser could have avoided the collision up to seconds before it occurred. The Admiralty, faced with huge compensation to the families of the dead soldiers, appealed. This time. The ruling was that the cruiser was two thirds responsible for the damage and the Queen Mary one third responsible. Still not satisfied, the case went all the way to the House of Lords, where the verdict of the appeals court was upheld in February 1949. No survivors came out unscathed. But above all others, illingworth had to live with the memory of leaving British sailors to fight for their lives in the ocean. When asked at the hearing if Ellingworth had made the right decision, Captain, izakurasau said, I would say yes. It's an event that has left a lingering mark on the grand liner that remains today. Many have told stories over the years about hearing the screams of men and the sound of rushing water in the forward areas of the ship. The men of the Curacao, seemingly still escorting their charge today in December 1940, 2160 would ward the Queen Mary, setting a record that still stands today is the highest number of people to board a vessel. They would set sail and along the way, narrowly avoid a second disaster. As a freak wave measuring 100ft tall crashed against the ship, pushing her over. She came within three degrees of capsizing, and the events of that night went on to inspire the 1969 classic film The Poseidon Adventure. Like other locations that see vast numbers pass through their doors, what can result are the echoes of many spirits. While adding to the rich stories and history of it, the Queen Mary carried thousands of people and experienced every kind of human emotion. Winston Churchill, for example, sailed almost exclusively on the Queen Mary during World War II. It was one of these crossings that Churchill Pope named Colonel Warden would plan and sign the orders for Operation Overlord D Day as we know it today. Many visitors to the Queen Mary report smelling cigar smoke when they pass by the suite where Churchill's desk remains by the gift shop on the promenade place that once held his onboard office. Mr. Churchill has often been seen standing in all her time at war, sailing 600 nautical miles. The Queen Mary was never fired on. She never fired her own guns, and never lost a single passenger to actions by the enemy. She truly had been the Grey Ghost. And after those six years of war had ended, you have to wonder how many of those critically injured men on board transported by this ship, still remain behind on board. With her war service now over, she was free once again to resume as a premier sailing ship. Thousands of workers labored to remove the scars of war. The hull was scraped and repainted, decks and railings resurfaced, cabins and furnishings restored. The ship saw a majestic rebirth to her finery, and passengers boarded once more with pleasure and adventure in mind. Things can always still go awry, though, even when not in war. On one occasion in 1948, while getting ready to sail from New York, the ship's third officer, Thomas Marshall, would slip and fall whilst climbing a ladder and die from his injuries. He's believed to be one of the many spectral crew members that walk the decks. In 1958, when Boeing 707 jetliners began regular service, 68% of the transatlantic passengers were now choosing to fly by air. By 1965, this figure would rise to 95%. The Queen Mary did as she always had persevered and kept sailing. But dwindling passengers were becoming more and more noticeable. She had on board a guest capacity total of 2000. On November 13, 1961, she would dock in Southampton with a mere 437. On the morning of May 8, 1967, captain William Lace was told by radio to open a sealed letter in his possession. It informed him that the Queen Mary was to be retired that autumn. Shortly after, and with a winning bid of 345 million, the city of Long Beach, California would become the new owners, with grand plans to permanently dock the Queen Mary and turn her into a floating maritime museum and hotel. For 31 years, she traveled the world's oceans. She sailed through storms, weathered world conflicts, brought families together, suffered disaster, saw sorrow and pain and joy. Almost from the moment the ship docked in Long Beach, stories of the paranormal surfaced. Workers would see strange figures out of the corner of their eyes. They would hear conversations when no one was present. Tools would disappear and turn up elsewhere. Many have reported encounters with the spirit of a young girl called Jackie, with the pool room being a particular hotspot from these pool rooms. Many have also reported seeing visions of women in old fashioned bathing suits, whilst others have heard the splashing and laughter of children. For some, they've even felt the water spraying on their skin. Around the captain's quarters and promenade, the spirit of Senior Second Officer Stark is often seen. He and some fellow officers went off duty, summoned a steward to fetch them a bottle of gin. Unfortunately, the steward accidentally gave them something else entirely different. Whilst it appeared to be a bottle of gin, the bottle had, in fact, long been emptied and filled with something else cleaning solvent made with acid. Stark poured himself a glass mixed with some lime juice and drank it swiftly. When they realized it was, in fact not gin, they were reported to have laughed it off and went in search to find the actual thing. Stark was not laughing. The following day when he became violently ill, there was nothing that could be done. He died a slow and agonizing death four days later. There have been reports of choking sounds around the old hospital area where Stark would have been treated. Many feel his death is one that repeats over and over on board the Queen Mary in the belly of the ship in an area called Shaft Alley by door 13. The spirit of John Peda is said to linger. He died aged 18 in this area in 1966 after taking part in a foolish, reckless game. Periodically, the captain would run watertight door drills. Alarms would sound, and the crew would have a brief window to get to their stations. The doors, however, were not slow to close and so the men began to test their manhood by running through the doors. It was a test of their nerves. They would hold competitions to see how many times they could cross backwards and forwards. On this occasion, John was too slow and was crushed to death by the infamous watertight door numbered 13. John is known in spirit for his aloofness towards men and fondness for ladies stroking their hair and tickling their ears. Some report his gentle breath on their cheeks. His shadow has been seen lurking around machinery and audible cries and moans heard walking me a door. 13 other spirits include a lady in white, which has been seen often dancing to unheard music in the Queen's salon. Her presence is also seen gracefully moving about on the staircase nearby and by the piano that now sits in the starboard sidebar. The Queen Mary is a location where multiple shadow figures have been seen and where the tales of spirits can be found. From the port to the starboard, it's believed to be home to many resident spirits, too many possible to go into people flock to try and find evidence of life after death here. Others visit looking for a good night's sleep, never dreaming that the tales told of spectres are in the least bit true. At the ship's launch in 1934, lady Mabel Fortescue Harrison, a prominent English astrologer, predicted the following the Queen Mary launched today, will know its greatest fame and popularity when she never sails another mile and never carries another passenger. Harrison died in 1956. Her prediction could not have been more accurate. The Queen Mary may no longer cross the Atlantic, but she still transports her passengers to a bygone age. It allows you to experience history, romance, discovery, maybe even a ghost or two. Thank you for listening. Bye for now.
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