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PARAXPLORER PROJECT recently happened upon a vintage newspaper article mounted for display, and held within storage aboard the Queen Mary for decades. Published by Long Beach's local paper of record, Press-Telegram, A Haunting Night Aboard The Queen Brings Out The Ghosts authored by longtime columnist, Tom Hennessy, dates to 1986 as part of the local media celebration of the ship's 50th birthday.

We were curious to read the alleged spirit stories shared by Mr. Hennessy as a result of then leasee, Wrather Corp.'s, reported "plow(ing) through dusty logbooks and other records for incidents which might be related to the strange happenings." A "Crushed Crewman" on D Deck? The oft recited, mythic WWII era "Hapless Cook"? A "Drowned Woman" who haunts the pool area (different from the contemporary "Ghost Girl Jackie" story)? We certainly would like to be the recipient of those records.

Beyond the ghost occupant stories reported on that might be rebuffed by contemporary researchers, we are treated to Mr. Hennessy's adventure spending a night within the infamous vessel and personal experiences edging three decades ago.

A Haunting Night Aboard The Queen Brings Out The Ghosts
A Haunting Night Aboard The Queen Brings Out The GhostsA Haunting Night Aboard The Queen Brings Out The GhostsOur investigator finds strange things going on

by Tom Hennessy
:: Long Beach Press-Telegram
:: Publication date: May 4, 1986
:: Reprinted with permission

Press-Telegram Editor Note:
Tom Hennessy wrote this article two years ago, and there is every reason to believe it is as true now as it was then.

The Queen Mary is haunted.

In retirement, the most famous ocean liner in history has become a spine-tingling, knee-knocking, hair-raising treatment to things that go bump in the night -- and sometimes in the day. Yours truly spent a night aboard the ship this week, locked in areas where ghostly sightings have been reported, and searching from bilge to bridge for such spectral presences as "The Lady in White", "The Cursed Crewman" and "The Drowned Woman".

Before sharing that experience, let me note that you need not take my lip-quivering word for any of this.

Billy Thompson, security guard: "On G Deck, where we think the ship's morgue was located, lights go on and off ans doors slam. I walk every inch of this ship every night, but when I get down to G deck, I get very tense. "And strange things seem to happen around the artifacts section (a storage area filled with relics from the ship's glory days). We have sensor alarms in there that have gone off. They're like radar. A live body has to go by then to set them off. But this area is padlocked."

[ page 2 ]
Cheryl Zalfini, a secretary: "(In the engine room) you hear noises It sounds like clanging, like somebody's working down there. But at 5:30 or 6 at night, nobody's working in that area."

Nancy Wazny, a security sergeant: "I was standing alone on the stairs (to the swimming pool) when, out of the side of my eye, I saw a woman in her 40s or 50s wearing a striped, old style bathing suit. She was poised as if about to dive in the pool (which is empty). When I turned full face to stop her, she was gone.

On another occasion, Wazny, then a tour guide supervisor, was closing the engine-room exhibit for the day. "I was going up the second escalator when suddenly I felt I was being stared at. There was a man on the step behind me. He had black hair and a black beard and was wearing dark blue coveralls. I stepped aside to let him pass and he was gone.

Had she seen a ghost? "I'm not saying I accept all this," she says, "but I couldn't dispute what I saw with my own eyes."Wazny has not found such experiences particularly unsettling, except for one. It occurred in the ship's first class suite exhibit. I was by myself. There was a tour guide (trainee) with a group two rooms away ans I was listening to what he was saying. I leaned slightly against the wall and the minute I did from behind me I heard a hoarse, throaty 'Noooooooo'. I turned around and there wasn't a soul there. It raised the hair on the back of my neck.

Another experience in the same exhibit area rattled tour guide Patricia Salcido. "I heard a knocking noise in the wall, like the sound of pipes knocking. Later I learned there are no pipes in the wall. I also heard what I thought were people coming down the hallway; the sound of footsteps. I went and looked and there was no one there. When I got back, there were two lights -- perfect circles, like porthole lights -- on the wall. They were moving and I thought at first that someone was shining two flashlights. I called to my supervisor to get me out of there. They came running but by the time they got here, everything had stopped."

At least one odd phenomenon was seen simultaneously by two tour guides. It took place in the engine room where a chain had been stretched across an entranceway. Says Wazny, "They heard what sounded like someone clearing their throat. Then the chain began whipping up and down. But there was no one else there and no wind at all. They became hysterical. The girl was crying and the man was speechless.

The two guides no longer work on the Queen.

[ page 3 ]
Other ghostly and ghastly high junks have included the sound of keys rattling ans chains dragging, party noises, and shouts and splashes from the pool area.

The frequent occurrences prompted executives of the Wrather Corp., the ship's leasee, to plow through dusty logbooks and other records for incidents which might be related to the strange happenings. They found some flesh-crawling possibilities.

:: The "Crushed Crewman": While the Queen was being refurbished into a hotel, it was patrolled at night by a guard with a dog. On night, before a hatchway on D deck, the dog -- its hair bristling -- balked, snarled and bared its teeth. On being urged forward, it whined and refuse to move. The guard then heard the sound of "metal rolling forward" them. Guard and dog ran. Ship's records disclose that a crewman had been crushed to death in the early 1940s in this very hatchway.

:: "The Hapless Cook": Over the last several years, unexplained occurrences -- moving dishes, disappearing utensils, and lights which go on and off -- have been reported by employees in one of the Queen's kitchens. Records show that in 1943, when the Queen was a military transport, a brawl broke out in the kitchen; an incident that became serious enough for the Queen's captain to call a British cruiser for help in quelling what he thought might become a mutiny. Before help arrived, however, a cook was pushed into a heated oven. He died from resulting burns.

:: "The Drowned Woman": A number of crew members have reported seeing an attractive, mini-skirted woman who walks down the stairs toward the pool, then vanishes behind a pillar. According to the ship's records, a woman did drown in the pool, either accidentally or from being pushed.

These specters are said to share the ship with such ethereal eminences as "The Woman in White," an evening-gowned apparition who supposedly drapes herself over the piano in the Queen's Salon, and "The Poisoned Officer," who reportedly roams an area near the bridge where an officer once died from accidental poisoning.

Not long ago, I made the mistake of debunking all this to Queen's captain, John Gregory. He invited me to spend the night aboard with license to visit any part of the ship I chose. Since this was a matter of an Englishman challenging an Irishman, I had no choice but to accept (although I did manage to stall him for several weeks).

Shortly after 2 a.m. Thursday, I set out in brave pursuit of the Queen Mary's "other world," armed only with a Notre Dame shirt to ward off evil spirits and a large candy bar to ward off hunger. Escorting me (but only briefly) was Lt. Fred McMullin, of the ship's security. "The crew is very interested in your project," he said. "They're all hoping you'll come up with something." That statement was enough to trigger my willies. If they were so interested, why weren't they down here with me?

McMullin also made some disquieting observations about the Queen Mary's doors which, when unlocked, trigger an alarm light on a panel inside the ship's security offices.

"In the last few months," he said, "we've spent a lot of time going around trying to find out who set off the alarms. Over the last few nights, these doors (in the swimming pool area) have been found open (unlocked) and a couple were even propped open. For a time, we thought the people from the last shift were not checking them. But they said they were. We went around and checked them ourselves. Then we started on our rounds later and, son of a gun, they were open again."

Inserting a key in one lock, he found the door open. "I was through here about an hour ago, and this door was locked," he said.

[ page 4 ]
He spoke, too, of areas on the ship which impart "particular feelings" to the crew. "You just get a feeling that someone else is there. It isn't necessarily bad feeling, but the kind that makes you look over your shoulder." Before the night ended, I wound up looking over my shoulder more often than the FBI's 10 most wanted criminals do in a year.

Just as I was rethinking this escapade, Fred, in keeping with my earlier and braver request, locked me in the room that houses the swimming pool. He promised to return at 2:45.

I looked at my watch. It was 2:15.

The pool area was dimly lit and uncomfortably quiet. Shadows played eerily on the walls. I began thinking of all the now-departed humans who once gamboled in these environs. Then I thought of the lady in the miniskirt, and what I might say if she showed up. It seemed an incredibly long time had passed before I looked at my watch again.

It was 2:15. At 2:16, I broke out my candy bar.

The mind does strange things in the -- pardon the expression -- dead of night. At one point, one of the things my mind did was whisper, "When you turn around, the lady in the miniskirt will be standing there." I turned around slowly and was almost knocked out of my socks by the sight of a fire hose.

Behind the pool, I found a narrow, dark passageway with a dozen dressing rooms on each side; rooms which, to my knowledge, have not been used in more than a decade. In four of the rooms, the lights were on. Mrs. Hennessy may have raised a coward, but not a fool.

My stay in the pool turned out to be the second longest half hour of my life. The longest half hour came later in Shaft Alley (so named because it houses the ship's propeller shafts). Shaft Alley is an adjunct to the engine room. It is about as much fun as a coffin.

"I hate Shaft Alley," says Alice Weathers, a ticket reservationist on the ship. She recalls one visit which left here feeling "creepy" and "unusually cold".

Shaft Alley was as quiet as a... well, very quiet when McMullin locked me in, saying he would return in 35 minutes. Hardly had he left when a clanging noise began, the sound of someone banging on pipes. I walked toward the noise. You have only my word for what followed, but as I neared its source, the noise stopped. As I retreated, it resumed.

"Humbug," I thought, with admiration for the pre-converted Ebeneezer Scrooge.

Moments later, I was walking a passageway I had traversed shortly after McMullin's departure. This time, however, it was partly blocked by an oil drum.

"Double Humbug."

I am not a skittish person. The only spirits to which I pay homage are distilled (although I had none that night). However, so help me, on my third trip along the same passageway, it was blocked by two drums. (Frankly, I simply refuse to accept this. I prefer to believe two drums had been there all along and had merely escaped my notice.)

[ page 5 ]
McMullin's return was still about 20 minutes away when, along one catwalk, I felt what seemed to be the vibrations of someone walking toward me. I changed directions faster than Hershel Walker. Above me, a sign read; "Mind your footing." I was too busy minding my mind. Ten minutes or so passed without incident, save for the brief sound of a sudden rush of wind in an area that is supposedly airtight.

Then, at 3:33 a.m., I heard the worst.

Initially, it sounded like tow or three men talking at once. But it trailed off into a single voice, so distinct that I made it out -- the end of a sentence: "... turning the lights off." Had you been here with me, you would have seen a first in the history of chemistry -- a grown man change to yogurt.

It occurred to me that having a fatal coronary in a place called Shaft Alley would be the ultimate shaft of all time. Since 1936, when the Queen Mary set sail, I doubt if anyone ever moved through Shaft Alley more rapidly than this rotund, about-to-retire ghost-investigator.

I had no doubt that close at my heels were legions of crushed crewmen, hapless cooks, poisoned officers, drowned women, and every other ill-natured resident of the nether regions. I might be still running if the welcome arrival of McMullin had not taken place that very second.

Soon I was drinking coffee (I usually do not take it black) and chatting with the security staff as if nothing had happened.

But something had happened, and, rather sheepishly. I mentioned voices in Shaft Alley, suggesting that they must have carried via an air duct from another part of the ship. "No way," said Thompson, the security guard who has had his own chilling shipboard experiences. "In fact, about the time you were up thee, the nearest person to you was security officer who was two decks away."

Thompson must have noticed my sudden pale appearance for he quickly added, "Oh, there have been voices down there before. You're not the first."

For all that, the Queen Mary is a lovely old ship and you are liable to run across me there many times in the future.

But never never, never, never in Shaft Alley.

Xspot References

:: Long Beach Press-Telegram

:: Queen Mary official site

:: Queen Mary ParaTours

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