The famous transatlantic liner the Queen Mary is now permanently docked in Long Beach, California. On her decks and in her corridors, people have seen ghostly figures and heard mysterious sounds they just can't explain. Server Carol Leyden had such an encounter:
"I'd been here about 14 years when I first had the first experience of actually seeing what I thought to be a ghost. I was in the work area, and for some reason I picked up a cup of coffee, went out to the tables, and there was a lady sitting there. I was so fascinated by her dress. She appeared to be in a late afternoon cocktail-type dress from the 40s. She had dark hair, rolled at the sides, no makeup on, she seemed to be very pale, but I never saw her move. I left the table, went up about ten feet, turned around because I wanted to take another look, and there was nothing there."
Former ship tour guide, Nancy Anne, once described herself as a hardened skeptic. Not anymore:
"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."
Some say that one way or another, all places are haunted, that they hold on to memories of past events. Perhaps that explains the ghostly apparitions and unexplained sounds that haunt the Queen Mary.
The Queen Mary took her maiden voyage in 1936. During the five day trip across the Atlantic, she was a floating party, a symbol of luxury travel in a gilded age. After her arrival in Long Beach in 1967, one of the first people to work on board was marine engineer John Smith. Several times over a two-month period, John heard something unusual in the ship's bow where there should only have been silence. According to John:
"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."
Years later, John read about a tragedy dating from World War II. After being converted into a troop ship, the Queen Mary accidentally collided with a British cruiser named the Curacoa. Over 300 men were killed. The Queen Mary's bow sliced the Curacoa in half.
It all made sense to John:
"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. Late one night, in the pool area, a maintenance supervisor, Kathy Love, and her co-worker heard mysterious sounds. As Kathy tells it:
"We came into the pool and I heard giggling. The sound of a little girl playing in the area. And at that point, I noticed there was splashing. The splashing stopped, the giggling continued, and we observed the wet footprints of a small child walking across into the locker room. I know that I saw what I saw. I'm not sure exactly why I saw it. But I know it was there."
Several other encounters have occurred in what's called shaft alley, deep within the ship, near the engine room. Here, during a routine fire drill in 1966, a man named John Pedder was crushed to death by a watertight door. While some believe Pedder still haunts the area, Nancy Anne said she's sure he does:
"I was working in the capacity of a lead guide, which meant my job was to close down the tour route and make sure that there weren't any stragglers behind. And I don't know why I turned around, but I turned around and standing right behind me on the step was a man. He had on blue overalls and they were dirty. When I stepped aside to let him go by, he wasn't there. He was gone. I don't necessarily believe any other ghost stories that other people have come up with. I only know what I saw, and I only believe what I saw, with my own eyes."
There's nothing like actually seeing a ghost turn a skeptic into a believer. And judging from the recurring stories, if you want to become a believer, the Queen Mary is a good place to start.