Dining with the Spirits aboard the Queen Mary

Sad to say, one of the stories I had heard somewhere about the Queen Mary is untrue.

I had read somewhere, and I cannot for the life of me remember where, that some of the Queen Mary’s most famous spooks were the ghosts of servicemen who had died there during World War 2. No, I am not saying that there aren’t ghosts of servicemen, just that the story I had read was wrong: I had heard that they had died because they were sleeping in the first class pool, which is situated right over the engines (true and true), and that when the boat sailed through the Panama Canal, the heat from the engines combined with the heat of being close to the Equator resulting in overly cooked servicemen.

The Queen Mary is too big to go through the Panama Canal. Ergo, that last part isn’t true.

It is true, however, that the Queen Mary was used as a troop ship in the Second World War, however it operated in the North Atlantic, and I get the feeling that those troops who got assigned bunks in the pool area were probably happy about the extra warmth they would have gotten from the engines.

One of the highlights of my return from my trip Down Under was doing the “Dining with Spirits” tour on the Queen Mary, in Long Beach California. It was a last minute sign-up; I would have booked ahead of time but had been sure I would still be suffering from jet lag. Fortunately I had slept most of the day so I was fine and raring to go by the time I got to the ship.

I was also very excited because the Queen Mary has quite the reputation in ghost tour circles. I’ve seen a few ghost hunt shows about the ship, and was eager to try my own hunt.

Arriving at the ship is almost daunting… dark, overcast night, empty streets and then suddenly there she is: this huge behemoth ocean liner rising before you. I’ve been on cruise ships in the Caribbean before, but somehow the Queen Mary just seems more overwhelming.

There are a couple paranormal tours offered on board, but the one available that night was Dining with the Spirits, which included “upscale dining at the award-winning Sir Winston’s, followed by an intimate tour of the ship’s paranormal host spots.” Well, I was going to have to eat dinner anyway…

We were a small group that night (under 20), which I understand is quite the rarity. We all gathered in the bar area of Sir Winston’s, the ships ‘most elegant restaurant’. The bar is decorated with many pictures from the ship’s heyday, including some of its celebrity passengers. I met a couple who were not only doing the dinner/tour but also staying on board at the ship’s hotel. They were not the only couple doing so, I later discovered; most of the folks on the tour were staying there. Our paranormal guide says the ship is most ‘active’ around 4 a.m., so staying over is definitely something I’ll want to try next time.
Sir Winstons

Sir Winston’s definitely lived up to its elegant promise. The food was excellent and wonderfully presented. The group at my table spent most of dinner telling each other stories about strange encounters they had experienced or other ghost tours they had been on. Needless to say, we were primed.

Halfway through dinner we were joined by Andrew, who is one of the ship historians. He dashed the story I had heard, but confirmed another – yes, despite being unarmed the Queen Mary has sunk a boat. Sadly, it was an escort ship during WWII (a so-called ‘friendly fire’ type incident), and may account for some of the paranormal experiences. The ship also carried my POWs, which could also account for other ‘things that go bump in the night.’

Erika Frost, our paranormal tour guide joined us for dessert. She gave us an overview of where we were going and what to expect. She also gave us this directive: if taking pictures, take a few in rapid succession: If you get an orb on one and not on another, that is to be ‘trusted’ more than if you only take one picture. That one could just be of dust; a couple pics will clarify that. She also warned us that many folks did experience unexplained camera problems on the tour.

Another thing she mentioned is that the boat is completely stationary. While still surrounded by water, it was wedged pretty hard in, and so it just simply didn’t move. Any rocking feeling we might experience would be due to electromagnetic waves, something she says occur a lot in such a highly charged paranormal area. Indeed, some folks had mentioned it during dinner, though not all of us felt it.

I did also want to mention one slightly weird thing that happened during dinner. At one point I went to the washroom, walking through the restaurant’s lobby and bar. As I approached the lobby there was an overwhelming smell of cigar. Even the maître mentioned that someone in the bar must be smoking and he hoped the bartender would tell them to stop. When I went down the stairs to the bar, the smell was fainter, but more importantly – the place was empty.

Our first stop was one of the engine rooms, where a spirit called Johnny resides. He had been crushed in an accident many years ago, and is considered one of the ship’s most famous residents. Erika said she felt his presence, which I did not, though myself and a couple others felt there was someone else, hiding in the back area. Erika confirmed that there is another man whose spirit has been felt in that area but little is known about him; he’s shy and not that talkative. We stopped and some of us were given a chance to try dowsing. While the metal rods did do a lot of moving around, I am still not sure I felt a presence. One woman though, felt someone brushing against her a lot, and Erika did say that ‘Johnny’ really seemed to like her.
Engine Room

Orbs in Engine Room

One of the next stops was in the very bowels of the ship, right at the front, where the POWs had been kept. Haunted or not, this area was downright creepy. We turned off our flashlights, sat in a circle and just tried to commune with whoever might be there. For a while it was pitch-black, but then you could see shadows of people walking by the hatch door. Something you thought nothing of until you realized we were in an area that was locked to other people – we had to have a security guard let us in – and there were no lights on upstairs in order to cast shadows. We also heard several knocks and muttering voices.
Chair in POW area
Orbs on chair

It was here that I took some rapid succession pics that actually showed some orb shaped things.
POWs orbs
POW - no orbs
More orbs
And one of the other women who had ‘seen’ the other man down in the engine room confirmed my feeling that there was someone in the far right corner; a woman. Probably a nurse.

We all got out of that area quite quickly.
Walking to the pool area...

Walking to pool
The last area we went to was the first class pool area. This is considered another one of the ship’s hot spots, and one of our tour participants had told a story about an experience he’d had there a few decades before; something that had scared him enough that this was his first time back.

Almost as soon as we arrived one man started asking about the little girl in the corner.

The pool. I was sure I saw something near the upstairs curtain
Erika supplied her name, which I am afraid I have forgotten. She is also one of the more famous ghosts aboard, believed to have been a young girl who drowned in the second class pool area, but when it was closed and turned into more cabin space, had moved to this pool area.

Frankly I was more unnerved by the person I felt watching from the upstairs balcony.

After a wander around the area we were asked if we wanted to enter the change room area, where there was supposed to be a ‘vortex’ – portal to the other side. The man who’d told his story had said his experience had happened right at the end of the hall of change rooms…. so guess where I went? Yep. I didn’t taunt the ghosts, as he said he’d done, I just went down to the end, turned off my flashlight (as all the others did) and waited. Let me also say, the nearest person to me was three rooms down. No one close to me at all.

So who the heck as rubbing my feet?

First the right then the left, then a pause, then left then right. And my skirt was lifting a little at the bottom.

There was also a feeling that something else was in the room with me. So I stepped out into the hallway… just as Erika said, “Whoever is down at the end, there is a strong presence down there with you.” “Yes,” I replied. “Which is why I moved out to the hall.”

When I mentioned the feet thing to her later, she laughed and said, “Oh, you probably got one of the cats then.” The Queen Mary had, in its heyday, a bit of a rodent problem. So cats were brought on board to take care of it. And many had never left… As soon as she said it, it made total sense: it had felt exactly like a cat brushing back and forth around my feet. And it wasn’t the first time I’d had cats show up for me on a ghost tour. It would seem that, despite not having a real cat at present, I am still a cat person.

All in all, an interesting experience. I am not sure how much of it was my imagination or if I did encounter something paranormal, but I did enjoy the evening. And I definitely would like to return for a night in the hotel and another tour. Maybe that one that starts at midnight…


How Air New Zealand messed up my Christmas 2009 trip

I started on my trip Down Under with high hopes and in good spirits. My stop in San Francisco was wonderful; I love that town. So much to see and do… and the food! YUM! What a great start to my trip (the only ‘bad’ spot being the man in the next hotel room who liked to be called “the King” during sex… I kid you not!).

Unfortunately, Air New Zealand decided that my bags needed to stay in San Francisco even though I had left. I arrived in Sydney, after a long 13 hour flight to Auckland, an hour rest and then a 3 hour bump over to Australia, to discover that my bags had been left in the US. Actually, that was discovered about 6 hours after my arrival – until then no one knew where they were.

The first day I was more concerned about getting clean clothes, but as days pass that quickly fades when you have trucked around the world to spend Christmas with your nephew – his first Christmas – and with your somewhat estranged side of the family, and have arrived empty-handed. Literally. Definitely not the way to make a good impression.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported, while I was in Australia, that several thousand travellers had had their bags go missing, and I also heard from several Aussies that both Qantas and Air NZ have a ‘propensity’ for losing bags around the holidays. I am not sure if there was any truth in the rumour that one Qantas flight from London Heathrow has arrived filled with travellers, but sans all luggage, but I can certainly believe it.

It took almost four days for my bags to show up. After Christmas. After having to sit there like a beggar at the table, feeling like crap whenever anyone handed me a present to open, knowing that the best part of Christmas is the giving of gifts – and I had nothing to give (yet).

Four days. A day and a half of which they had sat in Auckland waiting for someone to notice that they belonged in Australia not New Zealand. During that time I had called Baggage Services about six times, sitting on hold for on average an hour each time. Air New Zealand graciously compensated me $100AUD for my troubles… but I had to come to them and get it.

They failed to compensate me for having to replace one suitcase – when my bags did finally show up one of them wouldn’t roll properly. I opened up the back to see why the handle wouldn’t work and discover that the entire infrastructure was bent inward in a reverse V. I am afraid to think of how it was thrown in order to have created such a deep bend.

I said ‘ruined’ didn’t I? Well, perhaps not entirely, I did get to spend time with my family and to play with my nephew, but the first few days of my trip were marred by a preoccupation with the bags. Christmas Day was unenjoyable because I was unable to give the presents I had spend months selecting. By the time they did show up it was very anticlimatic, and I still felt like the beggar child. So no, not entirely ruined.

BOO! A couple Florida ghost tour experiences

I like ghost tours.

I’m a bit of a history buff, and it is a great way to get a good taste of the area’s history. After all – to know the ghost, you have to know why the ghost came about, right? A good guide explains the history of not only the buildings visited, but also about the people and living conditions of that era. Or many eras. And with ghost tours popping up everywhere (sort to like Starbucks stores), it is a cool, and creepy way to learn a little.

If you ever find yourself in St. Augustine, Florida (and who hasn’t?), I highly recommend the Ghost Tours of St. Augustine’s ‘A Ghostly Experience’. Just about every old building there is haunted; everything from Flagler College, the Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine Lighthouse, even the building which houses Ripley’s Believe It or Not. There is even a haunted tree!

My last trip to Florida I was all about the lying on the beach and doing anything that required more work that putting on sunscreen… well, you get the picture. But the brain can only atrophy for so long and I took the ghost tour offered in New Smyrna Beach, just south of Daytona Beach. I was the only one of the tour so I got two, count ‘em – two, guides. Susan is a local medium and she brought along Charlie Carlson, a well-known author of the strange and weird (penning books like “Weird Florida” and “Strange Florida”). With a reminder that Florida was one point of the Bermuda Triangle, the two spooked me with all sorts of strange stories. Like the one about a former mayor who still wanders the streets, sometimes as a cat (and we saw a cat doing pretty weird things… like running across the street in front of cars. Coincidence?), or about a cheerleader who, murdered by a serial killer, came back to visit her family and frightened them so much they abandoned their home – just walking out and not coming back. The house lies empty to this day. Freaky!

Anyway, I love ghost tours… and am hoping to do some more on future trips.