Staci Layne Wilson reporting
The Queen Mary is a legendary ocean liner that's been the site of many a grand event… but it’s also been plagued with odd and unexplained deaths since even before its maiden voyage — the Queen claimed her first victim in 1934 when she was still under construction. Such a vast, rich and textured history is what sets this Halloween haunt and maze jaunt apart from its local competition (Knott's Scary Farm, Universal Studio's Halloween Horror Nights).
Last night, members of the press were invited to be the first aboard for this year's presentation. While the ship's been the site of many an October commercial venture — Shipwreck ran for some 15 years, and Dark Harbor is now in its second year. They've brought in new blood with more monsters, different creative twists and elements of surprise. There are resident characters, including She-demon Bundara and her sisters Mattenoot and Searer, who wreak havoc on the crew, passengers and neighboring villagers.
The evening began with a toast, where zombified bartenders and wait staff offered up pumpkin cream puffs, sugar cookies, and alcoholic beverages with names like Vampire's Kiss and Dead Pirate's Punch. After an announcement from the facilitators of the awesome event, and bad wishes from Bundara and her sickly siblings, it was off to the mazes!
Having just been through the creepy configurations at Universal Theme Park's Halloween Horror Nights, I'd have to say they compare very favorably and each is quite different from the other. Universal has its horror movie tie-ins, and when you walk through you are meant to look at and see a lot of the visuals. Dark Harbor is exactly what it says it is: dark! It was much creepier and more disorienting than the mazes you're meant to see. Twists, turns, false leads, fish nets, hanging ropes and halls of mirrors, along with characters who jump out, follow you and taunt you all add to the fun.
That's it from me, but check out the rest of our exclusive pix, along with the stories of all the lost souls to be found on the spooky ship!
From the Queen Mary Press Release:
Anyone who sets foot in the ‘Hellfire’ maze will see the effects of Searer’s fiery wrath, particularly as they cross the catwalk across the ship’s cavernous former boiler room.
Those who dare enter the ‘Village of the Damned’ will see Mattenoot’s twisted mutations and mutilations at every turn.
The atmospheric and watery special effects inside ‘Submerged’ will ensure guests experience a sinking feeling. Not to mention, the pool area housed within this maze is widely considered one of the most haunted places aboard the ship, if not the earth.
Pestilence and disease have taken over in ‘Containment’, a maze where the doctors are more twisted than the ship’s walkways. This area of the Queen Mary is normally off-limits to guests as are portions of the ‘Hellfire’ and ‘Submerged’ mazes.
The all new ‘Vortex Tunnel’, which is housed in the Dome on shore, will propel guests into the extreme terror that awaits them on the other side.
Once through the winding and blinding thrill of the tunnel, ‘The Cage’ will prove relentless and absolutely disorienting. Between the countless switchbacks and mind-numbing strobe lights, guests will clamor to find their way out.
For those who survive Dark Harbor’s horrors, respite awaits at the ‘Night Mariner’s Bar’ where live entertainment lightens the scare factor and diabolically delicious food and specialty cocktails such as the Bite Me and Skin & Bones quell wary appetites.
But beware of ‘The Street’ – the area outside of all the mazes and attractions, where the oddest and most insane denizens mill about.
The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor will be open October 7-9; 14-16; 20-23; and 27-31 from 7 p.m. to midnight. Ticket discounts and promotions start as low as $20 online at www.queenmarydarkharbor.com.
Who Haunts The Queen Mary?
The Queen Mary has been the subject of a number of documentaries, books and articles which focus on the supernatural. Each year, guests and crew members fill pages of reports trying to explain the unexplainable. While stories have been collected for the enjoyment of those whose interests are piqued by such tales, they are also documented in order to gain a better perspective of the occurrences that have taken place within the confines of the ship.
Skeptics want to know exactly to whom these lost souls once belonged. Most of the restless spirits seen throughout the ship are believed to be former crew members and passengers who may have met an untimely death while sailing aboard the Queen Mary. During the ship's 75-year history, there have been a total of 49 reported deaths, excluding the 239 souls lost at sea when the ship collided with the Curacao during WWII maneuvers. The first death took place in 1934 while the ship was under construction at the John Brown Shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland. Records are not available of the deaths aboard during World War II when the great ship carried troops, the wounded, prisoners of war and war brides. The following are just some of the more famous tales, but new spirits are sighted to this day by visitors and staff.
The Crushed Crewman
Perhaps the best known story is that of a young crewman who was violently crushed to death in Doorway 13 in the depths of the Engine Room during a routine watertight door drill on July 10, 1966. Sightings are said to be frequent as visitors and crew members describe a young bearded man in blue coveralls walking the length of Shaft Alley.
During one encounter, in August of 1991, a couple passed through door #13 and remembered the story their guide had told them about the crewman’s death at that door. As they started up the stairs leading out of the area, the husband said he had a strange feeling someone was following him. He looked back, but saw nothing. “Maybe the crewman is here,” he laughed to his wife. “Do you want to go for a walk with us?” They were still joking about it as they continued up the stairs when suddenly something brushed across the husband’s face, as if he had been touched. He didn’t think much about it, but as they were leaving the ship, proceeding down the gangway, his wife saw a streak of grease on her husband’s face. It hadn’t been there before. Had the young crewman taken them up on their invitation and let them know he was along?
The Woman in White
The Queen's Salon, the ship's former first-class lounge, has been the backdrop for many sightings – yet the details of the story rarely change. It seems that a beautiful woman clad in a simple white evening gown is often seen dancing alone in the shadows. One unsuspecting little girl pointed out to the tour guide the "woman in white." The tour guide looked over and saw nothing; however, the little girl described the woman in detail. Still, the guide saw nothing and continued with the tour. The child continued to repeat her observation, not knowing that she was just one in a long list of others who had seen this mysterious woman.
Many occurrences have taken place within the confines of a number of first-class suites. Such an event happened early one morning as a tour guide was taking interior photographs. One picture, which captured the cabin's beautiful pink-tinted mirror, was shot from across the room. When the photos were developed, the particular print featured the reflection of a tall, dark-haired man in the mirror. This would not be considered very unusual except for the fact that the man in the photo was wearing a 1930s-style suit and did not resemble the picture-snapping tour guide in the least. One final note, the tour guide was alone.
The Legend of The Grey Ghost
During World War II, the Queen Mary was painted a camouflage grey, transformed into a troopship and nicknamed "The Grey Ghost." In his efforts to sink the magnificent ship, Adolf Hitler offered a $250,000 reward and the Iron Cross to any U-boat captain who could sink her. Her speed was her greatest asset as well as her greatest tragedy. While sailing in a mandatory zigzag pattern, she sliced through her escort ship, the British cruiser H.M.S. Curacao, as it went off course across her bow. The Queen Mary, under orders to stop for no reason whatsoever, sustained sizable damage to her bow, but the Curacao sank rapidly. Of the 439 soldiers aboard the Curacao, only 101 men survived. Forty years later, a television crew left their audio recorder running overnight in the exact location where the two ships collided. As the tape played back the next day, incredible sounds of pounding could be heard. Others have claimed to hear voices and blood-curling noises from the same area.
Sink or Swim
The first-class swimming pool, one of the ship’s best representations of the Art Deco era, is another popular spot for ghost sightings. Many have reported seeing women dressed in vintage bathing suits, hearing splashing sounds, and discovering wet footprints on the tile – with not a drop of water in the pool. One guide reported seeing a woman wearing a 1930s swimsuit preparing to dive. She yelled to the woman to stop and then turned around to call security. As she turned back to focus her attention on the woman, she discovered she had disappeared. The guide claimed to have witnessed this in black and white.
The Chart Room Encounter
A family was enjoying the walking tour of the Queen Mary June 9, 1991, and had begun investigating the Bridge and all the gears, wheels and gadgets the Captain and his officers used to guide the mighty ship. One man wandered into the adjacent Chart Room where all the ship’s navigation maps were stored and the ship’s course was charted. There was only one other person in the room who departed as the man entered. He was examining the map displayed on the chart table, and as he found the Queen Mary’s location marked on the map, he felt someone tug at the back of his shirt, just above his left shoulder blade. He turned expecting to see another member of his party. He felt a sudden chill when he realized that he was completely alone… Or was he?
The Spirits in the Children’s Playroom
A Queen Mary passenger was enjoying a guided tour of the upper decks June 12, 1991, and was at the rear of the group as they stopped at the Children’s Nursery exhibit on the Sun Deck. As the group moved on, the passenger and her friend began to hear noises, like young children laughing and playing. The sounds seemed to be coming from inside the nursery. They looked through the window into the room, but could see nothing but the books, toys and games on display. They jumped back as the doorknob began rattling by itself, and they could hear kicking sounds from the other side of the door. Shaken by the experience, the passenger and her friend quickly went to catch up with the group – but several times she felt something tugging on her purse and her shirt. She had the strong sense that she was being followed and then felt something touch her hair. Did the spirits want to come out and play?
The Footsteps on the Stairs
One evening in January 1998, a hotel passenger was ascending the stairs from B Deck to A Deck at the stern of the ship. The area seemed deserted, but suddenly he heard footsteps on the carpet behind him accompanied by an occasional ankle crack. He heard the footsteps getting closer and closer, and it seemed that whoever was behind him was going to pass him or, at any second, bump into him on the stairs. Stepping aside to get out of the way, he turned and looked over his shoulder and was more than a little startled to see that no one was there! As far as he could see, the stairwell and the passageway forward and aft were silent and empty. What was it, and where was it going in such a hurry?
The Little Girl with the Glowing Eyes
Very early on the morning of January 15, 2000, a crew member was vacuuming the carpet in the Exhibit Hall when the temperature of the room began to drop dramatically. The man had the feeling he was not alone and turned around to see if anyone was there. He was surprised to see a little girl standing before him. She was sucking her thumb and staring at the man quite intently. Then, as the little girl stretched her arms toward the man, he saw her eyes begin to glow, and he realized she wasn’t standing, she was floating toward him, almost as if she wanted to be picked up. He ran! The crew member was very shaken and reported to his supervisor and to Security what had occurred. He didn’t want to go back, but he also didn’t want them to think he was crazy and seeing things, so together they returned to the area. They saw nothing, but, as before, the air began to chill, and all of them rushed out. Too bad. The spirit of this little girl was sighted at least three times during January 2000. Had they stayed, could they have made a new friend?
The Pilot and the Gentleman
An airline pilot who was between flights was spending a night aboard the hotel in May of 1993. He had enjoyed dinner in one of the ship’s restaurants and gone right to bed since he had an early departure the next morning. Sometime in the night, he heard a crash in the bathroom, but he was too soundly asleep to get up and investigate. His stateroom had two portholes with a small table and two chairs below them. As he turned over to get more comfortable, he looked in that direction and was amazed to see a gentleman, dressed in what seemed to be business attire from the 1930s or 40s, sitting in one of the chairs looking over some papers. The apparition looked up from his papers and made eye contact with the pilot, and then he vanished. Thinking he must have been dreaming, the pilot went back to sleep. When he awoke and went into his bathroom the next morning he found that all of his personal toiletries had been emptied from their zippered case and dumped into the sink! Is it possible he wasn’t dreaming after all?
The Phantom Piano Player
A woman and her daughter were visiting California and staying aboard the Queen Mary. There was a friend in the area that they wanted to be sure to see, but who could only meet with them quite late at night. It was about 1:45 a.m. when the two made their way to the Hotel Lobby on A Deck to wait for their friend. The Lobby was deserted; even the Front Desk clerk had stepped away for a moment. The woman took a seat in one of the Lobby chairs, but her daughter decided to sit at the grand piano. The lid, which covers the keyboard, was down on the beautiful, one-of-a-kind instrument that had been built especially for the Queen Mary when she first sailed in the 1930s. Suddenly a simple melody came from the piano and then stopped. The daughter looked at her mother and said, “Did you hear that?” They had both, indeed, heard the piano play by itself. A little bit frightened, they decided to wait outside on the deck. Was it a greeting?
The Man in Black
A Queen Mary crew member in the Marketing Department had heard a lot about the supposed ghosts aboard the ship, but he didn’t believe that nonsense – until the morning of October 28, 1999. It was quiet and he and his supervisor were the only people on the Sun Deck at that early hour. He was working at his computer when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone standing in the doorway. He turned to speak to whoever it was and he saw a man dressed in all black just standing there, framed in the doorway, staring at him. When he reacted and began to speak, the man simply vanished. The crew member thought he must have imagined it and asked his supervisor, “Did you see that?” She answered, “You mean the man in black?” With that, chills went down his spine. He got up to go see if anyone was around and, as he stepped into the doorway where the man had been standing, it was very cold. He still trembles when he recalls the experience.
About the Queen Mary
Located in the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary features a rich maritime history, authentic Art Deco décor, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Long Beach city skyline. At the time of her maiden voyage in May of 1936, she was considered the grandest ocean liner ever built. On May 27, 2011, the Queen Mary celebrated the 75th Anniversary of that inaugural transatlantic crossing. The Queen Mary’s signature restaurants include the award-winning Sir Winston’s and Chelsea Chowder House & Bar as well as a weekly Champagne Sunday Brunch served in the ship’s Grand Salon.