Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ghosts of War - Shadows of the Queen Mary


Once again ghost legends from history - this time from the open seas. Ghosts of War is a history book told through the eyes of witnesses who have experienced the ghosts who still haunt the locations where their lives were lost. Filled with modern first-hand ghost accounts, Ghosts of War travels back in time to put the ghosts in the context of the battles and the wars that changed the world and left ghostly impressions that can still be experienced today.


CHAPTER 25 - RMS QUEEN MARY


War: World War II (1939–1945)
Launched: September 16, 1934, Clydebank, Scotland
Size: Length: 1,019.5 feet; Beam: 118.5 feet; Displacement: 77,400 tons
Service locations: North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
Crew: 1,101 crew; 2,139 passengers
Current location: Since 1967, the RMS Queen Mary has been permanently moored at 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach, California.

RMS Queen Mary: a noble tribute to the imagination of man.
—H.M. Tomlinson

The RMS Queen Mary was built as a transatlantic ocean liner by the Cunard White Star Line. Why would a cruise ship be in a book about the ghosts of war? This is no ordinary ship—the Queen Mary was one of several passenger liners pressed into military service during World War II. She was painted with gray paint to help conceal her from enemy planes and boats and was given the ominous nickname “The Grey Ghost.” Built to hold about 3,200 passengers and crew comfortably, she sometimes ferried over 15,000 servicemen across the Atlantic and even into the Indian Ocean—a move that would prove deadly. Today the Queen Mary is a permanently-moored floating hotel in Long Beach, California, but she’s also one of the most haunted places in the world.

The Queen Mary was a hot target for German U-boats and bombers. Adolf Hitler offered large cash rewards and the Iron Cross medal to any U-boat commander who could sink her. Because she often had little or no military escort when crossing the ocean, the ship ran in a zig-zag pattern with orders to never stop until port in order to avoid becoming an easy torpedo target. During one such run on October 2, 1942, the Queen Mary was being escorted by the HMS Curacoa, a World War I-era light cruiser. The Curacoa crossed in front of the Queen Mary and was practically sliced in half by the giant cruise liner. All 338 British sailors perished when theCuracoa quickly sank to the bottom.

During one over-laden voyage, the Queen Mary was carrying more than 15,000 troops across the Indian Ocean in sweltering heat. The ship was meant to be a North Atlantic liner so there was little that could be done to circulate cooler air throughout the decks of the ship. Dozens of men died from suffocation or heat exposure because the conditions were so difficult.

After World War II, the Queen Mary returned to her civilian service, but transatlantic ocean liner travel was becoming a thing of the past. Airplanes were becoming the way to cross the ocean post-war, and vacation cruises took place in the warmer climes of the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal. The Queen Mary was too big for the Canal, and she wasn’t made for the heat—something she’d already proved. On December 11, 1967, she made her final docking in Long Beach, California, where she became permanently moored and now serves as a hotel and banquet facility.

With so much death in and around “The Grey Ghost,” there seems to be some residual hauntings left over today. Psychic medium Peter James, who was the resident psychic on the television show Sightings, has been investigating the ghosts of the Queen Mary since 1991. He’s conducted many tours of the ship, spent countless overnights there, and believes there are at least 600 active resident ghosts. When asked about the Curacoacollision, James said, “To this day, you can hear the collision—the residual sound effects and also the water splashing and many screams for help.”

Other ghostly reports aboard this ship include phantom smells such as cigar smoke, which Tony Mellard, a California resident, once experienced while on one of Peter James’s ghost tours on the Queen Mary. The Winston Churchill suite is said to be among the most haunted on the ship, and smelling phantom cigar smoke is often a prelude to something more significant. “That night, my wife and I started exploring the hallways of the ship,” Mellard said. “We walked into the strongest smell of cigar smoke you could imagine. It just seemed to come out of nowhere, and it was literally as if someone were standing right in front of us blowing smoke right in our faces—yet we could see no visible smoke. The oddest thing about it was that the smell seemed to linger in one certain area in the middle of the hallway, and if you took one step away in any direction, it would disappear. And as soon as you stepped back, bam, it would overcome your sense of smell. In all our excitement, we really weren’t paying attention to where we were on the ship. But in the midst of our chattering, my wife looks over at the wall and says, ‘Oh my God, look!’ There was the big, golden plaque on the door—’Sir Winston Churchill Suite.’ It sent chills up our spines.”

Mellard has also heard voices on board. Could they be the voices of those who died aboard theCuracoa or perhaps those who perished in the sweltering heat? “I have heard the voices,” he said. “They seem to almost reverberate out of the ship itself—almost like a clanging of metal that forms itself into words. It’s really bizarre.”

About the Author:

Jeff Belanger has been studying and writing about the supernatural for regional and national publications since 1997. He’s the founder of Ghostvillage.com, the largest supernatural community on the Web, and the author of more than 10 books. Belanger lectures throughout the United States and has appeared on more than 100 radio and television programs worldwide, including The History Channel, The Travel Channel, Living TV (UK), The CBS News Early Show, National Public Radio, The BBC, Australian Radio Network, Coast to Coast AM, and The ‘X’ Zone. He currently haunts Massachusetts with his wife, Megan, and daughter, Sophie.

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