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The Lap of Luxury: The RMS Queen Mary’s Early History

The RMS Queen Mary was built at the John Brown Shipyard in Clyde, Scotland. Although construction began in 1930, work was delayed by the great depression, but she (ships are often referred to in feminine terms in English) was finally completed in 1934. The Queen Mary made her maiden voyage on May 27, 1936.

It wasn’t long before the Queen Mary became known as one of the most luxurious ways to travel. The 1,000 foot ship was regarded as even larger, faster and more powerful than the Titanic. She sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, carrying such well-known people as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, and Sir Winston Churchill, just to name a few. The R.M.S. Queen Mary, well regarded by the upper class on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, held the record for the fastest-ever crossing of the North Atlantic Ocean.

The Queen Mary Sails into the Teeth of World War II

When the tides of war began to sweep over Europe in the late 1930s, the Queen Mary was called upon to serve other purposes. Luxury travel between Europe and North America was halted immediately due to the danger of sea travel, and it soon became necessary to transport troops from the United States to Europe. Thus, the Queen Mary received a makeover of sorts, being painted a drab gray that would help give the ship its nickname The Gray Ghost. Once the world’s most luxurious cruise ship, the Queen Mary had become a troop transport vessel.

A photo of the Queen Mary taken in 1952

The capacity of the Queen Mary was increased from 2,410 to 5,500, and by the end of the war, she had carried more than 800,000 soldiers and traveled more than 600,000 miles. The Queen Mary even made it through a collision at sea, as well as setting the record for transporting the most people ever on a floating vessel (16,683). She even took part in the D-Day Invasion. As the war came to an end, the Queen Mary began to ferry war brides and their children to the United States and Canada. The ship made 13 “Bride and Baby Voyages” in 1946.

After the war, the Queen Mary was refurbished to serve once again as a luxury cruise liner. She resumed her transatlantic voyages between Southampton, Cherbourg, and New York. However, travel by cruise ship fell out of fashion in the 1960’s, due to the increasing popularity and affordability of air travel. In 1963, the ship’s route was changed first to the Canary Islands and then to the Bahamas. However, the ship’s lack of central air conditioning, outdoor pools, and other amenities that were now common on cruise ship, made it ill suited to this purpose. In 1967, the Queen Mary made it’s final voyage to Long Beach Harbor. After 1,001 voyages, the ship was permanently docked in order to serve as a hotel and museum.

The Queen Mary, a Haunted Hotel?

While the Queen Mary has become a luxury hotel for those visiting Long Beach, the ship also has a reputation for being haunted by spirits. That should come as no surprise, given the ship’s history during the war and as a luxury liner. Over the 60 years of its active service, the Queen Mary was the site of 49 reported deaths. Now, some say the Queen Mary is one of the most haunted places on earth, with as many as 150 spirits roaming through the ship.

Door 13 in the Queen Mary engine room is said to be haunted.

One of the more haunted spots on the ship is the engine room, which lies fifty feet below sea level. Door 13 of the engine room is a particular hotbed of paranormal activity, since it was here that two people died while the ship was active. The most recent death was in 1966, when an 18 year old crew member was crushed to death during a routine watertight door drill. The spirit of the young man, sporting blue overalls and a beard, can still be seen wandering the the engine room, before disappearing near Door 13.

Two more popular spots for ghostly activity are the first and second class swimming pools. While neither pool serves its original purpose now, the spirits that haunt them don’t seem to know that. In the second class pool, spirits of women who are wearing swimsuits from the 1930s can be seen wandering the decks close to the pool. Some guests have even seen the spirit of a little girl who is holding a teddy bear. People have even heard the sounds of splashing and have seen wet footprints leading from the pool to the changing room.

The spirit of a little girl named Jackie is said to haunt the second class poolroom. Rumor has it that the little girl drowned in the pool (although no official death was ever reported), but her spirit has refused to move on. The sounds of laughter as well as the little girl’s voice have been heard by those guests brave enough to visit the second class pool area.

Queen Mary Fun Facts

  • In the Queen’s Salon, which once served as the first class lounge, the spirit of a beautiful young woman can sometimes be seen dancing alone in the shadows at the corner of the room.
  • John Brown & Company, which built the Queen Mary, also built the R.M.S. Lusitania, a luxury cruise ship that was sunk by German torpedoes in World War I.
  • Among the amenities of the Queen Mary, were five dining areas, the two swimming pools, and a grand ballroom.
  • The collision mentioned above occurred between the Queen Mary and its escort ship, the Curacoa. More than 300 men were killed in the accident
  • The Queen Mary had a cameo in the 1966 movie Assault on a Queen, starring Frank Sinatra.


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