The "Ghosts and Legends" Tour on the Queen Mary

As previously mentioned, every admission to the QM includes the opportunity to queue up at :15 or :45 past the hour and participate in the 35-minute "Ghosts and Legends" tour. As also previously mentioned, the "shortest tour available here" aspect is what sold us on willingly submitting ourselves to being part of a confined crowd on a leash.

The QM makes a big fuss about its "paranormal" aspects. It's a huge marketing draw, as evidenced by the number of different tours/encounters/dinners and even "haunted rooms" available aboard ship. The word is that the ghost connection really has its origins in the late 80s/early 90s when Disney briefly ran the ship. (For what it's worth, Disney didn't take over the ship as part of some Big Disneyfication Scheme. It inherited the operation when it acquired the Wrather interests. The Wrathers, in addition to being friends of Walt, owned the Disneyland Hotel until the late 80s and started controlling the QM around 1980, I think.)

I wish I could say that we had something... unusual... happen during our stay. I'm open-minded to the possibility, although Mike, despite supposedly being a skeptic's skeptic, and again as mentioned before, specifically said he didn't want to stay in a designated haunted room. ("Just in case." What?)

Maybe his vibes were putting out the Unwelcome Mat? Sure, we'll blame it on him! Just look at how the ghost orbs are attacking his unbelieving third eye?


(I know those aren't what people call ghost orbs, but it's all I have.)

Our tour guide, Paul, counted us off and led us into a room that reminded me, sans decoration, very much of the pre-show library at Disney's Hollywood Tower Hotel a.k.a. the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. He called our attention to the three television screens as we watched some background on the "haunted" side of the Queen Mary that could've been lifted straight from an episode of Leonard Nimoy's In Search Of. (Hey, I didn't know it was Rod Serling's show first.)

And then the film got... a little more dramatic. Melodramatic. Mike and I soon swapped grins, because this was clearly not going to be some labored presentation where I'd have to keep kicking Mr. Doubtypants so he'd stay polite. By the time Paul revealed the hidden panel, swung open the door, and stood aside for the light show of red fog and hissing effects, we understood that this wasn't meant a tour; it was an attraction.

Hands squeeze and feet walk on.

The tour begins with the part that everyone likes, the first class swimming pool. I didn't know this at the time, but the second class swimming pool is now the museum, much as Turkish baths that used to be next to the first class swimming pool are now a big storage room. What I'm trying to say is that, apparently, many bad decisions were made when the Queen Mary was converted from ocean liner to hotel/attraction. However, unless you're unusually well-informed about how things ought to be, there is still plenty of original splendor to gawk at when on board.

I didn't get good photos of the pool because, SUDDENLY, the lights went out and NOISES were heard, gates started swinging, and eerie splashes of light began to appear, and I don't just mean the handiwork of those who think the "no flash photography" rule is for Other People. A child giggled across 70 years.

It was very cheesy but fun, almost like maybe we were all whistling past the graveyard by playing up the hokey scary side of things. I ignored most of the theatrics and tried to manually focus.

These photos won't seem as bad if I tell you I think I can see a ghost, a bit to the side, do you see it?

Maybe? Is that it?

Or am I just trying to distract you?

Or am I?

(I am.)

We interrupt this post to let you know it has taken, literally, 14 hours to write so far. This is because my nose matter has reached the gluey stage. Satisfying to blow out, for entire minutes at a time, but tiring as well. As I sit here on the sofa, too bleh to sleep, I can hear Mike in the bedroom coughing out the first proper day of his version of the cold. If it were me, no way would I be going to work tomorrow. He's been sleeping or hacking all day (or both) and just seems to be getting warmed up.

But, he's starting a "special request" three-day assignment tomorrow and doesn't want to disappoint anyone, not when the teacher wrote custom lesson plans for him and everything. I feel really bad that he's going in like this.

(Another 14 hours pass.)

(And another 6 or 8 more. Mike survived today, despite having his first experience of going to sit down in a chair and discovering, from your new perspective on the floor, that it rolled back when you stood up. That makes him almost a real teacher - he still has to realize, too late, that you can't fart in your windowless room a few minutes before school starts before he can move to the next level. But now his congestion has spread from chest to nose.)

(Another 24, 25, 26... many hours pass.)

As we left the pool, the "regular" behind-the-scenes tour group filed in to the pool-level to hear a more straight-up spiel. I'm sure it was very interesting, but we have more Wikipedia than time these days.

After the swimming pool we retraced some steps and headed into what, if I remember correctly, they call the Grey Ghost Walkway. Something like that. It was written in big red (may as well have been dripping) letters on a corridor wall, with an arrow. We were meant to stay attuned to the ghostly echoes of the many (MANY) sailors who were on board the QM during the war. Sound effects and bits of cottony fabric hanging down in the near total dark made the trot past cobwebbed bunk beds (not the originals, but we didn't know it then) kind of fun and kooky.

After a look over some rails, we all got into an elevator, and I mean all of us, and I'm not sure how it happened, but I am sure that some people are probably still unhappy about it. This took us down to the boiler room.

The production values were much higher in here: fake steam and twirling thermostats. Paul kept up his perfect patter that was informative, tongue-in-cheek, and prone to making great claims of hauntedness without ever really claiming anything. The boiler room, a place that would've felt haunted even in its working days (if you get the furnace scenes in Home Alone, you get what I mean), is kept mostly dark. This is a disappointment, since you can easily see enough to see that it is in a shambles and might produce more genuine shivers if lit up. (I wonder if they saved this sign, from the last voyage.)

So far I had suspended critical thoughts in favour of Good Clean Fun, but this resolve wavered when Paul started talking about a crewman who died in the boiler room. (Since identified as John Pedder.) He, all of 18 years old, was playing chicken with a heavy door that would close automatically during drills. We were told it was this door:

(However, the last link above says the real door has been removed?) John's timing was off, and he was crushed in half by the door. We were then told to walk along the aisle, past the door, to "the most haunted area of the ship."

I braced myself for something to happen as we walked past - sound effects, lights - but nothing did. Good, but there was still something sensationalist about relaying the tale of Pedder in this environment. I wouldn't want to be on the same tour as his family and listen to that.

The next area is the hull, which was badly damaged when the Queen Mary accidentally ripped apart her escort ship, the Curacao. It was all over in less than a minute, and 300-something people died. The architecture was interesting; Paul pointed out where you could see the repairs done (or not done) after the horrible accident. The room had a moist feel and was interesting, even in the dim, and then - what's that noise? - water rushing in? - evacuate!

Into the elevator we all smushed again, and Paul complimented us on executing perhaps the calmest evacuation ever. Then it was to the top and farewells (I even saw someone slip Paul a tip, but this seemed to be a one-off), and we were left to look at the chapel and other exhibits on the regular self-guided tour.

It was fun, but as much as I liked the honest(ish) silliness, I was getting a little uncomfortable with other people's peril and loss being manhandled. Maybe the ghosts got to me after all.

We abandoned the "things you can see anytime or read about on the Internet" self-tour in this part of the ship to hustle all the way across and down to the other side to the engine room, to see it before it and the museum-y area around it closed at six.

To get there, we walked past the machine guns:

Mike and the Machine Gun

Which are on the ship's bow:

The Bow

And we moseyed past the Passenger Information window on the Promenade Deck:

Passenger Information on the Promenade Deck

And we wondered if these escalators and flat levels were coming or going (the escalator we used, to the right, was sadly unoperational):

Boarded Up

Then we mucked around by ourselves in the surprisingly large and twisty engine room:

Mike at the Wheel

Until we came to the Propeller Box:

The Propeller

This propeller is the only one still attached to the ship. When the conversion took place, they built a box around it to make a viewing area. (You can see plainly see the box outside the ship, although I'm not sure I got a photo.)

We spent ages in here because I was still having trouble focusing, but also because this was just way cool.

"Would you jump in there for a thousand dollars?" Mike asked. "No!"

Machinery-in-water creeps me out the way clowns scare some people. Looking at this propeller, safely enclosed and about as dormant as can be, still gave me the willies. Forget the ghost tour, this is what actually scared me. Put a flashlight under someone's chin, let the water ripple as if the thing might start moving, and I'd have to close my eyes and go to my happy place.

There was a chip bag floating on the water, because people suck like that. There were also coins all over. "No one's going down to get those," Mike ventured. My stomach rolled just thinking about it, as I alternated between hugging the wall and leaning over the rail - curious and tortured at once.

It was like looking at something undead, really.

As we left the room (a few minutes after the "we're closing in 10 minutes" warning), I realized that the actual outside of the ship made up the wall to the right. Wow. We could touch the side of the Queen Mary, where once only waves touched.

So we did. Neat.

26 March 2008 |


 We built a house. 

 Rabbits tolerate us. 

  We play modern board games.  

 I hunt the dead.