RMS Queen Mary Haunting
Perhaps the Greatest of the Grey Ghosts is the RMS Queen Mary:
RMS Queen Mary began when I saw her as a great scene in which to set a confrontation – step up the drama in my book, set in the spring of 1939.
What drew me to RMS Queen Mary was the grandeur and the beauty of her – the architecture. She was the pride of Britain. She also embodied hope and a new future for so many who traveled on her to a new life in the USA, from Southampton, via Cherbourg, to New York. In her first year of service in 1936, she transported 57,000 passengers. But RMS Queen Mary’s civilian life ended September 4th as she moored on pier 40, just two days before the outbreak of war. By May 1945, she had transported 800,000 troops.
So you can understand how it often happens when researching for my writing; I became drawn into something else, as what starts off as a slight interest, begins something much bigger.
Her first mission was from New York to Cape Town and then to Sydney. It was in Sydney where she was painted grey. Along with RMS Queen Elizabeth, she was strengthening the Pacific front – sailing between Australia and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
By 1942, RMS Queen Mary was transporting American troops across the Atlantic to Britain with GIs crammed into two berth cabins (14 in each).
The ‘accident’ with the smaller and slower craft,
Curacoa, zigzagging some 50 miles off the North Irish coast and heading for Scotland was not made public knowledge until April 1945. It was in October 1942 when The Curacoa, a WWI light cruiser escort vessel cut across the bows of RMS Queen Mary, caught amidships by the faster, larger, and more powerful vessel. RMS Queen Mary – damaged, continued home to safety, unable to stop in such dangerous U-Boat infested waters. Of the 336 passengers aboard the Curacoa, only 28 crew men survived.
Her first post-war trip back across the Atlantic was in July 1947. RMS Queen Mary continued in service until 1967. She is now a luxurious hotel in Long Beach, California.
Now she is famous for other legends surrounding her, from Grey Ghost of the sea to the home of haunting ghosts. She has been classed as among the six most haunted places in the USA.
There are stories of a sobbing girl who drowned in the pool. There are reported activities of a poltergeist screaming and throwing furniture about in Cabin B340, where it is said a murder took place; this room is no longer used. A woman in white dances on the open decks. Lights flicker on and off. Many visitors tell of the figure of a poor sailor who died during a fire drill in the engine room. There are hotel guests who tell of sheets and covers being pulled from their beds as they sleep.
But perhaps the eeriest haunting must be that memory, that history of the accident in October 1945 when RMS Queen Mary could not wait, but had to steam on to safety, leaving those sailors of the Curacoa to drown. A tough decision, perhaps harder than that made by Lieutenant Commander George Ericson on The Compass Rose, when he is accused of murder by some of his men. Having made the awful decision to depth charge a German submarine at the cost of many men. The survivors swimming for their lives after the sinking of a merchant ship. (See article about wartime and post-war films).
RMS Queen Mary is one of the greatest of the Grey Ghosts. We are reminded of how heroism and horror are intertwined in war and how something of grace and beauty changes its nature.
By Carl, copyright 2013