Halloween on the seas: the hauntings of RMS Queen Mary

It was on this date in 1967 that Cunard’s RMS Queen Mary left Southampton for the final time, sailing to the port of Long Beach as a permanent fixture. Yet, while more than two million individuals travelled aboard the ship during 31 years of cruising, some have never left…

What connects ghostly presences, unexplained noises, mysterious disappearances, and inexplainable encounters with the paranormal?

For anyone with travel in the blood, the answer is simple.

RMS Queen Mary.

First christened amid the Art Deco frenzy that engulfed designs of the late 1930s, RMS Queen Mary symbolised Britain’s pinnacle as the provider of stylish ocean-going travel.

Adorned with sumptuous fixtures and all manner of luxuries, Cunard’s flagship quickly claimed the coveted Blue Ribband – the unofficial accolade given to a passenger liner with the highest average speed across the Atlantic – before gaining the affection of society’s elite. But these opulent days were initially short-lived.

Within three years of her maiden voyage, RMS Queen Mary was drafted in for military use. Seeing action throughout World War II, with the ship’s hull and funnels painted navy grey, all her grandeur was stripped out and carefully stored on land. Courtesy of her high speeds and new colour, RMS Queen Mary was swiftly nicknamed “The Grey Ghost”, later regaining her standard form for post-war commercial action.

However, amid the engaging aesthetics and vivid history lurks a more disquieting presence. Having carried 2,112,000 passengers during her time upon the seas, and several hundred thousand during WWII, it seems that some of those passengers still remain onboard.

The RMS Queen Mary leaves Sydney, Australia, carrying allied troops during WWII (Image courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales)

RMS Queen Mary: The world’s most haunted ship

Owners of the cruise liner turned Californian hotel, currently awaiting its fate after a damning $23 million estimation to keep her afloat, have long leaned into the ship’s haunted history. Ghost tours and Victorian-style seances were common before the RMS Queen Mary’s entrance doors were sealed to the public back in 2020.

There are numerous spots on the ship that seem to project figures and energies from otherworldly forces. Yet, there’s one room above all others that harbours something unwarranted.

Stateroom B340

While the majority of RMS Queen Mary radiates a calming mantra, Stateroom B340 is the polar opposite. Ghost hunters would purposefully seek out B340 with the intent of provoking what loiters within, and paranormal experts claim that the stateroom is dripping with confused and angry energy.

That energy seems to confirm that Stateroom B340 boasts a dark history of curious events, starting with British writer Walter J. Adamson. In 1948, as a guest in third-class room B226 (that is now B340), Mr Adamson failed to wake up from his sleep while travelling to North America. Otherwise healthy, his early fate was largely unexplained. Walter is clearly still on his journey.

Stateroom B340 was originally comprised of three third-class cabins, and whatever occurred in these now-combined lodgings over the years has left a presence locked between the walls. There have been many unexplained experiences behind the door of Stateroom B340, with the most infamous account taking place in 1966.

A woman residing in the room reported being woken up after her duvet was yanked aggressively off the bed, upon where she clocked sight of a darkened figure standing at the foot of the mattress. While she was screaming for a steward, the figure dissolved into the ether and vanished.

Over the years, other guests have reported hearing someone – or something – scratching and knocking at the door during the early hours of the morning, while others have witnessed the bathroom lights mysteriously turning on and off.

Staff routinely complained of running water in the bathroom despite the room having sat empty for days, while a maid stated that the bed covers were pulled off by an invisible force just after she had finished putting them on.

When the ship was operating as a hotel, the booking options for Stateroom B340 included a chest with a complimentary Ouija board, tarot cards, and a crystal ball.

The RMS Queen Mary has always attracted ghost hunters and historians alike. (Image source: Shutterstock)

As RMS Queen Mary became an evermore popular host for VIP events, there was extra provenance placed on the more ceremonious of venue rooms – the most popular being Cunard’s sycamore and pommele wood-lined “Garden Lounge”; also known as the Mauretania Room.

In 1989, during a quick turnaround between one event and the next, three women entered the room to clear up and prepare the lounge. The only problem was one particular gentleman who refused to move, sat on a chair in the middle of the dance floor, and stared intently at the cleaners.

Not only did this figure send chills through the room, but when asked to move, and just before they called security, the passenger faded away into the air – a feat that all three women witnessed at the same time. No explanation of the gentlemen could be given, and the witness statements still cause excitement and perplexity amongst historians and ghost hunters alike.

The same incomprehension applies to an occurrence in The Mayfair Room. It was here, at 5:30 am on a cold winter’s morning in 2001, that a member of the accounting staff felt as though something was off. As though coming in early for work wasn’t bad enough, the employee detected the room was unusually cold. Bitterly so.

Then, the accountant felt someone brush the back of their chair, despite being the only person in the room. Or so they thought, as at that exact moment, a white figure plodded across the room and passed through the solid wood of a closed door. The accountant grabbed their keys and fled from the room until their co-workers arrived.

The stylish corridors of RMS Queen Mary are laced with strange activity (Image source: Shutterstock)

The first-class swimming pool and hatch door #13

Although the RMS Queen Mary's first-class swimming pool has been abandoned for some time due to structural issues that defy California’s safety codes, it was once a popular epitome of opulence. Decorated with intricate mosaic tiles, an illuminated fountain, and a ‘Mother of Pearl’ ceiling, it remains one of the most potent hotspots for ghostly apparitions.

Various sightings of collected presences have been recorded, including a young woman in a tennis skirt who saunters downstairs before disappearing behind a pillar, an older woman wearing a wedding dress and a young boy in a suit standing next to the pool, and a little girl in a blue dress, alongside a cloud of steam that billows out of nowhere.

Although new visitors are unable to view the pool area, it seems that various older ones are quite at home there.

There’s further paranormal activity down in the engine room, especially near hatch door #13, where an unfortunate 18-year-old crew member became trapped under the lowering watertight door during a safety drill in 1966. His ghost was regularly spotted by visitors prior to the pandemic, with some reporting the sound of footsteps and someone running behind them, alongside the echo of a man whistling.

Others seem to have encountered the ghostly crewman, feeling the touch of a hand and noticing spots of grease that bear the fingerprints of an unseen entity upon their faces. Some even claimed to have seen the figure of a young, bearded man in blue overalls out of the corner of their eye, while other visitors encountered a young engineer wandering the hallways asking about a missing wrench, who then disappears back into the structure of the ship.

Several people have also reported coming into contact with a little girl down in the heart of the ship’s engine area, sometimes sucking her thumb, and sometimes with a doll in her hand.

Spooky activity, or the work of overactive imaginations? We’ll leave you to decide, but should you wish to pay the RMS Queen Mary a visit and feel the vibes for yourself once the grand old ship opens to the public once more, then you’ll find plenty of cruises through World of Cruising that start and finish in California.

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About Calum Brown

Calum holds a deep interest in all things heritage and remains one of Britain’s most enthusiastic historians.

As a seasoned journalist, he has spent considerable time abroad and relishes all forms of transport. Shipping is in the blood, with a family connection to Stena Line embedded in his DNA. He also refuses to admit that 21st Century music exists.

Calum has developed a skill for bringing history alive, and always insists on making heritage accessible for everyone.