Tour Offers Up The Eerie On Queen Mary
By Fred Shuster , Los Angeles Daily News
COPIED FROM: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ARCHIVES Originally published on Sunday, March 17, 1991.
LONG BEACH, Calif.
SPIRITS, it is said, remain where they have the strongest connection to life, places of great joy or great sorrow. So why are so many ghosts apparently haunting the Queen Mary in Long Beach?
The legendary ship's newest attraction, ''Ghosts, Myths & Legends of the Queen Mary'' attempts to get to the bottom of that question. During an hourlong walking tour, called ''Haunted Passages,'' visitors are taken through the formerly off-limits bowels of the luxury liner in search of eerie events and spooky spots.
Of course, at least one explanation for the reports of mysterious events on the ship is that nothing draws a crowd like intrigue. And it's no coincidence that the aquatic attraction is unveiling its new exhibit now, as people are preparing to make their summer vacation plans.
According to reports, the Queen Mary has been the site of a number of unexplained phenomena since docking in Long Beach on Dec. 9, 1967. One of the first such stories occurred even before the boat was opened to the public, while it was undergoing conversion near the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. One night, a security guard patrolling the ship with a specially trained dog heard a noise behind watertight door No. 13.
The dog suddenly stopped, or so the story goes, refusing to move any further. A search of the area turned up nothing, but archive records showed that on July 10, 1966, an 18-year-old engineer, John Pedder, had been crushed to death in doorway 13.
Years after the security-guard incident, a tour guide walking up some steps aboard the boat felt the presence of a stranger behind her. She quickly turned and saw the image of a young man for a brief second, before the apparition disappeared. The guide, who didn't know about the violent death
in doorway 13, later picked Pedder's picture out of a lineup.
''I was there when she did it, and my heart went to my throat,'' said Jennifer Nestegard, a publicist for the Queen Mary & Spruce Goose. ''It was really frightening.''
The spot where Pedder met his death is just one of the stops along the ''Haunted Passages'' tour.
The first part of the ''Ghosts, Myths & Legends'' attraction is a highly enjoyable multimedia production, titled ''Dark Secrets of the Queen Mary.'' Located in the Queen Mary Royal Theatre, the production features historic film footage of the ship's illustrious history. Actor Gary Clark, dressed in a '30s suit and sipping from a champagne glass, narrated the film during a recent visit.
''They say a ship's first captain claims her bridge forever,'' Clark said, adding that the Queen Mary's first captain, Sir Edgar Britten, fell ill and died a few months after the ship's first passenger cruise.
The ghosts of Britten and Pedder aren't guaranteed to haunt every tour, but several other frightening figures always will be available to cause shivers and chills. As visitors make their way through the darkened, narrow passages beneath the decks, a certain lady in white is briefly spotted dancing alone in a corner of one of the ship's five boiler rooms.
''She's dancing alone to music only she can hear,'' Clark explained. Clark doesn't say - but visitors may surmise - that she is an actor.
A new souvenir shop, Ghostly Ghoods, recently opened in the Picadilly Circus shopping area on the main deck. The store features trick novelties and fright jokes, such as chattering skulls and ''The Surprising Arm,'' a lifelike replica of a human arm that can be hung partially out of the trunk
of your car.
The ship recently came under the management of the folks at Disney, who know how to assemble and promote tourist attractions.
All tours are included in the price of admission.
The Queen Mary & Spruce Goose Entertainment Center is located on Pier J, Port of Long Beach, and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. For more information, call (213) 435-3511.
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