The first year of the newsletter came to an end amid big changes. Brother Mike left Book Again, and his departure was reported in Mom's column this month.

With the exception of the Renaissance Faire mention in May of '87, my first year of folklore columns was fairly traditional - the origins of Christmas, Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, etc. At the end of the previous column, however (June / July 1987), I had made reference to the fact that the Queen Mary, docked right here in Long Beach, was reputed to be haunted. Now, this is fairly common knowledge these days, but it was not as well known at the time. At any rate, when that column hit people began asking for more details, and it was clear that the time had come to begin delving into areas closer to home.

Now, at the time I first wrote this, the management of the Queen Mary still maintained a long standing official policy denying that there was anything supernatural going on. Soon after this column appeared, however, a similar expose of the ship showed up in the Daily Breeze, and before too long shows like "2 on the Town" were conducting their own investigations.

Within a year Disney had bought the ship and were soon offering "haunted tours" of it for Halloween. (It would be revealed a couple of years later that Disney had intended to build a huge water themed park in Long Beach, a project that sadly was later abandoned. Clearly the Queen Mary purchase was a preemptive attempt to shore up some initial Long Beach holdings.)

Needless to say, I was delighted at the turn of events.

Exactly ten years later, in September 1997, we would go online, and I would begin contributing columns again for the first time in quite a while. To commemorate that occasion I reprinted this column verbatim for the print version of the September '97 newsletter.

I ended my last column with a "teaser" - a customer had written in to request a column on California folklore, and I wanted to demonstrate that to do even the immediate L.A. area justice we would need at least three columns, and mentioned in passing a lost gold mine somewhere between here and the Arizona border (which by the way has still not been found, and if one of you out there is sufficiently inspired to go out to the desert and happens to strike it rich I shall of course expect the usual finder's fee) - and the fact that the Queen Mary is, right now, even as we speak, a haunted ship.

One day after that newsletter hit the homes a customer accosted Michael, demanding to know if it was really true, and going on to express a bit of delight that something so . . . otherworldly . . . could be going on right here in the South Bay!

That sense of discovery, of finding something almost magical right at your doorstep, is what got me interested in this stuff in the first place, so let us peer over the Palos Verdes hills for a moment, and go down among the endless docks to where a relic from another age sits in harbored splendor, in a tale I call (because I couldn't come up with anything hokeyer) . . .

They Walk in Long Beach


The Queen Mary was launched in England in 1934, and on the day of her launching a London astrologer named Lady Mabel Fortescue-Harrison had this to say:

"The QUEEN MARY, launched today, will know her greatest fame and popularity when she never sails another mile and never carries another paying passenger."

Today, of course, it stands imprisoned presumably for all time in Long Beach, its every secret revealed, its every room opened for paying perusal. For a fee slightly higher than the day ticket one can actually stay the night, imagining one is not in a modern harbor but in the middle of the Atlantic, in the late 1930's, perhaps. You could imagine someone drifting quite easily off to sleep, full of such dreams . . . that is, until the chains began to rattle and the pipes began to clang, and voices came drifting out from places most definitely uninhabited by any living things . . .

The best way to get first hand accounts is to actually go down there and strike up a conversation with one of the tour guides. Most of the spectral manifestations have apparently been witnessed by these guides over the years, although sightings are reported by day and night visitors, as well as the current "captain" of the ship, and at least one formerly skeptical reporter.

The reporter, Tom Hennesy, spent a night on the ship, with the intention of writing an article completely debunking the rumors. Instead, he was confronted with mysterious clangings, oil drums that suddenly appeared before him, blocking his way, and finally an overheard conversation, between two or three men, at 3:30 in the morning, when the nearest living person was two or three decks away!

The ship's morgue was probably located on "G" deck, and nowadays doors slam and lights go on and off of their own volition. The swimming pool is rather active, with ghostly splashings often heard and a woman who seems to be about to dive in, only to disappear - the pool on these occasions is, of course, empty of water.

Other ghosts include that of a crewman who, in the early days of World War II, was crushed to death by metal objects in one of the hatchways. Today one can often hear the sound of rolling metal there. Another wartime incident occurred when the ship, which transported soldiers during the war, had on board a very unpopular cook. The passengers eventually decided to take matters into their own hands, and the cook was found cooked in one of his own ovens.

A ship's officer was once accidentally poisoned near the bridge, and to this day his ghostly figure can be seen roaming in that vicinity. There is also a specter known as the "Woman in White" (why is it that everybody has to have a "woman in white"?), who has the disconcerting habit of draping herself over the salon's piano.

The skeptical Mr. Hennesy's article appeared in the Long Beach Press-Telegram on March 6, 1983. The sightings go on.

I'll see you next time, in our Halloween issue . . . there's a little antique shop I want to show you.