Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from The Captain's Table!!!

Hope it's a great day for everyone!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snapshot: Titanic's Ghostly Bow

This photo was taken in 1988 and shows the bow of the ill-fated Titanic emerging from the murky deep - like a ghost ship coming out of the fog. Despite being underwater since 1912, it retains the grace and elegance that made Titanic a truly beautiful ship to behold.

Nevertheless, I feel that it sets the perfect mood on this Halloween Eve. The rusticles hang off the ship like iron tears that have never fallen. Crying for the life Titanic never had perhaps? Crying for all those lost in the sinking?

Probably not...but it's still an awesome (and creepy) photo to show for Halloween.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Snapshot: A Foggy Morning in Long Beach

This photo was taken last week and gives a truly spectacular view of the Queen Mary and Carnival Paradise on one particularly foggy morning. Mornings like this are common in Long Beach this time of year, which is perfect since Halloween is coming up soon!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ghostly Experiences Aboard the Queen Mary

At the risk of sounding crazy, I believe that spirits still wander the halls of my beloved Queen Mary in Long Beach. I've had too many odd things happen to me to think otherwise and I'd like to share some of them with you right now.

If you're not into this sort of stuff, then you have my apologies.

My first encounter took place back in September 2005 when my mom and I were on the Haunted Encounters Tour. We were standing on the landing of the stairs in the First Class Pool, waiting for the rest of the group to finish looking around when something tugged at the bottom of her jacket. My mom thought this was curious indeed, but before she could turn and tell me, something tugged at the bottom of my jacket. It was very distinct - and seemed very much like a little child trying to get attention. We both thought it to be strange.

Paranormal investigators - by the by - say that the pool area is haunted by a little girl named Jackie. There is no documentation that states a little girl drowned in either of the ship's pools, but many guests and crew members have reportedly seen and heard her over the years.

Jump ahead 4 or 5 years when I was again in the pool (this time while taking the Paranormal Spiritwalk tour). I was leaning against a wall when - off in the far end of the room - I saw a black shadow mass pop out from behind a pillar. It seemed as if it were looking directly at me. It moved back and when I went to check it out there was absolutely nothing.

Once, I was on "B Deck" when I saw a black mass materialize in the hall and walk into a wall. There was no one else around - I checked. I was also unable to recreate what I had seen, so I have no explanation.

Then there have been several times where black masses have walked through me while standing in the pool's changing rooms. That's always fun...

Many people have reported similar things aboard the Mary over the years. If you've ever had an experience, I urge you to contact the ship at and let thQem know...then I urge you to share here as well.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Snapshot: Pulling a Body from the Water

This photo shows a boat from the Mackay-Bennett retrieving the body of a Titanic passenger following the disaster. This gruesome task went on for many days until - loaded with nearly 200 victims - the ship sailed for Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Many of these bodies were eventually buried in local cemeteries.

Snapshot: Embalming Aboard the Mackay-Bennett

This image shows the body of a Titanic passenger being embalmed on the deck of the Mackay-Bennett, which pulled nearly 300 bodies from the water in the weeks following the disaster (though at least 100 of them were buried at sea - decomposition had rendered identification useless).

Friday, October 21, 2011

Snapshot: A Peculiar Iceberg

This photo was snapped by a steward aboard the SS Prinz Adalbert on the morning of April 15, 1912. What caught his attention was the streak of red paint running along the base of the iceberg, which indicated that it had hit a ship within the past few hours.

The steward could not have known what had happened to the mighty RMS Titanic, which sank just a few miles to the north of Prinz Adalbert's position.

In all likelihood, therefore, this could very well have been the iceberg that sank the "unsinkable" Titanic.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Haunted QE2

The Queen Elizabeth 2, one of the finest ships to have ever sailed under the Cunard house flag, is said to have a healthy amount of ghostly activity.

It would make sense. She was in service for 40 years and even transported troops during the Falklands War of 1982. Considering the amount of emotion and energy that her passengers - both civilian and military - exhibited during their time aboard, the presence of ghosts should not be surprising.

Since her arrival in Dubai back in November 2008, workers have reported strange activities all throughout the ship. The spirit of an elderly woman has been seen wandering around the ship's corridors from time to time, and the sounds of children's voices can sometimes be heard in the long-abandoned hospital.

But there are reports that date back to QE2's sailing days.

There are rumors of a tragic accident that took place in the engineering section of the ship. The story goes that a workman was sealed up inside one of the propeller shafts during the 1980s as she underwent a major refit. Several of QE2's engineers have reported odd sensations and feelings around that area; some have even seen odd shapes and forms that they could not explain. Could there be some truth to the story?

Another account comes from a good friend of mine. He was aboard in 2008 (shortly before the ship's retirement) and swears that his cabin was haunted by something evilly sinister. This foreboding presence was felt several times during the voyage - and he is not the sort of person to make something like this up.

So is the famous Queen Elizabeth 2 really haunted? Perhaps. Does she have one of the most fascinating careers in the history of ocean travel? Yes. Does she still captivate us? Definitely.

References: Mail Foreign Service, "QE2 abandoned at Port Rashid in Dubai," Mail Online, March 16, 2010, under "Travel," (accessed October 19, 2011).

"Is QE2 Haunted????," QE2 Crew - The Online Wardie, (accessed October 19, 2011).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Riveter's Curse?

The SS Great Eastern was to be Isambard Kingdom Brunel's crowning achievement - the world's largest ship that would dominate the emigrant trade. She was launched in 1858 as the pinnacle of Victorian marine engineering. The ship, however, had trouble almost from the start. Six men died during her construction; two in an attempt to move her after the launch; five more when a boiler exploded during her sea trials. Isambard Kingdom Brunel himself, who was in incredibly poor health by 1859, died shortly after being told of this last incident. It was simply too much for his ailing body to handle.

The ship entered service in 1860, but was not the great success that had been hoped and financial difficulties ensued. The Great Eastern struck a submerged rock off Long Island in 1862, though her double hull - the first ever on a ship - saved her from total destruction. Divers were able to repair the damage, but reported hearing a strange tapping sound from within the hull itself. It sounded like someone was hitting it with a hammer - trying to get their attention.

Rumors quickly spread that a riveter had been accidentally sealed inside the double hull during construction. His angry spirit, therefore, was said to be the cause of Great Eastern's terrible misfortunes. She was ultimately handed over to the breakers in 1889 after a life of unfulfilled potential.

Legend has it that a skeleton was found inside the hull after the scrappers opened it up. Was this the riveter who had haunted the ship for all those years? Perhaps, but there is no documentation to support this. There is no evidence, in fact, that human remains were found at all.

Despite this, it is nevertheless an interestingly bizarre tale that - if nothing else - makes a good sea story.

References: Daniel Allen Butler, The Age of Cunard: A Transatlantic History 1839-2003 (Annapolis: Lighthouse Press, 2003), 97-98.

Snapshot: Titanic's Shoes

Following Titanic's discovery in 1985, one particularly morbid thought had people wondering: were there any dead bodies at the wreck site?

Dr. Robert Ballard and his team descended into the murky depths to get an up close look at the doomed giant and - among other things - try to answer that question.

The team found no bodies at the Titanic. What they did find, however, were several pairs of shoes scattered across the ocean floor. Their owners' bodies had been devoured by sea creatures years ago - only their footwear remained.

Snapshot: The Titanic Wreck

This ghostly image shows the forward section of the Titanic as it is today. Several survivors had claimed that the ship broke apart on the surface before sinking, but these were unconfirmed accounts until Dr. Robert Ballard and Jean-Louis Michel discovered the wreck site on September 1, 1985.

While the forward section of the Titanic was in remarkable shape, the stern looked as if it had exploded upon hitting the ocean floor.

Today, the ship sits decaying on the bottom - a monument to all those who died on that tragic April night in 1912.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Back in April I wrote on a truly bizarre coincidence: the incredible similarities between the fictional SS Titan and the very real RMS Titanic. The former was created by an author named Morgen Robertson for his novel entitled Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan. People really began to take notice of this work after the latter sank to the depths on April 15, 1912.

Instead of writing an entirely new entry on these two ships (and risk repeating myself...I feel I do enough of that already), I've put up the link to the older post right here:

Certainly a very strange coincidence indeed, no?

Monday, October 10, 2011

"I never realized how hard the parting would be."

Cunard's Commodore Sir James Charles was a charmingly affable mariner whose name became synonymous with the RMS Aquitania during much of the 1920s. A seaman of the highest caliber, future-Commodore Robert G. Thelwell summarized him as "the most remarkable man I served under in my life at sea." As Sir James neared his retirement in 1928, however, he began to have a premonition that he would die at sea. He even went so far as to buy a burial plot before his last voyage aboard "The Ship Beautiful."

As Aquitania neared Europe in mid-July 1928, the Commodore was heard to murmur, "I never realized how hard the parting would be" to his staff captain. Sir James was convinced of his imminent death.

Thelwell, a junior officer on that voyage, describes what happened at Cherbourg, France on July 15, 1928:
[Sir James] was obviously unwell but refused the pleas of his officers and the doctor to leave the bridge. He docked the ship but immediately had a severe internal hæmorrhage. On the short passage from Cherbourg he became worse and he was carried down the gangway unconscious at Southampton with only a few hours to live. He was a truly modest man. His headstone in the churchyard of the little village of Netley Marsh in the New Forest bears only his name and the dates of his birth and death.
It seems that the Commodore's premonition was indeed correct. Is there something about the sea that warns its servants of their coming deaths? This surely ranks as an interesting instance in the long - and sometimes bizarre - history of ocean travel.

References: Commodore Robert G. Thelwell, I Captained the Big Ships (London: Arthur Barker Limited, 1961), 36-37.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Boiled Barman of the Berengaria

There was a particularly gruesome accident that took place aboard Cunard's Berengaria that claimed the life of one extremely unlucky barman.

Commodore Robert G. Thelwell describes what happened in his 1961 autobiography, I Captained the Big Ships:
The barman had a passion for turkish baths, but the ship's turkish baths were, of course, strictly out of bounds to all members of the crew. That did not unduly worry the barman, however. In some way, he discovered the hiding place of the key and so was able to use the baths late at night at the end of his duty. Alone in the scalding steam-room one night, the barman collapsed, and the attendant next morning discovered what was more like a piece of boiled pork than the corpse of a barman.
Staff Captain C.M. Wray (nicknamed X-ray by the crew) felt responsible for what had happened. He felt that he should have done a better job at hiding the key, and so he started sleeping with it under his pillow for good measure.

What is particularly interesting about this is that it is not an isolated incident. The Queen Mary's log notes how in 1936 - shortly after her maiden voyage - a barman was found similarly boiled to death inside the Cabin Class Turkish baths.

References: Commodore Robert G. Thelwell, I Captained the Big Ships (London: Arthur Barker Limited, 1961), 55.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Death of Second Officer Stark

Voyage 119 West of the Queen Mary saw a tragically fatal accident - this time involving one of the ship's elite deck officers.

It was in the later part of September 1949 as the ship steamed towards New York. Senior Second Officer William Stark was coming off duty and popped into the deck officers' wardroom to relax a bit and have a drink.

He settled in and told the steward that he wanted some gin and lime juice. The other man - not the officers' usual steward - went back to the pantry and complied. Unfamiliar with the setup, however, he didn't know that the unmarked gin bottle he pulled was actually filled with tetrachloride: used for cleaning rags and the like.

The steward returned and gave Second Officer Stark his drink. Unfortunately, Stark's cold prevented him from smelling tetrachloride's distinct "sweetness." He threw it back and knew right away that something was not right. Stark didn't think the situation was too serious and is said to have laughed about it to his colleagues; chances are that he never knew what he had drunk.

His condition grew worse as the hours dragged on, however, and he died a few days later on September 22, 1949.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Death of John Pedder

It was July 10, 1966 when Fireman/Cleaner John Pedder, aged 18, was found crushed inside Watertight Door 13 aboard the RMS Queen Mary. According to the ship's log, he joined the crew on March 30 of that year and was engaged in bilge pumping duties at the time of the accident.

Pedder was caught in the door at around 3:55 am and found by a refrigeration greaser named Cripps shortly thereafter. There were no witnesses to the accident, but the officers on duty were immediately notified by the undoubtedly startled crew member. The only sign of trauma was a bit of blood trickling down the nose, as well as the fact he was turning blue due to lack of oxygen.

The young man was removed from the door and placed on the deck by the time the night sister arrived on the scene. She was unable to determine whether or not he was alive, so he was administered morphine and was pronounced dead upon his arrival to the ship's hospital.

His ghost has been reported in the starboard side of Shaft Alley since that tragic day. Guests to the Queen Mary have reported seeing a young, bearded man wearing a white boiler suit in this area - sometimes looking for a wrench (likely the one he had used to manually open Watertight Door 13 when he was killed). Tour guides have also reported weird activity in the area, ranging from shadows to knocking sounds.

Does the spirit of John Pedder still haunt the Queen Mary? We may never know for sure - but his death was certainly one of the most tragic events to have taken place aboard the grand old ship.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

This month....

For the entire month of October, we'll bringing a variety of ghost tales and strange occurrences...just in time for Halloween!

Stay tuned!