Construction began on what was called Hull 534 - as she was first known by - in December of 1930 by the Cunard Line. Although construction was delayed by the Great Depression, and a loan had to secured from the British government, the Queen May was launched on September 26, 1934.
She was to be the first of the 2 ship weekly (with her sister ship the RMS Queen Elizabeth) service between Southhampton to Cherbourg to New York City. She was named after the consort of King George V.
Legend has it, she was originally to be named Victoria but when the Cunard officials asked the King if they could name her after Britian’s greatest Queen his was reply yes Queen Mary would be delighted; so, the Queen Mary was born from Hull 534. She took 3 1/2 years to build and cost 3 1/2 million pounds sterling to build.
On her way down the slipway upon her naming ceremony she began to gather too much speed and overshot her stopping point racing toward the opposite shore before the drag chains finally took effect.
In 1938 she claimed the speed record for crossing the Atlantic, a record which held until 1952 when SS United States captured the record.
In August of 1939 she was escorted to New York by the HMS Hood due to the declining international situation that would degrade into World War II. By the time she arrived the war had begun and she was confined to port until further notice.
In 1940 she was joined by her sister ship who had made a secret dash from war torn Europe. It was then decided to turn both ships and another ocean liner trapped in New York, the Normandie, into troop ships and all three ships sailed to Sydney to ferry Australian troops to the European theater.
Highlights from Her Career
She and her sister ship earned the nickname “The Grey Ghost” as they were too fast for the Nazi U-Boats to catch.
In 1942 she accidentally sunk one of her own escorts off of the Irish coast with a loss of 338 lives. Under orders not to stop she sailed away leaving only other escorts to attempt a rescue.
Also, in 1942, she carried 16,082 American troops – a record that stands to this day as the most passengers on one ship.
While 700 miles from Scotland she was hit by a rogue wave and it was determined had she tipped a further 20 cm she would have capsized. This story would be used by Paul Gallico when he wrote his book ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ which would later be made into a movie of the same name. Scenes for the movie were actually filmed aboard the Queen Mary.
She carried British Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic for his meetings with other Allied officials.
From 1947 to 1967 she, with her sister ship, ruled the trans-Atlantic passenger trade carrying an average of 1,000 passengers each trip.
She was retired in 1967 and the city of Long Beach, California beat out Japanese scrappers to buy the ship. She was permanently moored as a tourist attraction for their maritime museum. At this point she was ruled a building and no longer a ship and was gutted of her engines and machinery. She was officially opened as a museum, restaurant and hotel on May 8, 1971.
On February 23, 2006 she was officially saluted by her replacement the Queen Mary 2 while the new ship left Los Angeles harbor for a Mexican cruise.
The reports of hauntings started once the ship was permanently moored in Long Beach. Of course any earlier reports could have been hushed by the Cunard Line. Reportedly the number of deaths aboard ship are now just short of 50.
A sailor by the name of John Henry was crushed to death by a fire door while attempting to flee a fire. Lights and strange noises are heard around Engine Room 13 and sometimes the door to the engine room is hot to the touch with tendrils of smoke being seen.
A young girl from third class tried sliding down the banister in the pool area when a wave knocked her from the banister breaking her neck. She now wanders the pool area calling for her doll and Mommy. 2 other women also met their deaths in the pool area and are said to haunt the area.
A cook was pushed into his oven by troops who hated his food. His screams are heard to this day in that kitchen.
There has been reported sounds of pounding on the outside of her hull. These are said to be the men of the ship that she accidentally sunk in the war.
The Queen Mary’s in-house medium claims to have made contact with over 150 ghosts.
Testimonial by TL
I’ve visited several of these locations, had dinner at The Queen Mary, 1988, in the Grand Ballroom. Definitely creepy vibes there. The ladies room near the Ballroom felt odd, but most strange was a long mirror located near the entrance. I honestly thought I’d seen a blonde woman in a red silk dress staring back from the mirror, she looked like someone from the 1930’s possibly 40’s. Her hairstyle was finger waves, but my hair at the time was dark brunette, and long, and I wasn’t wearing a red dress. It happened in a flash, but I can plainly recall it in my mind. I completely forgot about that weird encounter, and the strange energy of that ship.