In my quest to cover many different types of haunted attractions, I wanted to make sure I did some research on certain venues that based their content on historically accurate accounts. In the case of the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, it’s littered with countless stories of various apparitions that have been seen all over the ship. In addition, many actual documented deaths have occurred since Mary set sail on her maiden voyage in May 1936. Time Magazine actually called the Queen Mary one of the top 10 haunted places in America in 2008.
From doing research on my Hard Rock Park series, I knew that Jon Binkowski, the former park’s Chief Creative Officer, also created a walking tour attraction called Ghosts and Legends of the Queen Mary. This was one of the first major projects for his company, Renaissance Entertainment. So I sent Jon an email, asking to chat with him about the project and he agreed. He also brought along Lisa, one of his top project managers, and we all went to lunch.
About a week later I found myself in the sushi restaurant that’s just below Jon’s office in Celebration, Florida and the story on how they built this attraction is fascinating. They took the time to interview crew members who worked on the Queen Mary, as well as people who currently serviced the hotel operations to get as many “true” ghost stories as possible to make the Legends Tour authentic.
One of these stories involved a gentleman who was killed by one of the ship’s water tight doors, which for the sake of his living family members who might be offended, name was changed to Half-Hatch Henry. Triple H had his body ripped in half by playing a game of chicken with one of the ship’s water tight doors. Through the magic of a pepper’s ghost effect, he can be seen in the Legends Tour.
During World War II, Hitler made it known that the Queen Mary was a target, because instead of a cruise liner, it was being used by the government to transport troops back and forth. As a safety precaution, they painted her gray and all of the rooms were fitted with bunk beds. Her temporary name, The Grey Ghost, was given because of her quick speed and stealthy look. At the time, it was customary to have a smaller vessel zig-zag in front of ships like this as an escort to make sure no harm would be done to Mary. In 1942, the Queen Mary accidentally ran over the HMS Curacoa, killing 239 people on board and doing substantial damage to the bow of the ship.
This damage is recreated in the Legends Tour through an effect that Technifex did for an earlier attraction, “Titanic: The Experience,” where they simulate the hull being struck and water rushing into the belly of the ship.
Another great effect done for the tour is the boiler room explosion where pipes burst and steam shoots out at the audience. Unlike the Titanic attraction that was made in Australia, this tour takes place in the area where the boilers actually once sat – which adds its own unique level of creepiness.
As Jon and Lisa told me, this particular area of the ship was already scary, even before they went in and added a special elevator so guests could get down there. During preparation, Lisa would often be crawling around in the dark with just a flashlight and maybe another person. From time to time, they claimed to feel a presence in the room.
Lisa actually took an unexpected “souvenir” home with her after she left the Queen Mary and the show was installed. A week or so after she arrived back home, Lisa recalled having vivid dreams where a ghost would come and talk to her about how they were connected. His name was Stephen and was associated with the ship during World War II. Lisa can still vividly remember what he looks like to this day.
During the time “Ghosts and Legends of The Queen Mary” was being installed, Lisa and her family, including her newborn baby, stayed in the hotel section of the ship. Stephen came to Lisa in a dream and told Lisa that he and her daughter were connected in a past life. To prove it, Stephen told her that she has a birthmark on her back that is symbolic of a spinal injury of her past life.
To prove that they were connected, Stephen told Lisa in her dream that she used to draw a doodle in her notebooks in school when she was a little girl. When Lisa woke up, she remembers vividly that she used to make the same drawing over and over again when she was growing up, basically the shape of a fox’s face. It was at that moment, that she realized that her daughter’s birthmark was in the exact same shape.
Over the course of our lunch, Lisa told me at least a dozen stories about hauntings happening at her house after her time on the Queen Mary. For example, her dog would walk over to an empty chair and bring a toy at the foot of it, waiting for someone to pick it up. Her daughter would crawl over to the same chair and stretch her arms out as if she wanted someone who wasn’t there to pick her up.
She had one incident where she was eating a meal with a glass of milk and before she took her first sip a voice came to her and said, “I soured your milk” and after she took the first sip which she had just opened the carton, it was incredibly sour and left her hovering over a toilet for hours. Here I was looking to get a story about an attraction that Renaissance Entertainment had build about ghosts, and while it’s a great in it’s own right, I became fascinated by Lisa’s aftermath from working on the project.
Jon Binkowski, Lisa’s boss and CEO of Renaissance Entertainment, actually makes small independent films as a hobby/side gig. Last year, he filmed a low budget suspense movie based on Lisa’s experiences after she got home from the Queen Mary shot entirely in his own house called “The Visitant.” He changed a few small details for artistic and budgetary reasons, but the movie is based on Lisa’s story.
As a matter of fact, if you happen to be in the Orlando area this Halloween season, “The Visitant” will be playing in the Orlando Film Festival from October 16 – 20. For ticket info or to get more information visit Orlandofilmfest.com.
For more information on the Ghosts and Legends of the Queen Mary Tour visit www.QueenMary.com.