Sunday, November 30, 2014

HGB Podcast 13 - The Queen Mary

Moment in Oddity - The Gumhead Statue

Outside of the Vancouver Art Gallery stands a peculiar piece of  As they say, beauty or art is in the eye of the beholder.  Canadian artist Douglas Coupland created a seven foot fiberglass replica of his own head and colored it black.  But the art did not stop there.  Coupland came up with a sticky idea for the statue.  He decided it would be fabulous to have the people of Vancouver get in on the creation of this art piece and he asked that they start taking their nasty, hard chewed up balls of gum and stick them all over the head statue.  And thus "Gumhead" was born.  Unfortunately, such an idea in the heat of summer is not a good idea and by the time the exhibition was over on September 1st of this year, the gum had become a melted mess that attracted more bees than people.  Coupland declared his masterpiece to be "ugly beautiful" and claimed it to be a total success.  While getting a city to join in on the creation of artwork is great, we think asking people to stick their nasty gum all over a statue is not only revolting, but quite odd.

This Day in History - Negro National Baseball League Disbands

On this date, November 30, in 1948, the Negro National Baseball League disbands.  Starting in the early 1880s, black baseball players began to form their own independent teams when bans against black players were implemented by national teams.  There were nearly 200 teams.  By World War I, black baseball had gained a great following.  Andrew "Rube" Foster decided that the time was perfect to form a Negro National League and the League flourished spreading into Kansas City, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Birmingham, Nashville, Atlanta and New Orleans among other cities.  The Great Depression affected the Negro National League in a negative way, just as it did everything else in America and the League dissolved in 1931.  In 1933, the Negro National League was reborn and took over where Foster's League had left off until 1948.  On April 18, 1946, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball by signing on with the Dodgers and the flood gates opened for other black players as integration set in.  All the talented black players were leaving for the big leagues.  The Negro National League was no longer financially viable and although the Negro American League continued on into the 50s, black baseball was done.  While blacks have made up 26% of baseball players in past decades, the 2014 season saw only 8.3% of players identified as black.  Here's hoping that more black players make their way onto rosters in the future.

The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary is a retired ocean liner with a rich history spanning from the time of The Great Depression to the present day.  She has been docked for the last 45 years, but she continues to provide hospitality and luxurious accommodations for the living and the...dead.  Commissioned by the Cunard Line, the Queen Mary was designed to become one of two super ocean liners that would leave its predecessors like the Mauretania and Berengaria in the dust.  The Cunard Line has been operating for 175 years and is under the Carnival Corporation today, but it started in 1839 under Nova Scotian Samuel Cunard and his partner, Scottish steamship builder Robert Napier.  The Cunard Line was based in Britain and when it ran into hard times because of the Great Depression while building the Queen Mary, the British government gave Cunard a loan to finish the Queen Mary and build its sister ship, the Queen Elizabeth.  The government also insisted that the Cunard Line merge with the White Star Line, of Titanic fame, at that same time.

John Brown & Company began construction on Hull Number 534, the original name of the Queen Mary, in 1930.  And actually, the Queen Mary was meant to be called the Victoria so that there would be an "ia" at the end of the name like all the other Cunard liners, but when King George V was asked if the ship could be named for Britain's greatest queen, the King said his wife Queen Mary would be delighted, so the Cunard Line was forced to name the ship Queen Mary.  The ship took three and a half years to build at a cost of $3.5 million pounds sterling.  She was 1019 feet long, 181 feet high and could hold 2139 passengers and 1100 crew.  The Queen Mary was a technological achievement with the largest magnetic compass in the world and the ship raised the bar on luxury travel and soon became known as the grandest ocean liner ever built.  Celebrities and royalty loved traveling on the Queen Mary.

The ship began her maiden voyage on May 27, 1936 from Southampton, England.  She had five dining areas and lounges, two cocktail bars and swimming pools, a grand ballroom, a squash court and even a small hospital, which set a new standard in luxury.  She was also the first ship to have a Jewish prayer room.  The main dining room had a type of transatlantic map across one wall and the ship's progress was marked by a motorized model.  The Verandah Grill and Observation Bar also offered smaller dining areas with a la carte menus. 

For three years, the Queen Mary provided opulent accommodations for the well to do, but World War II would change all that when the ship became "The Grey Ghost."  The ship was revamped to carry up to 5,000 troops at one time and by the end of the war she had moved 800,000 troops and participated in the D-Day invasion.  Winston Churchill credited the Queen Mary for shortening the war by a full year because of the ability it gave the Allies to move large numbers of troops.

By 1947, the Queen Mary had been retrofitted to sail the seas as a luxury cruise liner once again.  Sailing the high seas in such fashion would soon lose its luster as the airline industry took hold and people decided flying was easier and faster than sailing.  By the 1960s, cruise lines noticed a sharp decline in passengers and in 1967, the grand Queen Mary made her last voyage to Long Beach, California where she has remained to this day.  She has become an icon of what luxury sailing used to be and now serves as not only an attraction, but as a hotel. Restoration continues to this day and a new future museum is in the works.  RMS Queen Mary has been registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

Time Magazine has voted the Queen Mary as one of the top 10 haunted locations in America.  We have heard that anywhere from 150 to 600 spirits call the ship home.  The Queen Mary hosts a variety of ghost tours both during the day and the night.  The day tour is titled Haunted Encounters and includes a show titled "Ghosts & Legends" and is part of the Haunted First-Class Passport Package, which runs $31 online or $33 at the door and keep in mind that parking cost $15 on top of that.  In the evenings, there are four haunted tours to choose from and here is the link for all the information.

Former crew members haunt the ship.  John Pedder is one of the more well known spirits thought to still be hanging out on the ship.  He was a young sailor who lied about his age in order to get a job on the ship.  Engine Room Door 13 - interesting number - in Shaft Alley was the scene of Pedder's death.  He was crushed to death by the watertight door there during a fire or a routine drill.  The bearded Pedder is said to appear wearing blue coveralls.  Another crewman named John Henry worked in the Boiler Room.  His remains were found in the hull near the Green Room outside the Boiler Room.  Henry usually appears as a black figure and several EVPs have been caught of him.  William Stark, who was a ship's officer, died after drinking a toxic cleaning fluid he had mistaken for gin.  He joked about the mistake with fellow crew members, but it was no joke when he was dead four days later.  Stark is seen near the Captain's Cabin and on the Promenade.  The last captain to pilot the ship, Captain Treasure Jones, reportedly hangs out on the ship still smoking his cigars even though he did not die on the ship.  People claim to smell the cigar smoke on occasion.

The pool areas have been scenes of tragedy numerous times and spirit swimmers have been seen or heard splashing and walking about the area.  Two women drowned in the first class pool, one in the 30s and the other in the 60s.  A little girl was having some fun and thought she would slide down the banister into the pool, but lost her balance and fell, breaking her neck.  Jackie Torin is a little girl of six who drowned in the second class pool.  She wanders the area where the pool used to be, calling out for her parents, giggling and singing.  Under the stairs near the first class pool a mean spirit can sometimes can be heard growling.  A ghost cam is left running live in the pool area.  Some claim that a type of vortex is in this area of the ship.

Every haunting seems to have a Lady in White and the Queen Mary is no exception.  The Lady in White on this ship enjoys music and is seen most times dancing in the Queens Salon.  She is seen going up and down the stairs near the lobby as well.  Other people dressed in clothing from bygone eras are seen in staterooms.  One gentleman appears in 1930s garb in one of the rooms.  Lights turn on and off and the water runs by itself in several rooms.

No one stays in Stateroom B340 anymore because the paranormal activity in that room was so intense.  Very little furniture is kept in the room where sheets use to fly across the room and lights blinked on and off.  A cook on board the ship during World War II was murdered by crew members because his cooking was terrible.  The legend goes that they stuffed him in an oven and burned him to death.  His screams are said to be heard to this day.

Although the Queen Mary's service during World War II was honorable and very helpful, that service was not without tragedy.  HMS Curacoa, a ship named after a Caribbean Island, served in the Royal Navy as a C-class light cruiser that had been called upon to escort the Queen Mary.   The Curacoa was guiding the Queen Mary in a zigzag formation, so that both ships could avoid detection by the enemy.  During one of those zigs, the Queen Mary zagged and plowed right into the Curacoa, splitting it in two and leaving hundreds of men dead when it sank in just six minutes.  Most died in the icy waters when the Queen Mary made no attempt to rescue the men because of fears of U-boat attacks.  Ninety-nine men of the 338 crew were pulled from the water by two other ships.  Cries of these men can be heard sometimes when in the outside forward areas of the ship.

A woman named Terri told the website about an experience she had as follows:
"On our third day on the Queen Mary, I decided (after a night full of horrible and outstanding experiences) to try and find some of the lonely spirits that are claimed to be seen at the first class pool. I was not taking photos, but Tommy I could relax and enjoy the beauty of the ship's pool, and just listen. I was standing at the far right side of the pool (can be seen on the web cam), and I first felt a tug on my blouse. I of course turned around fast to see who was next to me, but no one was there. Tommy was on the other side of the pool taking photos, so I knew it was not him. Again the feeling of not being alone was over powering, and I felt someone touch my left arm. I again turned around and NO ONE was near me! I called for Tommy to come over and take photos, and while I was talking to him, saying that I again have been touched, someone was playing with my purse strings (which was over my shoulder). It felt so weird. I just stood there while this little person was playing with my purse and my blouse. I could feel someone or something touching my back... I told Tommy it keeps touching me and the tour guide said calmly, "Our little girl Jackie is playing with you. Say hello to Jackie." I felt a little weird knowing that someone was touching me and playing with my blouse; but at the same time IT WAS OUTSTANDING!!!! I was not afraid at all."
So is this grand old ocean liner housing the spirits of deceased crew and passengers?  Is this floating hotel truly one of the most haunted locations in America?  That is for you to decide.