A spooky séance unlocks The Queen Mary's deadly history

October 3, 2019, 6:18 PM · “In this room, there are two types of people. People who believe in the existence of spirits and ghosts and people who absolutely do not,” magician Aiden Sinclair surmised aloud, peering over his spectacles and into the audience at the start of his show "Illusions of the Passed, A Theatrical Séance." On most days I would consider myself the latter. I love a good ghost story, but at the end of the day I see it as just that - a story. However, October is a month for spooky stories and spirits and haunted places, and the newest edition of "Illusions of the Passed, A Theatrical Séance" offers just that.

The show takes place aboard the Queen Mary, a ship whose complicated history is dotted with dozens of deaths. Originally a luxury ocean liner, then World War II troopship, The Queen Mary today lives in Long Beach harbor as a hotel and entertainment attraction. Starting this Saturday, paranormal enthusiasts and thrill-seekers alike are invited aboard to join Aiden Sinclair for an intimate 60-minute theatrical séance, followed by a paranormal ghost hunting investigation.

Ready for a seance
Tarot cards... that double as drink vouchers! Photo by Natalie Niles

Voted one of America’s Top 10 Haunted Places by Time Magazine, the RMS Queen Mary was born the world’s largest ocean liner in 1934. The luxury British ship carried her passengers across the Atlantic in glitzy Art Deco style. The ship boasted multiple swimming pools, libraries, beauty salons, dog kennels, tennis courts, and telephone connectivity to anywhere in the world. Her “Glamour Years” lasted from 1936 to 1939, when the onset of World War II forced the lavish liner into an unexpected military career.

The Queen Mary
Photo courtesy The Queen Mary

She was coated in grey paint and her portholes blacked out. On May 5, 1940, she made her first voyage as a troopship, carrying more than 2,000 troops from Australia to Scotland. Her new paint job and great speed (a record average at the time of 35.66 mph westbound and 36.47 mph eastbound) earned her the nickname “Grey Ghost.” The Grey Ghost glided thousands of troops across international waters (once including the entire First Armored Infantry Division at 15,125 troops, 863 crew) until the war’s end.

Aiden led into last night’s preview séance by noting that the date made for an especially haunting atmosphere aboard the ship. On October 2, 1943, the Queen Mary accidentally collided with another vessel, riding up on it and slicing it in half like a giant cleaver. This crash sent over 300 people to their watery graves.

This chilling lead-in set a spooky tone for the event. Aiden expanded on the Queen Mary’s death toll, mentioning the most infamous of the Queen Mary’s ghosts - a little girl named “Jackie,” a lady in white, and “The Gent,” who roams the ship in his two-tailed tuxedo. In a surprising twist, Aiden explained that - while curious - these few popular “spirits” can too easily become the focus of the ship’s haunting history, leaving many of the more certain horrors lost in all the lore.

Photos of the dead
Photos by Natalie Niles

During this particular show, Aiden decided to focus on channeling and communicating with the spirit of a young girl named Mary Alice. “She didn’t die on this ship,” he explained, “but she might as well have.”

Mary Alice was a real person, whose father served in WWII. Her father survived the war and journeyed home upon the Queen Mary. With him he brought a gift for his daughter, a copy of their favorite story “Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.” The ship arrived and Mary Alice eagerly awaited their reunion on the dock below, but as her father was walking off the ship, he lost his footing on the gangplank. He slipped and fell, hit a barrage, and sunk into the sea. The book he brought home was recovered (and displayed during the show), but Mary Alice never got to reunite with her father.

With the help of audience volunteers, Aiden performed a “key test” (a séance trick invented in the 1800s) to ask Mary Alice if she’d like to speak with us. Of course she communicated her compliance, and Aiden performed a myriad of communications with her, helped often by audience members. The level of audience interaction made the whole experience feel very personal, more like a team effort than a magic show.

When my friend Chelsea was chosen to “speak directly with Mary Alice,” I felt myself being drawn into this tragic narrative, despite my skeptical tendencies. Aiden had Chelsea randomly choose a page number from a brand new copy of “Alice in Wonderland,” then sit back down without seeing the page. He locked the book in a box and at the very end of the séance, brought Chelsea back up. She sat in silence, eyes shut and ears plugged, listening for Mary Alice. “Did she speak to you?” he inquired.

Aiden and Chelsea

“Yes, she said something about Humpty Dumpty,” Chelsea replied. Aiden took the book out of the box and handed it to Chelsea. She opened it to find the unseen page she’d picked ripped down the middle. It was the beginning of a chapter about Humpty Dumpty - egg illustration and all.

Between the séance and paranormal ghost hunting investigation, I questioned Chelsea about her newfound psychic powers and found she was just as mystified as I was. We giggled as we overheard someone proclaim, “That last girl with the book HAD to be an actress”.

For the ghost hunting investigation, Aiden placed light-up cat toys around the room, in hopes any paranormal activity might set off their light mechanisms. He also used a K2 Meter to measure the electromagnetic field/vibration/humidity in the room, and the “Estes Method” to listen for spirits voices. This method consists of covering your eyes and putting on noise-canceling headphones, then going through radio frequencies in an attempt to pick up on any random words perhaps placed there by spirits. When he heard a word he’d speak it aloud, and his assistant would attempt to converse with the “spirit.”

Equipment for a ghost hunt

This bit provided an interesting insight as to how modern ghost-hunting works, but no spirits seemed to be willing to talk. “It’s like going to someone’s house,” Aiden explained, “sometimes they’re there, sometimes they’re not.”

Chelsea and I got to chat with Aiden for a bit after the show, and it was clear he has a lot of passion for the history of this place. He has done extensive research with the ship's historical logs to piece together various stories like Mary Alice’s. I admired and enjoyed the way Aiden wove these bits of nearly forgotten history into the show. Unlike ghosts, the subjects of these stories are not questionable in reality, and he is able to conjure them in a light that is both eerie, informative, and respectful of their spirits.

In regard to some of the paranormal inconsistencies (such as the alleged presence of spirits who didn’t die onboard), Aiden pointed out, “When you think about how many people got married, fell in love, had their first kiss, had their first dance here. Those are all pristine moments of happiness, and maybe that’s what ghosts do, is [to] visit all of them.”

Who knows what particular spirits may be flitting in and out of the Queen Mary? It is the gruesome resting scene of many killed, as well as the birthplace of so many happy memories. Full of history and lore, creepy Victorian séance methods, and modern ghost hunting technology, "Illusions of the Passed, A Theatrical Séance" considers both those tragic and joyous moments to provide a well-rounded paranormal experience entertaining to both people who believe in ghosts and people who absolutely do not.

To reserve tickets to Aiden Sinclair’s "Illusions of the Passed, A Theatrical Séance," including VIP and dinner packages, visit QueenMary.com. Tickets start at $45. Daytime admission to The Queen Mary also is available through the Go Los Angeles Card.

Replies (2)

October 4, 2019 at 5:44 AM

Excellent write up Natalie! The Queen Mary seems to offer all kinds of unique and one-of-a-kind experiences. You mentioned at the start of the article that you tended to be more in the "2nd" group of non-believers. Did this show sway your viewpoint at all by the end of it? I've always been on the fence and could easily be pushed to either side.

October 4, 2019 at 9:03 AM

We visited the Queen Mary during our recent trip to Southern California, and took the daytime Ghost Tour. They took us through the lounge and performance space where these shows are held, and the spaces seemed a little too commercialized for my taste. I'm sure it's solid entertainment, but I doubt it's going to change anyone's POV regarding spirits, so the Seance is likely limited to a small but self-selecting audience.

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