The Apparition in the Changing Rooms
A little over ten years ago, I used to venture with my fiancee (who later became my husband) to what was then reputed to be California's second most haunted site: The Queen Mary.
The Queen Mary has enjoyed a long and colorful history, from the advent of her becoming the Queen Mary (the designers had intended to name her the Queen Victoria), to her final berthing at the Port of Long Beach. She has been kept company by the likes of Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose and more recently, the Russian cold war submarine, Scorpion.
Among the events that have shaped her are many tales, some heartwarming, some sad, some depressing, and at least one downright chilling. As a result, there are quite a number of hauntings and otherwise supernaturally interesting areas of the ship. Some, like the area to the fore where the poor individual died from exposure after the ship crashed with another during WWII and reportedly can still be heard howling for help, are inaccessable.
One of the accessible locations, and the setting of my tale, is the women's changing room hall for the first class pool. Of the many haunted parts of the ship, the first class pool is both one of the most easily reached and one of the more variously haunted. Ghosts seen in the area include a small girl who would sneak up from third class who is often holding or looking for her teddy bear and a small boy who is sometimes seen with the girl and sometimes seen alone. Wet footprints, the size of a child's, are also often found around the pool area.
The phenomenon in the changing room, however, is not considered an actual haunting. Most often, it is referred to as a vortex and described as a whirlpool shaped swirl of psychic energy. Some claim that the vortex is a result of a woman having been raped in one of the changing rooms. I feel that explanation to be unlikely. Coincidentally, the vortex is almost directly below the original entrance to the pool room, which is a revolving door. The changing rooms themselves are small, tile-lined cubicles that open to either side and line the length of a short hallway.
I have been to the Queen Mary many times. My very first visit was as part of a school field trip to the ship when I was 7. It wasn't until over a decade later that I returned, this time in the presence of my fiance, Seamus. It was to be the first of many trips to explore the hauntings of the Queen Mary.
On this particular afternoon, we were a party of four. Seamus and I had initiated the trip. Both of us were interested in the field of amateur parapsychology. With us were Nathan and his girlfriend Jenny. Nathan was a close friend and member of the Coast Guard, and he referred to himself as a negamage, a term used in Shadowrun to describe someone who was immune and disruptive to magical effects. He dubbed himself one due to the fact that while he had actually seen ghosts, anytime he came close to any type of manifestation, it would immediately dissipate. Jenny had never encountered anything supernatural and had only had her first such experience earlier that day at pressure door number 13 in the engine room. We surmised that she was particularly receptive.
By virtue of our many previous visits, we had secured a private touring of several of the known haunted spots that are not readily accessible but are part of some of the many different tours. After going through many of the completely public areas (including the aforementioned door 13), we made our rendezvous with the guide and moved on to the areas that were off limits to the general public. Soon enough, we found ourselves at the first class swimming pool.
While Seamus, the guide, and I were all aware of the vortex, Nathan and Jenny had never heard any of the stories, so we both had great interest for to see how they reacted to the phenomenon. I had made the trip through the hall once prior and found it to be distinctly uncomfortable. I remember the hallway being much dimmer than it should have been (it is unlit, but the walls are white tile and the pool area itself is brightly lit), and I had to fight off a claustrophobia induced panic. So for this visit, I decided to go around with the guide rather than go through.
The guide moved to the side, preparing to take the short path across the front of the wall and motioned for us to start through. I don't know why she didn't go through herself, and I never thought to ask. First to enter was Seamus; he'd been through before, also, and knew what to expect. Next to enter was Jenny; she was keyed up and excited and had no idea what might be ahead. Following her was Nathan, who followed with an air of anticipation. I would have brought up the rear, but the unease I felt at the idea of making my way through the hallway again inspired me to plan to go around with the guide, then joke about what took the others so long to get through, as if I had gone in last and come out first.
It took the guide and me about 20 seconds to open the gates at each end of the path we took and then stand, waiting, at the exit. It takes only a few seconds more to make your way through the hall. While it is a longer route, it also has no gates, so a cautious individual would take about 30 seconds to go from one end to the other.
We waited that much longer before we started to become concerned about nobody having yet emerged and no sounds of voices to indicate any discussion from the three in the hallway. The guide took a moment to lean into the hall and see that they were all ok. As she pulled back out of the hall to tell me they all looked fine, we heard Jenny scream and a moment later, all three hurried out of the hall, excited and shaken but unhurt. Once everyone had calmed down, we discussed what had happened and compared notes.
The guide told us that when she had looked in, she had seen four individuals standing in the hallway. As everyone had appeared ok, she pulled back out to wait.
Seamus had entered the hall, followed closely by Jenny, who had her hand lightly touching his arm as she moved behind him. When her hand had pulled away, he had slowed, expecting her to catch up again and put her hand back on his arm. When he saw the guide look in, he turned to also look behind him. He counted three heads, saw that nothing seemed amiss, and turned back to make his way out of the hall.
Nathan, who had entered behind Jenny, had decided to hang back a bit, as he knew that he usually had a dampening effect on supernatural phenomena and he didn't want to spoil anything for the rest of the group. However, when Jenny stopped about halfway through the hall, and he was bringing up the rear (he could see three people ahead of him), he moved forward to give her a bit of a nudge. And that was when she screamed.
Jenny had followed Seamus in, eager to see what would be in the hallway. You could not see inside the hallway from outside, since the hallway itself parallelled the walkway with short connecting passages at each end. She was nearing the middle of the passage when she started feeling pressure as she moved forward. It was at that point that her hand pulled away from Seamus' arm. The pressure grew until she could no longer move forward. At this point she started panicking in earnest, but she found that in addition to being unable to move forward, she also could not move backward. To add to her terror she couldn't make herself speak, either. She was very nearly hysterical when she felt Nathan's hand make contact with her own shoulder.
With that touch it was as if a spell had been broken. The terror she had been feeling was vocalized as she screamed and rushed for the exit as quickly as possible. She shoved past Seamus, who had turned to see what was wrong, and was the first to leave the hallway. Seamus and Nathan exited very shortly thereafter.
They both voiced their surprise that I was outside already and it took confirmation from the guide that I had gone around rather than through the hall for them to truly be convinced. It was at that point that the guide realized that the number of people she had seen when she glanced in was one person too many. The only person who had been in the hallway who hadn't seen the extra person was Jenny.
All three who had seen this person described the same thing. It was a distinctly feminine shape, stood at about five feet six inches, which was slightly shorter than Nathan, but several inches taller than Jenny. In contrast, I am just over five feet eight inches, and as such, about the same height as Nathan. This figure also had shoulder length, wavy hair, while mine is very straight and worn long.
Once our hearts settled and the adrenaline left our systems, we decided that perhaps we'd had enough ghostly encounters for one afternoon. We thanked our guide and took our leave. And while none of us still keep in touch with any regularity (Nathan and Jenny broke up the next month, and Seamus and I parted company some years later), I am certain that all four of us will carry the memory of that afternoon on the Queen Mary until our final days.
The preceding tale actually happened and has been recounted here, unembellished, and to the best of my memory.