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Dark Waters: Strange Experiences Aboard Haunted Cruise Ships

People go on cruises to enjoy themselves. They are considered by many to be the epitome of vacation luxury, and it is understandable considering the floating cities they venture out on, complete with every amenity they could ever want. No one goes on a cruise expecting some weird ghostly phenomena, but this is exactly what happens in some cases, and cruise ships can seemingly be just as haunted as anywhere else.

One cruise ship that has gotten a bit of talk surrounding its alleged haunting is the Norwegian Cruise Line ship, the Norwegian Dawn, a 965-foot, 15-deck vessel that started service in 2002 and which specializes in Caribbean cruises, and incidentally the Bermuda Triangle. It is known for its elaborate hull art, spacious rooms, and luxurious amenities, but here among all of the opulence, scenic vistas of azure waters, white sand beaches, and island paradises there have been some creepy reports of something very spooky aboard the liner. It probably makes sense in a way, because there have been several deaths aboard the ship over the years, including one woman who fell from one of the upper balconies to come crashing to her death on the deck below, and it is the ghost of this woman who is said to be the most active here.

Described as being a young woman with short blonde hair, she is said to particularly like to wander about the 9th and 10th floors of the ship, believed to be the general area from which she fell to her doom. Guests have reported seeing her walk along only to vanish into thin air right before their eyes, or to see her climb upon the balcony to leap off. In more frightening encounters the ghostly woman appears in guest rooms, in particular rooms 9506, 10626, 10628. One witness called “Dustman” left a report on the site Cruise Critic of a strange experience in room 9506, of which he says:

Here’s something different for everyone to chew on. My wife who is a psychotherapist, is convinced that 9506 has some harmless ghost messing around in there. She claims that the dividing curtain between the bedroom and living room was picked up as if by a hand, held up, the dropped a few seconds later. I never saw it, but she is positive it happened, right in front of her eyes. And she is a mental health professional. I had nothing but good vibes there, and so did she. Didn’t seem unpleasant or unkind at all whatever it was.. but she said there was no gusts, no wind, no nothing just picked up from the floor about 3 feet, held up, then the curtain dropped. Weird.

Norwegian Dawn

This report is keeping with the general consensus that this ghost is not malevolent or frightening in any way, and it has even been speculated that she doesn’t even know she is dead, but she is spooky all the same. Another report comes from a commenter named Kevin Crushing, on the same site, and which also shows the relatively harmless, yet still unsettling nature of the entity. He says:

We had two connecting balcony rooms, 10626 & 10628. My wife and I were in 10626 and my sister in law and her boyfriend Rob were in 10628. During the day we kept the connecting door open and closed it at night. We also opened the balconies so we had one long balcony. Friday night we went to bed. During the night Rob rolled over and went to put his arm around Judy. She wasn’t there so he went to roll over to see if she moved to the other side of the bed. As he started to roll, he seen a woman sitting at the edge of the bed. He thought it was Judy and he said, what are you doing? Judy was on the other side of him and said ‘sleeping.” When he realized it wasn’t Judy he continued looking at her, she was a woman with blonde shoulder length hair. He thought it was my wife Nancy then. (who is blonde with shoulder length hair). He said Nancy is in here, what do you need Nancy? Judy said, “Rob, you’re talking in your sleep.” Rob said I AM NOT SLEEPING…..Then the woman stood up and had a light around her, she was smiling at him. She continued smiling and he said she floated towards the closets in the room….. she then disappeared in front of the closets.

There are supposedly other ghosts aboard the Norwegian Dawn as well, often seen as going about their business as if still alive, and in some cases spectral forms can even be seen cleaning the rooms or cooking in the kitchen late at night after staff have gone home, only to evaporate into thin air. There have been many reports of such activity made by not only guests, but also paranormal investigators who have come to check the area out and do a little ghost hunting. One paranormal investigator, Amy Bruni, from the show Ghost Hunters, was on a cruise from New Orleans to Mexico with some others, and says of her own bizarre experience on the ship:

We had knocking on our door, 3 raps. Then down the hall, each door, as if a steward was checking the rooms. No one in the hall. It happened for a couple of hours. And our TV went nuts for a while. Most of the activity was during the night of the storm.

Another cruise ship claimed to be haunted is the vessel the Wind Surf, a 5-mast behemoth known for being one of the largest sailing cruise ships in the world, and perhaps also one of the most haunted. The ship’s spa area is said to be frequented by shadow figures, and moving objects, lights flicking on and off, and water faucets turning on or off by themselves are all commonly reported phenomena around the ship, as are anomalous noises and odors. A few of the eerie tales aboard the liner were recounted by cruise ship worker Brian David Bruns in his book Cruise a la Carte, and they are pretty odd indeed. One account shared was given to Bruns by another crew member, who explained to him:

I’ve noticed things moving behind the desk a lot. But you know the melon slices we keep in the urn of drinking water? I heard a gurgle or something and looked up in their direction. In the blink of an eye, they vanished! Then – splat! Right in front of me, right in the middle of the desk, the melons reappeared. Soaked all y paperwork and everything.

Another time, I was doing paperwork. It was about midnight and a guest walked right past me. I saw her clearly as she passed. Middle-aged, long brown hair, and a T-shirt that made her look chunky. I told her we’re closed for the night, but she just walked through the spa and into Natalie’s massage room. I followed right behind her, calling out. I was angry, actually, because I’ve had a bad time with stupid passengers complaining all day. I was going to give this lady a piece of my mind. When I got to Natalie’s room I flipped the light switch on… nobody was there!

There are apparently numerous other sightings along these lines, from both crew and guests alike, coming from several areas of the ship. Bruns goes on to claim:

Wind Surf had more resident ghosts than merely in the spa. The cruise director and shore excursion manager both swore they’d seen an apparition floating in the hallway outside the purser’s office, mid-ship. The spectre was a shadowy yet overt outline of a man from the waist up. Both knew instinctively it was male, though no features could be seen on the hazy head.

The Wind Surf

By far probably the most famous haunted cruise liner is none other than the HMS Queen Mary. During World War II it saw active service as a war ship initially. Painted a dull grey color, the ship became known as “The Grey Ghost,” and played an active part in carrying large numbers of troops as it outran enemy subs, with its carrying capacity also modified for this purpose. Indeed, by the end of the war the HMS Queen Mary would transport around 800,000 troops and set the record for the most people ever put on a floating vessel, at one point carrying a staggering 16,683 people at one time. After its illustrious career as a military transport vessel, the HMS Queen Mary reverted back to a luxury passenger liner after the war, a job it would continue to do until the 1960s, when the popularity of passenger liners began to wane and the ship was eventually decommissioned in 1967, after which it was moored at Long Beach, California and turned into a floating museum and hotel. And thus ended the illustrious career of the great HMS Queen Mary, with a total of 1001 transatlantic voyages under its belt and various military accolades, its mark upon history assured. However, the story of this legendary vessel did not end there, and in the decades since being permanently docked, the HMS Queen Mary has accrued quite a sinister and eerie reputation for being intensely haunted

The tales of hauntings and paranormal phenomena aboard the HMS Queen Mary are almost as famous as its colorful history. In a way it makes sense that there should be some ghostly occurrences here, as there are at least 50 recorded deaths aboard the vessel during its lifetime, and the ship was also involved in a fatal accident during World War II, when it struck the vessel Curacoa resulting in 338 deaths. Perhaps some of these dead from the war have decided to stick around, and indeed ghostly wails and frantic banging are said to be heard on occasion from the hull and the bow area that had struck the Curacoa in the tragedy. Another one of these would certainly be the specter that reportedly inhabits the engine room. Here there are frequent reports of pipes banging, as well as sudden temperature drops, floating lights, the engine room door inexplicably heating up, and anomalous smoke, all said to be the doing of a 17-year old sailor named John Henry, who died here in a fire during war time. The massive, abandoned boiler room incidentally has at least one other spirit in the form of the ghost of a fireman named John Pedder, who was crushed by an emergency door here in 1966 and appears as a ghostly figure in blue overalls wandering the area around the door, known as “Door 13.”

HMS Queen Mary

There are certainly numerous other ghosts and phantoms on the vessel not connected to the war, and there are many areas of the ship that seem to be magnets for the paranormal. One intensely haunted area of the ship is the first and second class pool areas. The first class swimming pool, once a lavish space of shiny tile and opulent décor, now sits empty and used, yet there are often reported to be the sound of splashing or of wet footprints about even though there has long been no water in the pool. The specters of several women in period swimsuits can also be seen walking or lounging about here before blinking out of existence or phasing through walls out of sight. These particular entities seem to show no awareness whatsoever of being observed or of others around them, and they largely go about their business as if they are still on their luxury cruise.

Both of the pools also supposedly harbor the spirits of several children, who can be heard laughing, giggling, or running around. The most famous of these is a spirit called Jackie, which inhabits the second class pool and is said to be a girl who drowned during the luxury liner’s heyday. Jackie purportedly carries with her a teddy bear, often calls out for her mother, and will allegedly sometimes whistle or hum “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Eerily, she is also known to hum or whistle back songs that visitors sing, with some ghost hunters doing this in an effort to draw her out. A companion of Jackie’s is the ghost of a girl called Sarah, who is known as being rather mischievous and prone to acting up, sometimes tugging at clothing, tapping, pushing or even slapping guests. Even spookier still is a ghost said to prowl the pool area that leaves behind the smell of cigarettes and is known for growling ominously, leading to the spirit’s nickname “Grumpy.”

Many of the ship’s other areas are haunted as well. Some of the staterooms are known to be intensely haunted, in particular stateroom B-340, which is so plagued with paranormal activity such as lights turning on and off, the phone ringing with no one on the line, faucets turning on by themselves, moving furniture, sheets ripped off of the bed, and numerous anomalous noises, that it is no longer rented out at all. Stateroom B-474 also has a spirit in the form of a little girl called Dana, who is said to have been murdered there along with her family. A shadowy figure of a man wearing a 1930s style suit is also often seen wandering about the staterooms on some inscrutable errand.

The ship’s playroom and nursery is home to disembodied infant crying and the pattering of unseen little feet. The Queen’s Salon and first class lounge has the specter of a pretty woman dressed in flowing white vintage dress, who can be seen dancing alone in the corner, and another mysterious woman in white is sometimes seen sitting at the front desk late at night. The lobby area is also supposedly prowled by a sinister spirit wearing a yellow fedora and apparently possessing rotten teeth. Other assorted areas of the ship that are haunted include the Captain’s cabin, the helm, and the Winston Churchill’s suite, which are often permeated by the smell of phantom cigar smoke, supposedly from the former captain Treasure Jones, who loved cigars. Then there is the ship’s bar, where the ghost of a man in 1930s clothing, with slicked back hair and a top hat, will sit down next to unsuspecting patrons and even talk to them, only to vanish right before their eyes or walk through the wall towards the men’s restroom.

The promenade is also supposedly haunted by several spirits. One is said to be that of a man named William Eric Stark, who in life made the mistake of drinking the contents of a bottle of cleaning fluid thinking it was gin. His health would rapidly deteriorate until he died in a fit of coughing and choking, and this choking and gagging is a distinct attribute of his ghost as well. Stark can apparently be seen as a spectral figure around the promenade, hacking and coughing even in death. Also on the promenade is the ghost of a boy of 5 or 6 years of age, who is called Daniel. This particular ghost is always seen wearing blue clothing, and can be spotted wandering about the promenade and the observation bar, often just standing in the dark staring at people. Other assorted phenomena throughout the ships include shadow figures lurking about or looming behind visitors, the potent feeling of being watched, moving or levitating objects, ghost lights, banging, knocking, disembodied voices of footsteps, electrical malfunctions, drastic temperature fluctuations, various unexplained odors, and many, many others, to the point that the HMS Queen Mary holds a reputation as being one of the most intensely haunted places there is, cruise ship or otherwise.

None of these accounts are anything one wants to encounter on a cruise, which is supposed to be a relaxing time living in the lap of luxury, far from the stresses of daily life. Yet such reports continue to come in, proving that there might be more than just living guests aboard these trveling vacations.  Cruise ships are actually not completely divorced from deaths or strange mysteries, so in a way they seem like perfect breeding grounds for such anomalous reports, and if you ever find yourself on one just take a look around and take in the surroundings, as your room might just be double booked  by an entity beyond your understanding.