Lately, I’ve been haunted. Things seem to keep following me around. The most recent perpetrator is the Queen Mary hotel in Long Beach, California. This hotel is actually the former RMS Queen Mary, which cruised between Southampton, Cherbourg, and New York City. In 1967 it was retired and it has been operating as a museum, hotel, and tourist destination in Long Beach ever since.
I’ve always been interested in paranormal topics but never obsessed or anything, just mildly curious. It’s one of those things I’ll watch on TV if I’m flipping around and see a special news story about it (or an X-Files rerun), but I can also admit when something is clearly fake and just being sensationalized to freak people out.
The Queen Mary is supposed to be haunted. I recently spent a night there with a friend who was in town. When we arrived, the girl behind the desk upgraded our room for no extra charge (slow night, I assume), but before we could even say thank you, she hesitated. “Oh, wait… paranormal activity has been reported in this particular room before… are you OK with that?”
We looked at each other and mentally high-fived. Who were we to turn down a free upgrade and a little danger to spice things up? We thanked her and giddily hurried off to find our haunted chamber.
I realize that this sounds like the start of a horror film, but I promise no one gets murdered in this blog post.
Once in our room, we studied the paperwork she’d given us at the desk: our room keys, internet password, and a four or five page list containing every instance of paranormal activity that’s ever been reported in the hotel, arranged in order by room number. We found our room number, and we were slightly disappointed to note that our instance was probably just a case of plumbing issues: apparently, once, when some girl had stepped out of the shower, the sink had randomly turned on and nothing she tried would shut it off.
In other rooms, people had reported strange noises, electronics not working, even the blankets being pulled off of them in the middle of the night. Someone had said they woke up to see a figure watching them, others had thought they heard someone in the room.
Some of these made me a little uneasy, and I think they made C uneasy too, but maybe we were just drinking the wine really quickly for an unrelated reason. At any rate, at some point after reading this list I decided I wanted to try taking a picture looking out of the porthole windows, because wine can convince even the most amateur of photographers that she can create art out of porthole windows.
But my camera, which had been working all evening, suddenly wasn’t functioning correctly. I would press the button to take a picture, and it sounded like it was starting to take the picture… but it wouldn’t capture anything. There was a strange clicking noise. I shut the camera off, panicking. I waited a moment, then tried to take the picture again, and the same thing happened. I glanced at C. He admitted it was strange but didn’t push the subject, and I didn’t either.
Nothing else strange happened until we were both almost asleep. Around 1:30 in the morning, I heard someone running across the room directly above us. At first I was irritated, and then I thought, You know, that’s weird… we’ve heard noises coming from our neighbors all evening but nothing from above until now.
There was a few seconds pause, and then I heard someone running back in the other direction. Seriously? I thought. The one time I try to get to sleep before 1:30am on a Friday…
It was silent for a few more seconds, and then there was that noise that you never want to hear because it means that you might be starring in a horror movie and your time to suffer a brutal death is rapidly approaching — I heard a child laugh.
I froze. Ok, I thought, so it’s a child. Logic dictates that when a child is running around and laughing in a hotel room at 1:30 in the morning, a parent will scold him or her so as not to disturb any of the other hotel guests. So I’ll hear the parents’ voices in a second, and that will mean that this is not a ghost.
I debated whether or not I should wake up C, but ultimately decided that a.) I didn’t want to scare him, and b.) he would probably just think I was being ridiculous anyway, which would be semi-valid, and c.) if I moved, that would let the ghosts know that I was awake and had heard them, and maybe that would encourage them to try to scare me even more.
Somehow, this seemed very logical to me. I think I now completely understand the “play dead” defense we encourage during confrontations with grizzly bears.
I thought of the person who’d reported that they’d awoken to see a strange figure staring at them from across the dark room, and I shut my eyes more tightly than I have ever shut them in my life. I will not look at you, ghosts, I thought resolutely. I will not give you the satisfaction.
I never heard an adult scolding the child, but I also didn’t hear anything else coming from the hotel room above us, and it wasn’t too long before I managed to convince myself that it was safe enough to fall asleep. It probably also helped that I’d made an oath with myself to never open my eyes in that hotel room again, so falling asleep was, ultimately, inevitable.
In the morning, I began rehashing this story to C, but he immediately chimed in to say that he’d heard everything too. He had been wide awake the whole time, and he’d not said anything to me because he had been as afraid of scaring me as I’d been of scaring him. It was very considerate on both of our parts, really. It was like the gift of the Magi!* But with ghosts.
I told him that I wanted to go upstairs to check to see if there was actually a hotel room above us. He humored me, and we trekked upstairs and calculated the place where the room above us should have been.
There was no hotel room, just a women’s bathroom and a locked closet. Next to that, and stretching across the entryway to the other side of the hall, was what appeared to be some kind of meeting room, completely devoid of furniture and looking as though it hadn’t been used for anything in years. It was locked.
“It was ghosts!” I said. “Running through the walls!”
It was ghosts, you guys. They are probably still living inside my camera right now. I am a real-life episode of The X-Files waiting to happen.
**Edit: not like The Gift of the Magi at all, now that I’ve reread the plot synopsis.