Haunted Naval Ships

Spooky Stories From Below Deck

448QueenMaryFresh off the U.S. Navy’s birthday on October 13, and with Halloween just hours away, now’s the perfect time to explore some naval history and reports of paranormal activity, since the two are forever connected.

We may have touched on one of these the last time we compiled a list of haunted military places. But we’re keeping it strictly Navy here, with the history of four infamous ships as we explore some of the unexplained phenomena service members, staffers, and visitors have been experiencing for years. If you’re looking for a thrill this Halloween season, these places are all open to visitors brave enough to take a tour and experience the activity first hand.

The Queen Mary

Also known as “the Gray Ghost,” the Royal Mail Ship Queen Mary sailed on her maiden voyage on May 27, 1936, not as a military vessel, but as a luxury liner. It was originally built by the British in response to similar superliners built by German and French companies in the 1920s and ‘30s. Her original port of registry was in Liverpool and she ran transatlantic routes between Southampton and New York, often carrying political figures, actors, writers, and other VIPs.

In 1939, to help with World War II, the British transformed the Queen Mary into a troopship, often transporting as many as 15,000 men in a single voyage. She carried notable figures like British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and other officials from the Allied forces. She was even the source of inspiration for Paul Gallico’s 1969 novel The Poseidon Adventure and the 1972 film by the same name, after one incident where she took on a huge wave and nearly capsized.

In 1967, the Queen Mary was purchased by the city of Long Beach, Calif., where she remains docked as a museum and tourist attraction. It has also garnered quite a reputation in terms of paranormal activity – which ownership embraces to attract tourists. Time Magazine named it one of the top 10 most haunted places. From poltergeist activity to lights turning on and off, and even full-bodied apparitions, there have been countless reports over the years.

The Queen Mary experienced quite a bit of tragedy throughout her storied past, which could explain some of the activity. A Sailor died in the ship’s engine room and a murder took place in room B340. Many people have also reported seeing a ghostly apparition of a woman in a flowing white gown dancing in various parts of the ship. Others have seen a man dressed in a suit from the 1930s. And still others have reported hearing children playing and laughing.

USS LexingtonNSUSSLexington

Nicknamed “the Blue Ghost” and “Lady Lex,” the Lexington was an aircraft carrier built during WWII and commissioned in February of 1943, seeing extensive service through the Pacific War. She was the flagship of Admiral Marc Mitscher and received 11 battle stars, as well as the Presidential Unit Citation. She was built to be versatile, later being reclassified as an attack carrier; then an anti-submarine carrier; then as a training carrier. She was finally decommissioned in 1991 and donated to Corpus Christi, Texas, where she remains as a museum ship and an official National Historic Landmark.

When it comes to the paranormal, the Blue Ghost is said to have its fair share of residual hauntings with a focus on emotional experiences. Many crew members, employees, and tourists have claimed to hear voices, screams, and people crying out from the darkness. People also report hearing weapons being fired. The central hub of the activity is the engine room, where many Sailors perished when a Japanese kamikaze crashed into the ship during WWII. Consequently, two museum staffers reported once walking out of their office and seeing two men in the hallway. One dressed in a Japanese pilot's uniform and the other in that of the U.S. Navy.

The ship has been featured on numerous TV shows featuring paranormal investigation, including Ghost Hunters on Syfy and Ghost Lab on the Discovery Channel.

The Buffalo Navy and Military ParkNSBuffaloMilitaryPark

Buffalo, New York is currently home to three naval ships with storied pasts – USS The Sullivans, USS Little Rock, and a submarine called USS Croaker. All three of these ships have long been thought to host paranormal activity, including shadowy figures, full-bodied apparitions, unexplainable knocking sounds, objects moving on their own, and unmistakable footsteps. Several documented deaths could explain the activity, but their history is much more complicated than that.

USS The Sullivans was named after a family of five brothers (George, Francis, Joseph, Madison, and Albert) aged 20 to 27 who lost their lives on the USS Juneau during WWII. Their ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on November 13, 1942. Although she was originally called Putnam, she was renamed Sullivan and then once more by President Franklin Roosevelt, finally settling on The Sullivans to officially recognize all five brothers. She was christened by their mother and commissioned on September 30, 1943.

Now here’s where USS Croaker comes in: she was the vessel that avenged the Sullivans’ death by destroying the very Japanese sub that sank the Juneau. Could the unexplained activity be caused by the Sullivan family watching over their namesake?

USS HornetNSUSSHornet

Simply put, the Hornet is said to be one of the most haunted warships in the U.S. Navy. It has a huge thumbprint on pop culture, featured on shows like Fear on MTV, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and several others. She’s now a National Historical Landmark as a museum ship docked in Alameda, Calif., where the Alameda Paranormal Researchers perform frequent investigations.

The Hornet is one of the most highly decorated ships in naval history and served a key role in military efforts between her commissioning in 1943 and retirement in 1970. She’s won a total of eleven awards, including the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with eleven battle stars. As an aircraft carrier, she was responsible for destroying 1,410 Japanese aircraft and destroying or damaging over 1.2 million tons of enemy shipping during WWII. She served through the Vietnam War and even aided in the space race, recovering the Apollo 11 astronauts as they returned back to Earth after being the first humans to walk on the surface of the moon.

The ship is no stranger to tragedy. All told, more than 300 people have lost their lives aboard the Hornet. The majority perished in combat during her 27 years of active service. The Navy has also confirmed that more suicides have occurred aboard the Hornet than any other ship in the military. Shortly after retirement and opening as a museum, staffers began reporting strange phenomena – including voices, footsteps, and full-bodied apparitions dressed in Navy uniforms who disappear right before their eyes. Radio equipment turns on and off, doors sound like they’re opening and closing even though they’re completely still, and visitors often feel like they’ve been touched or grabbed.

Military history is mired with tragedy, and accounts of paranormal activity have been reported for decades on some of these ships. If you've ever experienced any unexplained phenomena, be it on a Navy ship or elsewhere, tell us about it in the comment section below. We hope you have a safe and happy Halloween! 

Jake Butler

About the author: Jake Butler

Jake Butler is a staff writer at Pioneer Services who understands the challenges facing modern military families. He writes informative and entertaining pieces about military life, financial education and everything in between. Follow Jake on Google+.

Contact: Jake Butler


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