Friday, December 12, 2008

Seriously Funny Stuff and a Haunted Ship

We interrupt today's regularly-scheduled program to bring you this special announcement:

I was clicking around the internet this morning and found this (reminiscent of a Seinfeld episode) via a link from today's post from Ramblings of a Green Yogurt (an excellent blogger in her own right). I love this new discovery. This guy, Simon Metz, is seriously funny, rivaling even the famous, award-winning blogger from West Chester, Dr. Zibbs for laugh-out-loud hilarity, although in a slightly different sort of way.

If you haven't already discovered Mr. Metz, you should go there right now and read a few of his posts.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

. . . . .

Oh, good, you came back! I was a little afraid you'd abandon me entirely once you found him.

Now for our previously scheduled program:

A few family vacations ago, after spending a couple of weeks at the beach in California, we decided to add a couple of extra days to our planned itinerary and we booked a room on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.

As you may (or may not) know, the Queen Mary is an old cruise ship, a steamer, that was converted to military use during WWII, and was used to transport troops. After WWII, she was put back into service as a luxury cruise ship, even carrying the Queen Mother in 1954.

In her time, she was one of the fastest ships around, which was why she was such a great choice for transporting troops -- her speed kept them safe from potential attackers. She held records for "fastest Atlantic crossing" for many years, up to the 1960's, shortly before she was decommissioned as a cruise ship. She was longer than the Titanic. Heavier, too. And apparently sturdier, as she lasted for over 1000 trans-Atlantic voyages, while the Titanic sank during its maiden voyage. (Then again, the Queen Mary didn't run into any icebergs as far as I know, so there's no way to know whether she would have survived such an encounter.)

In 1967, however, her cruising days ended and she was sold to the City of Long Beach, California, for $3.45 million. In December that year, she made her last ocean voyage, to Long Beach -- and has been docked there ever since.

The City of Long Beach runs the Queen Mary as a tourist attraction. You can book a room there, much as you would at a hotel, and enjoy the luxurious accommodations of an early to mid-twentieth century cruise liner. The plumbing was quaint, but functional. The furniture was sturdy and old (vintage, I guess you'd say). It was fun to walk around the ship and see the historical displays and read about the ship's history. The kids enjoyed it, we enjoyed it -- all in all, it was good family fun.

Quick side note for those of you familiar with the Queen Mary / Spruce Goose combo tickets they used to sell in the '80's: The Spruce Goose (originally built by Howard Hughes, as outlined in the 2004 movie The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, who also starred in the 1997 film Titanic) has been moved to Oregon.

Sadly, while the Queen Mary was serving as a troop transport ship during WWII, she was involved in an accident in which she accidentally ran over one of her escort ships, slicing it in two, and causing the death by drowning of (I believe) all 300 soldiers on board the smaller vessel as well as some folks on board the main ship. The Queen Mary was damaged, too, but was later repaired. Because of this incident, they claim, the Queen Mary is haunted.

For a small admission fee, you can take the "Ghosts and Legends" tour, during which they promise you will learn about (and maybe see) the ghosts aboard the ship. They have a sign posted warning that people who have high blood pressure, heart conditions, or who are pregnant may want to avoid this tour. My husband read the sign and cheerfully said, "Woo hoo! This'll scare the baby out of a pregnant lady! Sign me up!!"

So we bought our tickets, waited a short while in line, and began our tour -- complete with creepy tour guide escorts who stare grimly and refuse to speak.

Did I mention that the City of Long Beach runs the Queen Mary as a tourist attraction? Because this tour was all cheesy tourist kitsch, bad video and flashing lights, melodramatic sound effects, and things that suddenly go "boo" -- rather like the fake haunted houses that spring up like pumpkin vines every year around Halloween.

You start the tour in a room where you watch a video (a little like the "Twilight Zone" video at the beginning of the haunted hotel ride at Disneyland) that tells you the history of the crash and the hauntings. It was actually an interesting video, with good historical information. It did set the scene well, too -- after the video I was ready to be scared. Then it's down to the bowels of the ship to see the ghosts. They take you past the first class pool, and through the boiler room, and past some bunks, showing you "ghosts" along the way. They tell you about a boiler room accident that caused some deaths and then, predictably, the lights dim and the pipes start shaking and you hear noises like water hissing and boiling, and the tour guide warns that the pipes might burst -- it is almost funny, it's so cheesy, and indeed I heard a couple of people chuckling.

Truly, I think people with heart problems, high blood pressure, and pregnancy would probably have been just fine... But my little guy, who at the time was 3 years old, was actually scared by it all. Halfway through, he demanded that I carry him. He buried his head on my shoulder every time the lights went down or started flashing. He hugged tight around my neck every time strange noises were heard. He repeated, over and over, "I'm scared mommy." "Can we leave now?" I almost felt bad for bringing him along. I hugged him back, and reassured him we would be fine, and that daddy and I would keep him safe.

At the end of the tour, they tell you about the repairs that were made -- or perhaps not made very well -- to the Queen Mary after the incident in which she ran over the escort ship. The walls then shake a bit, and water sprays into the room, and you are told to evacuate quickly! So you all pile into the elevator for the trip back up to the exit room. The tour guide congratulates you on an orderly evacuation.

The lights came on in the elevator. Everyone was standing there, sort of crammed in, smirking at each other and not saying much. Then my little guy pipes up loudly with, "I've seen monsters on Scooby Doo before, and they weren't this scary!!"

So maybe the tour would scare the baby out of a pregnant woman, after all...


That damn expat said...

Let me guess. Your son refused to board another ship from then on?

Didn't they retire QMII a little while ago? Or was it some other queen?

LegalMist said...

Actually, for about a year and a half after that trip, my little guy would tell people about his visit to the [make quote marks in air with fingers] Queeeeen Maaaary [said in spooky voice]. I guess, like my husband, he likes being scared, because he kept wanting to go back.

SkylersDad said...

Sounds like fun, but a little bit silly!

Sausage Mechanic said...

I'm a history stick in the mud..."Just the facts ma'am and hold the cheese please."

Dr Zibbs said...

Simon Metz ehhh?

LegalMist said...

You're not jealous, are you, Zibbsy? 'Cause you know I'll always love you, right?

Legal Diva said...

Thanks for your visit today. I love the history of the QM, and the cheesy hauntedness. Here in TN we have the Bell Witch. Its actually taught in school as part of TN history. We took the kids out to the cave once and it was cheesy hysterical to husband and I, but the kids were actually a little scared. Oh... to be little and naive again.