The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor always tops the list of best Halloween attractions in L.A., but the ship’s old-timey ambiance has ghostly appeal year-round. The Queen Mary has been rumored to be haunted for years, with reports of paranormal activity and unexplained sightings so numerous they have been investigated by some of the world’s most renowned experts in the spirit world.
Capitalizing on the mysterious vibes there as well as the ship's enchanting vintage atmosphere, the Queen Mary opened a small theater and show in September. Called Illusions of the Passed, it stars master illusionist Aiden Sinclair, known for his appearances on America's Got Talent and Penn & Teller's Fool Us as well as live shows at the also said-to-be-haunted Stanley Hotel in Colorado. Taking place in what is supposedly the most haunted area of the ship, Sinclair’s show is touted as a magic performance and “theatrical séance.” Fans of spirit-world settings and activities have been flocking to it, and to the lounge called the Revenant Room, which offers themed drinks with names like Smoke & Mirrors as well as creepy artifacts including old dolls and personal effects of the dead.
This past weekend, Queen Mary unveiled a new component to Illusion's weird showcase: a poltergeist-driven postscript gathering called A Voyage to the Other Side, in which noted paranormal professionals come aboard and host investigations in the Revenant Room's theater and its surrounding areas.
Once a month, after Sinclair’s 45-minute performances, guests get a lecture, a paranormal investigation experience and a meet-and-greet with a special guest. For the maiden voyage this past weekend, Grant Wilson of the SyFy TV hit Ghosthunters was on deck and fans of his show got a first-hand feel for what the former plumber turned ghost hunter actually does. In addition to reality TV, Wilson has helped popularize the paranormal field through his work with The Atlantic Paranormal Society (T.A.P.S.), which he co-founded.
So does it deliver? Well, that probably depends on your frame of mind, level of belief and what you're looking for. Sinclair's show will be underwhelming for fans of Vegas-y grand illusion or Magic Castle style trickery, but it does conjure a feeling of dread and mysticism that brings a chill to the spine, especially when a group brought onstage (apparently) manifests a ghost. The ghost — Saturday we had a little girl named “Alice” — appears to turn a giant key as two audience members hold it up with their fingers and clearly do not help manipulate it.
A group of participants also was asked to share visions of the ghost onstage later via a series of questions, but it was unclear what Sinclair was after during this segment and the audience participation only made things more convoluted. Still, credit to the host for putting the experience in a context that felt real and decidedly un-hokey. Real ghosts do not appear for the purpose of entertaining the living or even simply to scare us, as in a horror movie, so a show that intends to convey contact won't be nearly as dramatic.
The same goes for the new Voyage portion of the event. Wilson is a charismatic fellow, and learning about the devices he uses to measure ghostly phenomena is fascinating. For his inaugural investigation, he brought along an EMF (electro-magnetic field) measuring device, which reads energy when spirits communicate; a “spirit box,” which helps spirits speak by reading different frequencies to find random words; and a laser grid that covers a room with a grid of green light lines that show when shadow people or black shadows appear or obstruct their path.
On Saturday, the EMF machine blinked a lot and the spirit box emitted a name that resonated with someone in the crowd, but that was about it. There were no super spooky or exciting occurrences deserving of the Twilight Zone theme shoutout. As Wilson himself admitted, ghost hunting minus editing for TV isn't nearly as exciting. Still, even without any apparitions or ominous a-ha moments, fans of this type of phenomenon will probably have fun and enjoy the possibilities it does conjure.
Tennessee Wraith Chasers duo Scott Porter and Doogie McDougal are booked for the next Voyage on Saturday, Feb. 23. Porter won the “Old South Pittsburg Hospital” episode of Travel Channel’s Paranormal Challenge, while McDougal has been seen on Destination America and Travel Channel's Haunted Live, Most Haunted Towns, Ghost Asylum, Ghostland Tennessee, Exorcism Live and Paranormal Challenge.
On March 30, Chad Lindberg from The CW’s Supernatural will be the guest. Lindberg is also co-host of Destination America's paranormal reality show Ghost Stalkers and leads fans on ghost hunts across the country on Paranormal Investigations.
The ship also hosts a Ghost Investigation Evidence Review Brunch the morning after each voyage. Guests can indulge in the Queen Mary’s Royal Sunday Brunch as they discuss their ghost findings with one of the ship’s resident Chiefs ($125 per person).
Tickets to Voyage to the Other Side start at $275 and the package includes the “ghost hunt” with celebrity guest in the Revenant Room, a meet-and-greet hour with that month's guest, a meal voucher, and the Illusions of the Passed show featuring Sinclair. Tickets and info at queenmary.com.