Queen Mary Shipwreck: Ghosts rise again aboard haunted ship

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queen-mary-shipwreckFor the 15th year in a row, the Queen Mary has converted itself into the ultimate Halloween haunt dubbed Shipwreck. Billed as 15 nights of terror that runs through November 1, the historical ocean liner and its surroundings have been transformed into a frightful and fun exhibit for the entire family.

After getting searched by an over-zealous security crew (hey guys, this isn’t a Metallica concert!), we are immediately greeted with an array of hair-raising sights and sounds. To our left, there’s the obligatory graveyard — freshly dosed with billowing fog, headstones ominously jutting up here and there, a hearse immersed in cob-webs and skeletons, and a DJ spinning blood-curdling melodies (?). As the night falls further, the graveyard will morph into the Club Dead dance floor. That’s when the real horror show begins.

To our right and against the giant dome (it used to house Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose) is a handful of vendors pushing treats without the tricks (burgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers, tacos, Italian sausage, soda, beer, wine and creepy cocktails). There’s even a palm reader on staff.

After a drink to calm our nerves, we veer our attention to Shipwreck’s main attraction: five mystifying mazes, three retrofitted within the bowels of vessel itself. Better make that a double!

We join other thrill seekers in line for the Isolation Ward, our first maze. The classic Halloween movie (the 1978 version with Jamie Lee Curtis) is projected on a side wall of the ship’s three-story passenger gangway as the crowd makes its way toward the entrance.

shipwreckClimbing three flights of stairs to the Queen Mary’s upper decks nearly finishes us off (with nary a ghoul or goblin in sight), but once we wade through a narrow entryway at the rear dock bridge of the boat, the pain subsides and the fear sets in. The ghosts of the Queen Mary have risen, and even the crazed-eyed nurse can’t save us.

Lurking around presumably each and every corner is a hyper-active phantom or apparition of some sort, bound and determined to elicit terror, screaming and the odd, unscrupulous chuckle. Wandering in the dark without a hint of what’s ahead merely intensifies the experience. Be prepared for beheaded bodies, bloody corpses, scattered entrails and other unpleasantries.

After 10 minutes of heart-palpitating encounters, we are free and off to the next adventure: the Psychedelic Krazy Klown maze. Situated in the Queen Mary parking lot, don’t expect Chuckles and Bozo to come out juggling milk bottles and blowing up balloon animals. These are bizarro klowns, zygotes and wacky hillbillies straight out of a 60s flashback. They wait behind curtains under mind-blowing strobes and black lights, keen to surprise victims with a twisted blend of zaniness and hallucinatory lunacy. Believe me, after winding your way through this head trip, you’ll never see the circus in quite the same way again!

shipwreck-queen-maryFrom there, it’s back to the boat for Paranoia’s House of Horror. After getting our photos taken, we are led down an ornate, fog-filled stairway by the first-class swimming pool. From there, it’s right into more of the ship’s portentous corridors, then through anonymous boiler and engine rooms where creatures pop up and out when you least expect it (actually, by this time, you should be on high alert).

Blackbeard’s Revenge, the fourth maze, is infested with — you guessed it — the spirits of pirates. This place makes Davy Jones’ Locker look like a doctor’s office — an underworld of ship dwellers dancing the Hempen jig, hornswagglers who live to shiver the timbers of all who dare to pass.

The fifth and final maze is Vampire Village, located at the Queen’s Marketplace. We sheepishly breeze through one end of the village to the other, going face-to-face with horrifying mobs of undead zombies, mummies and vampires. We stumble out, our hearts and souls and minds engrossed in panic and pleasure. Only another pick-me-up in the Observation Bar can take the edge off now.

I kept looking for the live bands and three-level dance party in the Queen Mary’s Exhibit Hall they advertise on the Queen Mary web site, but no one seemed to know anything about it. That, the heavy security and a $15 parking fee threatened to put a damper on the evening, but we kept our chins up high and stayed focused on the prize.

Shipwreck, which opens at 7:00 and goes until midnight, is not for the faint of heart, young children, elderly folks or anyone unprepared to do a bit of walking, up and down stairways. Cameras are not allowed, so leave yours at home. Dress warm, bring few accessories but ample amounts of cash, as well as a vivid imagination, and you’ll be fine. General admission is $29, but for $11 more, you can get a VIP pass and cut to the head of the line (and we’re talking Disneyland-length lines). There are even packages for overnight stays. Either way, if you’re looking to scare up some fun and excitement this Halloween, Shipwreck is the answer to all your nightmares.

About Shawn Perry
Shawn Perry is a freelance writer, born and based in Long Beach, California. He currently runs Vintage Rock, a popular music e-zine, and has written for several other publications, including Examiner.com, About.com and AllMusic.com.

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