Originally published October 4, 2013 at The Los Angeles Beat
The salt filled air of the Port of Long Beach is not the first place you might envision when pondering one of the most haunted places in America. The blue skies, sunshine and tourists might pose as a convenient cover however, because this innocent appearing place is where the proud and stately ship Queen Mary is docked. Although its steel facade appears benignly historical, its decks and hulls hold hidden secrets of ghostly apparitions as well as goose-bump inducing echoes of invisible children’s laughter. So what better place to hold an annual Halloween Haunt than a ship retired from service in 1967 whose walls exhale the mystery of decades of life forgotten?
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, an annual October fright event which runs weekends throughout the month, goes back to 1994 when it was called Shipwreck. Each year it metamorphosizes slightly, changing themes, adding characters or creating brand new haunted mazes. This year, a wickedly wanton carnival theme has emerged, led by the Ringmaster, a deranged carny, active in engaging guests in a new Freak Show area. Here you will find a bevy of sideshow wonders including Headless Hannah, The Wondrous Crabman and The White Ghost, an attraction that envelopes guests in a complete white-out of fog in which a sprightly ghost plays peek-a-boo throughout the engulfing miasma.
Besides the 160 scare actors, adept at making guests jump and scream, this year a ferris wheel, a bucking mechanical monster, and a Haunted Hookah Lounge were added to the festivities. A brand new zip line ride also sends those brave enough to dare souring 42-feet high in the air above the monsters that roam the grounds below.
The newly created Circus maze taunts and teases guests with twisted clowns, zombified acrobats, sinister puppets and evil jesters. Upon entering one is literally thrown into walls of confusion as carnival mirrors wickedly reflect and deflect the true path to the next segment of this maze.
Returning from previous years are five other mazes- three of which take you aboard the Queen Mary herself. Submerged guides guests on a hot and steamy path through the ship’s actual boiler rooms. With the five senses on high animalistic alert taking in odors of mildew and old water, the clammy feeling of the boiler room adds intensity as guests dodge the ever meandering spirits. The trail leads past an abandoned art deco pool where apparitions of long ago bathers are sure to haunt your imagination.
The Lady in White, a mythologized spirit claimed by many to actually roam the lobby and dance in the Queen’s Salon, is back again this year with her mystical beauty. Also reoccurring is Colossal, the mental hospital themed maze in which evil doctors, nurses and patients wander haunted hallways and The Village, a macabre hillbilly nightmare gone wrong. This year’s Dark Harbor is deliciously shriek worthy even if you’ve done it in prior years. Make sure your vocal pipes are well oiled for screaming and loudly laughing as you conquer each of this historical landmark’s mazes.
So combine your Halloween frightmares with a side serving of history and culture and put Dark Harbor on your list of this month’s activities.
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor: 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach, CA, 90802. (877) 342-0738.