Friday, November 10 marks the debut of the upgraded Ghosts & Legends tour at the Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach. Presented as a "real" paranormal tour, Ghosts & Legends is actually a special effects scare show utilizing computer-generated spirits, a Tesla coil, and far more water than you want to see filling the hull of a ship. We attended the media preview on Thursday; before presenting a full-length review, here is background information, gleaned from discussions with several people involved, including Brian Luallen, director of entertainment and events.
The revised Queen Mary Ghosts & Legends haunted experience focuses more on high-tech scares, but it is not quite the same as a Halloween walk-through maze. Maintaining a haunted house-type attraction with a cast of thirty scare-actors year-round is considered unsustainable; therefore, supernatural phenomena in Ghosts & Legends is "automated" - achieved with digital projection, recorded audio, and some mechanical effects.
Moreover, whereas the annual Queen Mary Dark Harbor Halloween event targets a specialized audience craving intense thrills, Ghosts & Legends must appeal to everyday tourists and guests. The archetypal target audience is considered to be a family including grandparents, parents, and kids, one of whom is the "instigator" urging the others to take a chance on a scary attraction. The scares are calibrated to be entertaining, not disturbing, so that Ghosts & Legends will appeal to the whole family.
Also, unlike the old version of Ghosts & Legends, the new incarnation is not part of a standard package included with a stay at the Queen Mary Hotel. This means that unsuspecting guests will not be taking the tour simply because it's already paid for; they will have to intentionally purchase tickets, and the nature of the attraction will be explained to them, so that no one will walk in uninformed.
Lasting thirty minutes, Queen Mary Ghosts & Legends takes visitors into areas of the ship that have been off-limits in recent years, including the massive, recently renovated boiler room. Allegedly haunted by an ill-fated crewman, the spectacular location serves as the attraction's thrilling climax, including an unexpected flooding (well, unexpected if you don't catch the hint dropped earlier in the tour about being below the water line). As Luallen points out, the attraction needed a big finish, and fire was out of the question. The Queen Mary's sister ship, RMS Queen Elizabeth, sank after catching fire in Hong Kong harbor - a tragic reminder that the two ocean liners date from a time when much of the construction used wood. Understandably, utlizing massive pyrotechnics inside the Queen Mary would have been ill-advised. A water-based conclusion to Ghosts & Legends was the obvious solution.
Queen Mary Ghosts & Legends will operate year round, running daily from 1pm to 8pm, with tours starting every 30 minutes. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children. The Queen Mary Hotel is located at 1126 Queens Highway in Long Beach. The webpage for the event is here.