Who was in Cabin B-78?

Arun Vajpey

Henry Samuel ETCHES testified that after he had sorted Guggenheim and his valet out, he went and banged on the door of First Class Cabin B-78 (Some sources sat that it was C-78). A man and a woman were inside but did not open the door; instead, they reportedly kept asking Etches what was wrong etc. In the end, Etches got exasperated and went away "leaving the couple to their fate".

Any idea who they were (or might have been) and what happened to them?

Arun Vajpey

Looking further into this, Cabin C-78 was allocated to the Minahan family and so the sources that say that it was this cabin that Etches knocked on (including in his biography here) are probably in error. Therefore, it must have been B-78. Although Etches testified that The Spencer couple occupied B-78, the Cave List has that couple in B-76 and their maid in B-80. William Spencer died in the sinking while his wife Eugenie survived.
It seems highly unlikely that the middle aged Spencers were the couple that refused to let Etches in. This might mean that they were really in B-76 as per the Cave List.
So who was in B-78 and what happened to them?

Arun Vajpey

I have checked this enigma as much as possible and based on what I could learn and there are some relevant points that I collated:
  • Steward Samuel Etches testified that sometime after the collision, he was mustering passengers in his charge and in doing so, repeatedly knocked on "Cabin 78", a First Class room. There seemed to be an unnamed couple inside and first the man and then the woman kept asking Etches what the matter was but despite his repeated requests to do so, did not open the door. Etches did not specify the deck of that cabin but subsequently it has been postulated as both Cabin B78 and C78.
  • Etches was in charge of some First Class cabins on B-deck, including Cabins B82 and B84 in which Benjamin Guggenheim and his valet Victor Giglio were staying. Etches clearly testified that he helped both those gentlemen with their life jackets and then advised them to go to the boat deck. He then walked down the corridor to "Cabin 78" (as above) and Guggenheim and Giglio followed him and stood by while Etches tried his knocking. Neither Guggenheim nor Giglio survived but of course, Etches did.
  • According to the passenger manifest (?) and ET, Mr William Spencer and his wife Marie Eugenie occupied Cabin B78 and the maid was in Cabin B80. Mr Spencer was lost but his wife survived with the maid; Mrs Spencer was not called to testify, but AFAIK she never made any mention of a steward banging on their cabin door after the collision. Mrs Spencer and her maid were rescued on Lifeboat #6 that was lowered at 01:10 am.
  • The Minahan family - Dr William Minahan, his wife Lilian and sister Daisy - occupied First Class Cabin C78. Dr Minahan was lost but the two women survived. Daisy Minahan submitted an affidavit to the American Inquiry where she not only confirmed their cabin number but the fact that she woke her sleeping brother and sister-in-law soon after the collision. Soon afterwards an officer came in and ordered them to wear life jackets and get onto the boat deck. Daisy hinted that they spent quite sometime there and the two women managed to get into a port lifeboat at their third attempt. They were rescued on Lifeboat #14, lowered at 01:25 am.
  • Contrary to the manifest, the passenger list found on the body of Titanic victim Saloon Steward Herbert Cave - the so-called Cave List - places the Spencer couple in Cabin B76 and the maid in B80 with Cabin B78 actually unoccupied.
Based on the above information I drew a few conclusions:
  1. The "Cabin 78" on the door of which Etches repeatedly knocked but could not get the occupants to open was definitely B78 and not C78 like some works suggest. Apart from the fact that a known surviving occupant of C78, Daisy Minahan, made no mention of the Etches incident in her Affidavit, Etches was responsible for some cabins on B-deck and not C-deck. Also, after donning life vests and told to go onto the boat deck, why would Guggenheim and Giglio follow Etches to the door of "Cabin 78" unless it was just down the corridor and on their way to the boat deck? So, it definitely was the door of Cabin B78 on which Etches knocked repeatedly but could not get the occupants to open.
  2. After 5 days of servicing that row of First Class cabins and their occupants, Etches would have known where the Spencer couple was staying. Had it been B78 and they had refused to open the door, he would have said so in his testimony. I therefore conclude that the Cave List was correct and the Spencers were actually in Cabin B76.
  3. Although he does not specify the time, I calculated that it must have been between 12:25 and 12:30 am when the knocking incident took place. After failing to get the occupants to open that door, Etches almost certainly went to the boat deck, followed by Guggenheim and Giglio. Etches then helped with the loading of Lifeboat #5 and was himself ordered into it; the boat was lowered between 12:45 and 12:50 am. Guggenheim and Giglio elected to remain on the ship and 'went down like gentlemen'.
  4. Going by the same timeline, by 12:25 am the Spencers would have known that the ship was in danger and would not have asked Etches what the matter was through the closed door when he knocked. Considering that they got ready, wore life vests and went up to the boat deck where Eugenie spencer was eventually rescued on Lifeboat #6 lowered at 01:10 hours, suggests early awareness of the situation. Another reason why I believe that they were in Cabin B76 as per the Cave List and were not the people who spoke to Etches through the closed door.
So, who really was in Cabin B78 and refused to open the door? If the Cave List is correct - and I believe that it is - it would not be the Spencer couple who were in Cabin B76 and probably left for the boat deck by then. But that would have left Cabin B78 unoccupied, something that Etches would have known as he was servicing that row of rooms. But he still knocked on the closed door and got a verbal response without the door being opened. To me that suggests that the couple were meeting there clandestinely and Etches had helped them with this tryst (with an incentive, of course) and that is why he knew that there was a couple in the 'unoccupied' cabin. If the unknown couple did not want their nocturnal meeting made public, it would explain their reluctance to open the door. That probably is also the reason that Etches was vague in his testimony - quoting 'Cabin 78' without the deck prefix.

Thomas Krom

Good day to you Dr. Vajpey,

I want to add that Mr. Guggenheim didn’t occupy B-82 (fitted out in the Louis XV style with beautifully carved oak panelling painted grey), he and his manservant/valet only occupied B-84 together (fitted out in Harland and Wolff bedroom B style with brass beds).

Mr. Etches was assigned to 8 staterooms, 1 stateroom on A-deck and 8 on B-deck:


Cabin numberOccupantPeriod style
A-36Mr. Thomas Andrews JrHarland and Wolff bedroom B style (with light oak beds)

B-84Mr. Benjamin Guggenheim and his manservant/valet Mr. Victor Gaitan Andrea GiglioHarland and Wolff bedroom B style (with brass beds)
B-86Mr. Alexander Milne CairnsStandard stateroom
B-88UnoccupiedHarland and Wolff bedroom A style
B-90UnoccupiedHarland and Wolff bedroom B style (with brass beds)
B-92UnoccupiedStandard stateroom
B-94Mr. William Henry Harrison (Mr. Ismay his secretary, not to be confused with the 9th president of the United States)Harland and Wolff bedroom B style (with mahogany beds)
B-96Mr. William Ernest Carter and his wife
Mrs. Lucile Carter
Harland and Wolff bedroom B style (with mahogany beds)
B-98Miss Lucile Polk Carter and her brother
Master William Thornton
Carter II
Harland and Wolff bedroom B style (with mahogany beds)

The argument that the Spencer’s were in B-78 is that their maid, Miss Eugénie Elise Lurette, was in B-80 but I believe that that is quite an invalid statement. B-80 was the nearest standard stateroom (which was designed to occupy a servant nearby) among with B-74 since a private bath and lavatory was located there instead. The only possible explanation IF they occupied B-78 is that they transferred from B-76 to B-78 but sadly we can only speculate who the occupants were for the time being.

I hope this might gives slightly more insight on the matter.

Yours sincerely,

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Arun Vajpey

The only possible explanation IF they occupied B-78 is that they transferred from B-76 to B-78 but sadly we can only speculate who the occupants were for the time being.
Possible, but IMO it is more likely to have been the other way around ie, they were assigned cabin B78 but for some reason transferred to B76. I believe that Etches would have known well who was in which cabin in that B-row after 5 days and which were unoccupied. Since it is more or less certain that the cabin door on which he repeatedly knocked but was unable to persuade the occupants to open it was B78, we can be sure it was not the spencers inside. Had that cabin been occupied by the Spencers, Etches would have known it and said so at the Inquiry. Moreover, considering that Mrs Spencer was rescued on Lifeboat #6, it makes it highly unlikely that either she or her husband would ask such questions through a closed door when Etches knocked.

If B78 was officially unoccupied during the voyage, Etches would have known it being in charge of that and others in the vicinity but not many others if the Spencers had changed to B76. In that case, B78 would have been ideal for an unknown First Class man and woman to meet for 'nocturnal activities'. Of course they would have needed Etches' co-operation, which was probably easily obtained through the usual 'incentive'. That would explain both the reason why Etches knocked on the door of a cabin not officially occupied as well as the reluctance of the couple inside to open the door. The fact that Etches mentioned the knocking incident but was rather vague about it suggests that at least one of them - most likely the man - did not survive and Etches of course would not have embarrassed the surviving woman.

I know that this is a lot of speculation but in light of what Etches testified, is one possible explanation that ticks all the boxes.

Thomas Krom

As I mentioned before, Mr. Etches wasn't looking after the passengers in B-78, he only looked after the earlier mentioned staterooms during the West and Eastbound voyage of the Titanic (the later of which never happened). I am not stating that B-78 wasn't occupied with my earlier statement, I am only stating that Mr. Etches didn't looked after B-78. Who the bedroom steward was who looked after B-78 also would have looked after B-76 and by the looks of things he sadly didn't survive the sinking.

Arun Vajpey

As I mentioned before, Mr. Etches wasn't looking after the passengers in B-78. Who the bedroom steward was who looked after B-78 also would have looked after B-76 and by the looks of things he sadly didn't survive the sinking
OK, thanks. That probably offers a simpler and more straightforward explanation of why Etches knocked on the door of B78 - he did not know who was in there. But I still don't believe that it was the Spencer couple because of the questions they asked without opening the door and the fact that Mrs Spencer was rescued on Lifeboat #6.

The difficulty here is that B78 was a First Class cabin and one of the occupants was a woman. Since only 4 adult First class women were lost - Bess Allison, Edith Evans, Ann Isham and Ida Strauss - the identity of the woman in B78 is a mystery. I don't believe it was Mrs Spencer but another who survived.

Thomas Krom

The four earlier mentioned women, as you already know, couldn't occupy occupy B-78. Mrs. Allison was on C-deck (C-22, C-24 and C-26), Miss Evans was on A-deck (A-29), Miss Isham was on C-deck as well (C-49) and Mrs. Straus was on C-deck too (C-55 in Regency style and C-57 in Empire style with gilted panneling and mahogany beds). I believe I might have a few possible people who could have been them (all of these people have unknown staterooms):
George Rosenshine with his lover Gertrude Maybelle Thorne, they paid between £79 4d to £80 4d for their stateroom.
Edgar Joseph Meyer and his wife Leila Meyer, they paid £82 3s 5d for their stateroom.

Arun Vajpey

The four earlier mentioned women, as you already know, couldn't occupy occupy B-78.
Of course. That's what I meant. In fact, I believe that the woman in B78 survived but we may never know her identity; of course, she would not have volunteered herself. Less certain what happened to the man.

Considering that Etches left that scene around 12:30 am and was himself in Lifeboat #5 only 20 minutes later, there was plenty of time for the people in B78 to come out, go to the boat deck and disperse among rest of the crowd.

I believe that the Spencer couple were in B76 as per the Cave List.