Encyclopedia Titanica

Ghostly Tales from the Titanic

Spooky tales related to the Titanic and her people.

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Ghostly Tales from the Titanic

When the R.M.S. Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, it claimed 1,496 lives with only 712 survivors. The R.M.S. Carpathia picked up the survivors and returned to New York City, arriving on April 18. She had originally departed New York, four days earlier. When the Carpathia arrived at Pier 54, upwards of 40,000 people (about twice the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden) were there waiting in pouring rain and a thunderstorm. It is almost as if the heavens were also mourning the terrible loss of the great ship and her people. Many were family members of the passengers, while others were charity groups such as the Travelers Aid Society and the Women’s Relief Committee, who took survivors to a shelter so that they could have a warm bed and a place to stay. The crew members, meanwhile, sought assistance for themselves on their own.

Most of Titanic’s victims died horrible, painful deaths (many of them froze to death in the –27 C water, while others had their necks broken due to a defect in the lifebelts, while the rest died of other injuries), so it is not hard to imagine their ghosts still haunt the living, unwilling to accept that they perished in a maritime disaster, or perhaps they are still waiting for their lost love/colleague to return. Due to my lifelong fascination with the Titanic and the paranormal, I decided it was time to compile a list of available ghost stories connected with the great ship, which has not been done before. Several websites discuss a few ghost stories but never a compiled and detailed list. So here are some spooky tales related to the Titanic and her people.

The Jane Hotel

When the U.S. Senate Inquiry was in New York for three days before moving to Washington, D.C., approximately a hundred or more of the crew stayed at the Jane Street Hotel, which at that time was known as the American Seaman’s Friend Society Sailors’ Home and Institute. They were undoubtedly devastated at the tragic loss of their colleagues; perhaps even some of them were close friends. The building was designed by William A. Boring in the Georgian style and constructed between 1906-1908. Boring was the same architect that designed the Ellis Island Immigration Station, another famous structure in the city.

The crew members were given clothing, food and a room to stay in, once they arrived at the hotel. They were in bad shape and had just suffered a horrific ordeal. The surviving crew members held a special memorial service at the Jane Hotel, to honour all those who perished that cold April night. They sang Nearer, My God, to Thee with “a mighty, roaring chorus”. Many of the crew held out a glimmer of hope that, by some miracle, there would be more survivors. But that never happened, and even today, it is believed that the crew members have taken up residence in the halls of the old hotel. Guests staying at the hotel have reported that these survivors never left.
The American Seaman’s Friends Society Sailor’s Home and Insitute remained in the building until 1944, when it was replaced by the YMCA. During this time, the YMCA changed its name to the Jane West, which was considered a hotel for those down on their luck. During the 1980s, it was a hipster hotel. For the centennial anniversary of the building, it was renovated, turned into a luxury hotel, and renamed the Jane.

Like the passengers, the surviving crew lost everything they brought with them on board. Now they found themselves in New York City, with nothing more than the clothes on their back. Sadly, the memorial service, which was held to mourn the loss of the R.M.S. Titanic, her passengers and crew, did not rest those very people's spirits. There are reportedly cold spots throughout the building. Cold spots are an indication of paranormal activity.

Many guests have reported experiencing problems with the elevator and claim that occasionally it will go up and down completely on its own. While walking the halls, guests have reported witnessing transparent figures, hearing sobbing and unfathomable grief. The sounds are stated to come from the surviving crew members, who were mourning their lost colleagues, while others who have heard these sounds claim it is the spirits of the crew that survived, and passengers who perished have now come to the Jane for their eternal rest.

While on the third floor, one guest saw an apparition of a figure in white through a porthole on a door. When the guest opened the door, the woman disappeared. But as soon as the door was closed, the guest saw the ghostly figure once again.

Captain Edward John Smith

Captain Edward Smith was one of the victims when the Titanic sank. Smith’s last words may have been “Be British" - a reference to his stiff upper lip in the face of impossible adversity. Smith’s ghost has been seen in various places; in fact, Smith’s ghost is the one most frequently encountered.

The first sighting of Smith’s ghost occurred before the world knew of the tragedy. Captain Smith’s wife, Sarah Eleanor Smith, was in her drawing room when the door opened. She watched her husband walk across the carpet towards the window. No doubt this was viewed with some surprise, as he was supposed to be sailing across the Atlantic at the time. Moreover, he neither looked at her nor spoke to her.  When he reached the window, Captain Smith simply disappeared. It was too early for news of the Titanic disaster to have reached Mrs Smith, but she knew. From the moment she saw his ghost, she knew.
 
Nor was she the only woman in Southampton, to be experiencing such strange phenomena. All over the city, wives of sailors and other crew members told tales of waking in the night with nightmares or hearing their names called out. There were a lot of men reaching out for their loved ones, on April 15th, 1912, as they sank to the bottom of the sea.

Another place where apparitions of Smith have been witnessed is the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. The hotel has a history of paranormal activity and was once referred to as the most haunted hotel in the United Kingdom, due to the high number of unexplained events. The Sefton Suite in the hotel, it is claimed, is an exact replica of the first-class smoking room on board the liner. One paranormal investigator and author claimed to have witnessed three men dressed as naval officers, standing at the far end of the room. The man believes the three men were Smith and two officers, who were aboard during the liner’s one and only voyage.

Smith has also been seen at his former childhood home, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, central England. Smith resided at the home until he went to sea, at 13. His ghost has been seen in the bedroom drifting across the room, by former residents. The owner at the time of the Titanic centennial stated that one of their tenants rang them up one day years before, to say that he was convinced he had witnessed Smith’s ghost drift across the bedroom, while in bed. The previous owners experienced a flood in the kitchen and said an icy chill was felt in the dining room. Other former residents have said they felt a chill passing over them - “as cold as an iceberg”. Strange noises also have been heard.

In 1977, Second Officer Leonard Bishop of the SS Winterhaven was giving a tour, to a man who he figured was a passenger. The British man was very soft-spoken and extremely interested in every detail of the vessel, almost unusually so. Bishop found the man to be a bit strange – not unpleasant, just odd.

Years later, when Bishop saw a photo of Smith, he realized why the situation felt so off. Bishop exclaimed to a friend, “I know him, I gave him a tour of my boat!” The friend laughed and informed Bishop that the man had been long dead: “That man was the Captain of the Titanic!”

A sighting of Smith’s ghost was seen at a pub in Belfast, Ireland in 2018. Robinson’s pub is “full to the brim” with Titanic memorabilia. A young couple visiting the pub had a romantic picture taken of them, when “they felt something cold on their backs”. After the photo was snapped, they were horrified to discover a spooky face right behind them, which apparently bears a striking resemblance to Captain Smith.

Charles Melville Hays

Charles Hays was the General Manager of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, in Canada. Hays had a vision of a second transcontinental railroad, and he convinced the then Prime Minister, Wilfred Laurier, in 1902, of the need for it. Hays’s vision also included building luxury hotels across the country. He had already built one, the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, and he had plans for six others, including the Fort Garry in Winnipeg and the MacDonald Hotel in Edmonton.

Hays’ ghost reportedly haunts his flagship hotel. Most of the activity occurs on the fifth floor, where a suite titled ‘The Charles Hays Memorial Suite’ is located. It is said, his spirit lives on within the walls of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier so that he may oversee the operation of “his hotel”. Hays is widely regarded by staff and guests as a friendly ghost. There have also been reports of a fine, clear baritone voice singing on a staircase. When guests ascend the stairs to see who is singing, there is no one to be found!

The most discussed supernatural happenings at the hotel are the ones described by Patrick Watson, who was chairman of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, many years ago. Watson stayed at the hotel at some point in the 1980s. He claimed to have heard a crack early one morning, and when he got out of bed to see what it was, he noticed the glass ashtray on the table had split in half, yet had not fallen. On another occasion, Watson woke to the sound of a thud in his bathroom. He found his shaving kit, which had been wedged between the faucet and the wall, had fallen, its contents sprawled on the floor. Voices singing in the stairwells, ghostly apparitions, shoulder taps, and poltergeist-like rearranging of furniture are occurrences often reported by staff and guests at the Château Laurier. As owner of the Château Laurier, it's no surprise that Hays' spirit chose the hotel as his place of rest.

John Wesley Woodward

John Woodward was one of the musicians aboard the Titanic; more specifically, he was the cellist. Woodward, along with his fellow bandmates, all perished in the sinking. Woodward, at some point, moved to Dorset, England and joined the Eastbourne Municipal Orchestra before becoming a member of the Von Leer Orchestra at the Grand Hotel, Eastbourne and later the Duke of Devonshire’s Eastbourne Orchestra. He joined the White Star Line in 1909.
According to one Titanic researcher, “it is said that a male ghost, thought to be violinist John Woodward, has been seen in the orchestra pit - but no-one has seen him recently, sadly”.

Benjamin Guggenheim

Ben Guggenheim was one of the more well-known first-class passengers aboard the Titanic. Guggenheim along with his valet, Victor Giglio and his “mistress” Pauline Aubart, boarded the ship at Cherbourg, France. His chauffeur, Rene Pernot, also boarded travelling in second class. All three men were lost in the sinking. Aubart and her maid were the only ones to survive.

It has been said that both the Guggenheim Library and the Lauren K. Woods Theatre, (formerly the Guggenheim Theatre) are haunted. Both buildings now form part of Monmouth University, in New Jersey, USA. However, they were once the family summer home and carriage house, which were built in 1903; the mansion was designed in the Beaux-Arts style, while the theatre featured Greek Revival architecture. A shadowy figure has been seen at both buildings, walking around. Lights that were switched off suddenly turn on back again, after staff have closed up for the night and are walking away from the door. Local lore states that Benjamin may have returned after all.

Dr. Henry Washington Dodge

For some of the Titanic’s passengers, they didn’t have to go down with the ship for their life to be completely over. Survivor’s guilt and condemnation by society killed them, once they arrived back home. Any male passenger who was saved in a lifeboat immediately found himself as a social pariah. It is a little-known fact that five per cent of male survivors subsequently committed suicide. They couldn’t live with the fact that they survived, while women and children did not; everyone knew it.
One of those people was Washington Dodge, a first-class passenger. Dodge set out on a lecture tour to share his memories of the Titanic, but also used the platform to defend male survivors. He tried to explain how many women would not get into the lifeboats. None of them believed that the ship would really sink, and they were too afraid to get into an open boat. He only saved himself when no one else was forthcoming for Lifeboat 13.

However, no one was buying what Dodge was selling, and the trauma wore him down. His depression became so acute that, on June 21st, 1919, Dr. Dodge shot himself in the head and, seven years after the Titanic sank, became one of its final victims. Even then, there was no respite. His ghost has regularly been seen, quite clearly and by several witnesses, still wandering lost around his former home in San Francisco.

Margaret Tobin Brown

Margaret Tobin Brown of Denver, Colorado (originally from Hannibal, Missouri) was traveling through Egypt, with her daughter Helen and the Astor party. Margaret had received word that her first grandchild was ill and so she booked passage on the earliest liner, Titanic. After surviving the sinking, Margaret presented Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia, a silver loving cup. In the years following, Margaret was responsible for erecting the Titanic memorial in Washington, DC, made a visit to Halifax to place wreaths on the graves of the victims and served on the Survivor’s Committee. Margaret’s ex-husband, J.J. Brown, whom she had married in 1886 died alone in 1922. Margaret died ten years later also alone of a cerebral hemorrhage, caused by a brain tumor.

It has been reported that the Browns have never left their home in Denver, which is now called The Molly Brown House Museum. A deceased servant is also said to haunt the property. Visitors have felt the presence of the former owner, the scent of rosewater has been detected frequently which was Margaret’s favourite fragrance, and her rocking chair occasionally rocks, for prolonged periods of time which is also accompanied by the scent of rosewater.

An apparition has also been seen, in Margaret’s bedroom. In the 1970s, a dancing troupe was touring the historic house. A particularly sensitive dancer witnessed Margaret in the bedroom. The apparition was so distinct that the dancer was able to describe the clothing, right down to the lace. Margaret supposedly had a message for the curator of the house. Through the sensitive dancer, she was able to deliver her message informing the staff, to expect delivery of some furniture. Less than a month later, a visitor brought an artifact to the house that had been a part of the original furnishings.

During another tour, a guide was shocked to witness a picture on a wall moving. According to a piece in the October 1996 newsletter from the house, the movement was described as “not up and down, not side to side, but sort of rippling forward and back.”

Another ghost-related event was that of a prank, during the Christmas season in the mid-1990s. Decorations in the house included a set of toy soldiers placed under the Christmas tree. After they had been set out, the next morning a volunteer while opening up the house, discovered the soldiers lined up, one to a step, ascending the staircase. The volunteer figured a child visiting the house possibly was responsible for the rearrangement, so without a second thought the volunteer worker collected the soldiers and put them back when they belonged, (or so she thought) under the tree. As the day wore on and other staff members were arriving at the house, the woman asked each one if they were the ones who had placed the toy soldiers on the stairs. Not one of them knew what she was talking about. Just mildly frustrated about the strange occurrence, the woman went on about her day.

If she had put the incident out of her mind by the end of that day, then what she saw the next morning certainly brought all her confusion back, for there, on the staircase as though they were marching up the stairs were the toy soldiers that the volunteer knew were under the Christmas tree when she locked up the house the night before. This unexplained activity went on for several days. Who or what was at work during the night at the Molly Brown House evidently wanted the toy soldiers on the staircase. No one was ever able to figure out the source of the toys’ mysterious movements during that holiday season.
The ghost who seemed to be determined on redecorating might not have been Margaret or J.J. - even in their lifetimes, the Browns were aware that the house had at least one haunted staircase. Margaret’s mother once reported seeing the image of a deceased servant on the back staircase. It was reported about 25 years ago, someone carrying supplies down that stairway was pinched by invisible fingers. The identity of that spirit and whether they are still residing there or not, is uncertain.
When I got in touch with the Molly Brown House Museum recently, a worker told me that they knew nothing of the supposed paranormal activity!

Tidbits and other strange sightings

The wireless station at Cape Race reportedly received echoes of the distress call from the Titanic, years later. The QE2 while passing the wreck site in February 1978, strangely received the Titanic’s distress call. They allegedly received a distress call on an old wavelength with the words "Come Quick In Distress; Boiler Rooms Flooded, Ship Is Sinking."
 
The operator changed to the wavelength and replied, "What Is The Name Of Your Ship." "Titanic." Came the reply.

The captain on the bridge was informed, and the operator tried to contact the ship again but to no avail. When the incident was logged it appeared that the Queen Elizabeth 2's position was almost the same as the Titanic's when she foundered all those years earlier. Passenger and cargo ships passing over the wreck site have reported strange orbs hovering above the water, hearing people shouting for help, an orchestra playing or feeling a sense of dread and unease.

Touring artifact exhibitions operated by RMS Titanic Inc., then under Premier Exhibitions when these stories were originally reported (currently now under the Experiential Media Group have reported strange occurrences, namely the permanent exhibit at the Luxor in Las Vegas, where Lookout Frederick Fleet (the lookout who spotted the iceberg and warned Titanic’s bridge by saying “Iceberg, right ahead!”) has been seen on the promenade deck. Fleet, although a survivor, lived with survivor’s guilt (what we now term as PTSD), for the rest of his life. After the death of his wife and being evicted from his brother’s home, Fleet committed suicide by hanging himself two weeks later, in 1965. It is unknown as to why Frederick Fleet has been witnessed at this exhibit, being so far from Southampton, England, where he lived.

The exhibit houses over 300 items from the sunken ship and is ground zero for a plethora of unexplained phenomena. Visitors and staff alike supposedly frequently report strong feelings of being watched or followed, as well as disembodied voices or footsteps, or being poked, prodded, or pushed by unseen hands, in addition to sightings of shadowy apparitions lurking in the halls and corridors. The attraction’s artifact expert Joe Zimmer seems to be particularly tormented by these wayward spirits, claiming that he constantly experiences having his hair or clothes yanked on or his name whispered when no one is there, and he says he has even heard phantom music playing. There is also the apparition of a young woman in a black old-fashioned dress and with her hair in a bun who is regularly seen on the premises. As a photographer prepped for the opening of the exhibition, he spotted the woman casually walking down the Grand Staircase. He was startled, as he hadn’t seen anyone enter and the staircase was roped off. He assumed she was part of the exhibit and asked if she’d like him to photograph her. She ignored him. He went back to setting up, but suddenly she was directly behind him. Again, he offered a photograph and this time she didn’t just ignore him - she vanished. In addition to seeing a woman in period clothing on the stairs, employees have also heard the sound of children, and also the sound of an orchestra playing.

Some of the strange incidents at the exhibition have apparently been caught on film and audio as well. One example is a strange sequence of events concerning a photo of Bruce Ismay, who was the chairman and managing director of the White Star Line. Ismay was aboard the Titanic’s maiden voyage and survived the sinking, which irked some victims’ family members. One morning the staff opened the exhibition to find the photo inexplicably lying on the floor of the entryway and carefully propped against the wall, reportedly still pristine and undamaged. Baffled by how the photo could have possibly gotten there during the night, surveillance footage was reviewed, which showed the photo appearing to shake on its own before being taken down and put against the wall as if by unseen hands. Paranormal investigators to the exhibit have captured orbs of light and shadowy images as well, and there have been several EVP recordings made of what appear to be the voices of Titanic victims. One highlight is what appears to be a male voice saying “Now, please wait”.

It has been reported as well, that the Titanic: The Experience Exhibition in Orlando, Florida is haunted. Staff have reported strange noises, unusual events and other occurrences that simply cannot be explained.

Also, the former exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium reported very similar activity in 2008 to what has been experienced at the Luxor, including ghost sightings, strange noises, period music from nowhere, and phantom hands grabbing, nudging, or pulling clothes or hair.

It has been reported that the attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is another haunted location. In 2011, a member of the Encyclopedia Titanica Facebook Group witnessed a shadow figure on the boat deck level of the recreated grand staircase. A tour guide who gave the history of the grand staircase had seen it too that morning. The member watched it for a couple of seconds until it "zoomed" off towards the recreated bridge area. According to said member, "it moved in a very fluid motion, almost like it was on a camera dolly."

The Five Fishermen Restaurant in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Argyle Street is also ripe with paranormal activity. It has a ghoulish history to make anyone’s blood run cold. In the early 1800s, the parishioners of St. Paul’s Anglican Church decided the booming colonial town needed a school. The National School, the first free public school in Canada, opened in 1818 to boys and girls with a focus on educating the poor in religion and moral duties.

The school soon outgrew the four-floor building in the heart of the city and moved to Dalhousie College.

The Argyle Street building was taken over by writer and educator Anna Leonowens of “The King and I” fame, who started an art school.

The Victoria School of Art and Design, a precursor to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, boasted eminent teachers, including Group of Seven painter Arthur Lismer who interestingly and coincidentally did a painting of the Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, in wartime dazzle during World War I.

It’s in the early 20th century that the building’s plot thickens. Snow & Company Undertaker, the city’s first mortuary, moved into the clapboard-and-stone building after the art school relocated. The company, which would go on to become J.A. Snow Funeral Home and survives to this day, played a critical role in two disasters. The first was the sinking of the Titanic. Rescue operations commenced just days after the disaster and John Snow, boarded the first of four rescue vessels, the cable ship Mackay-Bennett. Snow took with him 125 coffins, embalming fluid and iron to weigh down bodies buried at sea. The wealthier victims were brought back to the mortuary on Argyle Street.

The second disaster was the Halifax explosion on December 6, 1917. The windows of the Argyle Street building shattered in the blast, but the funeral parlour remained open. Snow & Company conducted funeral services for roughly 2,000 victims at a rate of 30 to 40 a day.

The restaurant’s manager has stated, “Things happen in this building. I’ve not only heard stories. I’ve been witness to some of the strange things that happen here.” After one busy night at the restaurant, the manager was alone in the upstairs offices.

“It was sometime after 2 a.m. and there was a sort of knocking on a repetitive basis but out of sync,” he said. “I searched for it but couldn’t find the source.” Cutlery moves on the tables without anybody touching it. Glasses are flung from shelves. Disembodied voices call for help.

Shadowy figures are spotted rushing across the dining room. A misty, grey shape floats down the central staircase. An old man's reflection has been seen in the bar-room mirror.

There have also been shadowy silhouettes seen in the local St Paul's Anglican Church, where the funerals took place.

While most of the ghostly encounters have happened with staff, patrons have experienced the paranormal as well. A family of ten from Manitoba was dining at the famed restaurant and were not aware of the history, of the building. On her way downstairs from the third-floor washroom, a girl aged about 12 described seeing a young female draped in clothing and drifting over the staircase.

“She ran to her mother, and the mother called over the waitress, who brought me over,” said the manager “I listened to the story, and the girl described quite accurately a ghost that others have seen. The building has “a long chain of hauntings and stories, stated the manager.

Perhaps the most haunting tales of foresight concerning the famous tragedy were seen before the eyes as dreams or visions. One of the most abnormal occurred on the night of April 14th, 1912, when a girl named Jessie lay dying of illness in a Scottish orphanage. As she was comforted by members of the Salvation Army who had cared for her for years, she began vividly and tearfully describing a massive ship, sinking in the North Atlantic before her very eyes, with hundreds of people drowning and “someone called Wally playing a fiddle.” Many of the events relayed by Jessie are too precise to have been mere coincidences. How she could possibly know all that is nothing short of eerie.

The sinking of the Titanic is one of the worst maritime tragedies of all time, so it seems somewhat fitting that it should have its own ghostly tales and hauntings. It is an aspect of the tragedy that does not get much coverage but is nevertheless still out there, lurking in the shadows. Does the fateful sinking of this once glorious vessel and its rusted, decomposed remains infused with the paranormal just as any old haunted house would be? What is going on with these accounts and scary stories? These are perhaps mysteries that we will never really understand, confined to the dark just as the hulk of the Titanic lies sitting down in the murk beyond the light of day.

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  1. Marco C. Ruo
    Good job!! The story of the Southampton women woken up during the night is frighteningly real, surely it will have happened to many Belfast women too.. It is known that in the energy field the strength of many people who exercise a call at the same time quadruples the "power" of the signal.. It is not the first time that hundreds of people thousands of kilometers away from home, belonging to a "social nucleus" managed to attract the attention of their loved ones... and to think that these are just a few of the paranormal stories, in which deeper and more shocking have never been told or written... Sorry for my English, but as an Italian I don't know the right terms congratulations again for the very interesting article, good night!
  2. Jason D. Tiller
    Thank you Marco, for your comments and kind words! I'm happy to know that you found my article interesting. There might be a part 2 in this, so stay tuned!
  3. Steven Christian
    That was a good article. Thanks. I wonder if any those stories are what caused them to make the episode of One Step Beyond called "Night of April 14th"? I could post the link to the episode in another thread. I don't want to muck up your thread here. Anyway again...a good article. Cheers.
  4. Jason D. Tiller
    Thanks Steven, I'm glad you enjoyed it! It's certainly possible, although I don't know. There's already a thread on the episode, created just over 20 years ago: One Step Beyond episode
  5. William Oakes
    Great Stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed your article.
  6. Jason D. Tiller
    Thank you, William. I am pleased to hear that.
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Encyclopedia Titanica (2023) Ghostly Tales from the Titanic (Titanica!, ref: #728, published 27 May 2023, generated 20th May 2024 12:22:10 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/ghostly-tales-from-the-titanic.html