Please welcome Nicole Strickland to my blog today as she gives us a fascinating look into her experiences as a paranormal researcher.
Photos Credit: Joe Bartoldo
Researching the paranormal has been an ongoing quest since my childhood. Along with many others in the field, I have experienced the unexplained for many years, meeting the first anomalous encounter when I was just three-years-old. In my high school days, I sought out books and articles on the subject. Once the internet was born, I perused websites for anything pertaining to ghosts and hauntings.
In 2001, I had a profound and compelling encounter with the spirit of my grandmother, Helen Lopinto, while I was attending college. She was 96-years-old. The day prior to her passing, Helen called me on a quiet Tuesday afternoon. Always being the caring grandmother to her family, she just wanted to see how I was doing and make sure I was okay. I talked with her about ten minutes not knowing that it would be the last phone call I would have with her.
The following afternoon, almost to the exact time that Helen called me the day prior, my mom phoned me. When I answered her call, I immediately felt her sadness as she echoed the following words, “Hi, sweetie. I want to let you know how much I love you. Grandma passed away this morning.” No amount of written language can describe the utter sorrow and emptiness I felt as I fell to the floor intensively weeping for my dear Helen.
A few days after her services, I started experiencing some odd activity in my apartment. The door knobs on both my front and bedroom doors rattled of their own volition. As I was studying for a midterm one night, I felt the disembodied hand caress my face and it felt as though it emanated from someone I knew and loved. A couple of nights later, as I was working on my studies, I noticed movement from my peripheral vision. As I looked directly at what I was seeing, I saw my grandmother’s spirit form adorned in one of her favorite blue and white house dresses. She looked to be about ten years younger than when she passed away. Intriguingly, there was a bright light behind her, almost acting as a spotlight. For the next few nights, Helen’s apparition appeared to me.
At this point, I was concerned for my loving grandmother, so I called my mom, (Helen’s daughter) Norma Strickland, and shared with her what I was experiencing. Norma shared my concerns that Helen had not moved on to where she needed to go; hence, why she was making appearances in my apartment. Surprisingly, I was the only family member at the time to endure these experiences with her ethereal form.
Anyways, my mom and I simultaneously talked to Helen, telling her how much we love her and letting her know that she has the freedom to move on. Perhaps, this is what Helen needed, as the experiences completely stopped after our earnest conversation with her. I do believe that she has moved on into the light and now has the free will to come visit whenever she so pleases. I have had experiences with Helen from time to time, but nothing as powerful as in 2001 after she passed away from congestive heart failure.
To this day, I have always wondered why I was the only family member to experience her ethereal presence within days of her passing. Was it because I am sensitive to spiritual energy? Or, was it because of the lovingly strong bond we had (still have) when she was alive? Perhaps, as a mortal being, I am not meant to know the reasons why she appeared to me. Questions aside, I will say that this encounter with my grandmother’s spirit has changed my life, allowing me to have an even greater appreciation for the spiritual realm.
The profound experience with my grandmother’s spirit absolutely catapulted me into active research and investigation of the unknown. Since then, I have been actively exploring private residences, historic locales and commercial businesses for spirit activity. I am proud to have worked with several California-based investigation teams prior to founding the San Diego Paranormal Research Society (SDPRS) in 2009.
I strongly feel that my experience with Helen’s spirit was not only the start of an incredible journey into paranormal research but has also led me to where I am supposed to be as a field researcher. Perhaps, I would have never had the amazing experiences I have had so far if it wasn’t for my intense encounter with her ethereal presence in 2001.
To date, the SDPRS has conducted many paranormal investigations at known historic sites, including the RMS Queen Mary historic ship. In fact, I have participated in approximately 60 ghost research projects in various areas of the legendary liner. The RMS Queen Mary, without a doubt, is my favorite place to visit and conduct ghost research.
There are very few ships still in existence that compare to the innate beauty and rich history of the RMS Queen Mary. She is perhaps, the most legendary vessel to ever sail the oceans. A testament to British shipbuilding, the Mary is currently moored in Long Beach, California, where it has ebbed and flowed with the tide there since 1967. When I step aboard the ship’s decks, I am instantly entranced by her innate beauty, innocent aura and historical significance.
September 26, 1934 marked the official day of the RMS Queen Mary’s launching. More than 200,000 eager people came to watch her meet the waters. Children even had a day off of school to witness this majestic event. No one knew the ship’s new title. Interestingly, there were 101 suggested titles for Job 534. People assumed the liner would be named Queen Victoria and keep up with the tradition of titles ending in “ia.” However, as H.M. Queen Mary cut the satin cord and crashed a bottle of Australian wine against the ship’s bow, she said, “I am happy to name this ship, Queen Mary.” She went on to say, “I wish success to her and to all who sail in her.”
The Queen Mary began her maiden voyage as a luxury cruise liner on May 27, 1936, completing successful pre-WWII and post-WWII round trip voyages from Southampton to New York City. Many notable people, such as business moguls, entertainers and actors, have traveled aboard the Queen Mary. While sailing on the Queen Mary, passengers had the opportunities to exchange viewpoints, political beliefs and ideas, while further enjoying various amenities catering to a broad range of interests. Furthermore, Art-Deco brilliance can still be seen throughout its inner walls. Even in retirement, the Queen Mary historic ship still remains as popular as she was the day she sailed.
On August 30, 1939, the Queen Mary anxiously sailed from Southampton to New York, as war was nearly imminent. In September of 1939, war was officially declared between Britain and Germany, ultimately placing the Queen Mary in a precarious situation. Both the RMS Queen Mary and her sister liner, RMS Queen Elizabeth, were therefore requisitioned for service in World War II. In March of 1940, the British Government informed Cunard that the Queen Mary would be outfitted for troopship duties, lasting the length of combat.
In fact, due to the liner’s fast speeds, she was able to carry numerous servicemen from all walks of life to and from their destinations. Adolf Hitler even had a ripe award of $250,000 out to any skipper who could sink the massive liner. Of course, Hitler’s plan never succeeded, as The Grey Ghost consistently outsmarted the enemy. The ship’s crew and servicemen should be remembered for their diligence in keeping its hull and inner walls afloat.
The RMS Queen Mary, alongside her sister ship, the RMS Queen Elizabeth, have contributed to the World War II allied forces in so many unimaginable ways. Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill said, “Built for the arts of peace and to link the old world with the new, the Queens challenged the fury of Hitlerism in the battle of the Atlantic. Without their aid, the day of final victory must have unquestionably been postponed.”
Post World War II, the RMS Queen Mary returned to luxury as an extravagant cruise vessel, where many people could relax, vacation and enjoy her ornate and gorgeous ambience, as well as the abundance of onboard activities. As previously mentioned, quite a few celebrity names have touched upon her decks during her reigning days on the seas. Long Beach, California has been Queen Mary’s docked home since December 9, 1967. Thousands of visitors flock from all over the world each year to visit her in Southern California. Today, the Queen Mary is noted as the 6th most haunted location on our planet.
It has always been a dream of mine to write about my favorite historically haunted location. Thus, in 2010, I published The Haunted Queen of the Seas: The Living Legend of the RMS Queen Mary, which gives a thorough overview of the ship’s history and paranormal events. In 2015, I published Spirited Queen Mary: Her Haunted Legend, which concentrates more on the spiritual phenomena occurring inside the liner. By writing both books, my goal was to honor and connect the people of the vessel’s past with those of the present.
I have often surmised whether the entire ship is a portal to the afterlife. As moths are to a flame, spirits are to the Queen Mary. Anyone can have a paranormal experience in any part of the liner; however, there are known hot spots, including the former first and third class pool, after engine room, boiler rooms, hotel decks, forward cargo holds, R Deck Forward, etc.
The vessel has a beautiful spiritual aura. Known as the 8th Wonder of the World, people travel to the ship and immediately feel a strong soul-like connection to the liner. When I first stepped aboard the Mary, I remember saying to myself, “I have been here before” as I felt the ship reaching the depths of my soul.
When you are planning your next outing, I strongly suggest visiting this magnificent historical ship as she and her spirits are waiting for you.
To find out more about Nicole, her research, and her books:
Photo Credit: Joe Bartoldo