Recognized as one of the most haunted places in the world, The Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, is a ghost ship believed to be filled with phantom passengers. Master magician and apparitionist, Aiden Sinclair, invites the living to join him for an evening of spirit conjuring and paranormal activity aboard the vessel with his show Illusions of the Passed—if you’re willing to suspend your predisposed notions of reality.
Sinclair is no stranger to the supernatural, having previously done a residency at The Stanley Hotel in Colorado, otherwise known as the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s “The Shining.” Now, he has set up shop in the Revenant Room aboard The Queen Mary. Weaving history and legend, he recounts stories of those purported to have died on the ship and of ghost sightings. His show incorporates techniques that hearken back to the 19th century; methods influenced by Victorian Spiritualism and séance. A spirit board, as well as actual haunted historical artifacts are used as conduits to contact any spirits that may want to come through.
This special engagement debuted on the liner in 2018 and I had the pleasure of finally attending. The Revenant Theatre is tucked away on one of the lower levels of the ship. Once you find it, you walk through a dimly lit corridor with a wall adorned with portraits of former voyagers accompanied by the eerie echo of children’s voices. Each guest was given a tarot card upon entrance designating his or her seat number. I got the Five of Swords. Many, including myself, looked up the meaning of the cards we received.
The lounge is filled with an array of oddities and occult objects. Glass displays contain a Tarot deck designed by Aleister Crowley, books and handcuffs that belonged to Harry Houdini and a haunted stuffed monkey from the mysterious Sallie House in Kansas, among several others. There’s also a small bar where attendees can imbibe in classic speakeasy cocktails.
In the theatre, the only sounds are the vibrations of the vessel. There’s a small stage and round table draped with a red velvet cloth set in front of it. When Sinclair entered the room, he commenced with intriguing details about paranormal incidents connected to the RMS. Then ensued a number of acts that engaged and perplexed the senses.
The show is interactive and anyone comfortable enough can participate. For one part, two women sat side-by-side in separate chairs on stage. Our host directed them to close their eyes and when they felt a tap, to signal where they felt it. Although he only tapped one of the individuals, the other responded in the same manner, feeling contact exactly where the other participant felt it. In some inexplicable way, the two were in sync. When they opened their eyes, the woman who was not touched was shocked at how real the sensation felt.
There was no way I was going to sit through the show without participating. The finale called for one audience member to roll a die in a cup, while another was called to sit on stage. I watched as one participant did this before me.
The gentleman rolled the die and was told to look at what number faced up without revealing it. Then, the woman was to hold her fingers over her ears so that all noise was drowned out. Sinclair then proceeded to place his hands over her head. As we sat watching, a startled expression came over her face. When she opened her eyes, she seemed unnerved, expressing she heard a voice speak to her and say the number two. Guess what number was in the cup?
When my turn came, I’ll admit I was a bit nervous. I went through the same motions and I can’t rationalize what happened. I heard a raspy male voice that sounded not as if it was whispering in my ear, but as if it was in my head. I couldn’t clearly decipher everything it told me, but I swear I recall it mentioning the number six at least three separate times, explaining why the number appealed to him. I opened my eyes and repeated the number; I was correct. I still have no idea what happened, but I know what I heard. At the end of the show, the man that rolled the die eagerly asked me what I experienced, but even I was at a loss of how to describe it.
Although he can’t divulge secrets, Aiden Sinclair was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the production!
Q: You previously had a residency at the haunted Stanley Hotel, which is famously known as the inspiration for the hotel in Stephen King’s “The Shining.” Why did you choose to do your next residency at The Queen Mary?
A: The Stanley is an incredibly special place for me and it has an incredible history beyond its paranormal reputation. I initially moved out to LA for a television project and the Queen Mary provided a great opportunity to place the show while we work on that.
Q: Do you have any special rituals or practices you do to prepare before going on stage?
A: Other than chugging a Red Bull I don’t really do much before a show. I try to relax a little and focus on the story that is about to be told.
Q: What is the most unusual or memorable thing that has happened during a show?
A: It seems something will happen nearly every night during a show which was outside of the realm of performance. The most profound so far has been a pair of sisters who insisted that they saw a sailor in an old uniform standing in the room during the show and the apricot of a man in a Grey suit who seems to show up with some regularity.
Q: Of all the magicians throughout history, which would you say has had the most influence on you and your work?
A: My greatest influence in magic is René Levand. He was a magician from Argentina who only had one functional hand. His magic and storytelling inspires me daily.
Q: What do you find most meaningful about bringing magic to life for an audience?
A: The most meaningful thing about what I do is to bring an emotional effect to life and have a member of the audience leave the room feeling a connection to the past.
Q: What do you have up your sleeve for future Illusions of the Passed events?
A: We continue to adapt and change the show nightly so even those who have seen it can return for new experiences. We have a very special something in the works for the coming Christmas too.
I think the audience—skeptics and believers—departed that evening questioning their perception of reality. Illusions of the Passed is a show that must be witnessed because words fail to capture what goes on in that intimate space where everyone’s energy contributes to the magic conspiring before their eyes. Aiden Sinclair takes guests on a fascinating journey, providing an alternate way to interact with the history and ghosts of The Queen Mary.
Illusions of the Passed takes place at 8p.m. on select nights and tickets start at $45. Find out more at The Queen Mary official website.
For more details about the production, visit the Illusions of the Passed official website.