Ghosts and Superstitions on the River

There has been a great discussion on – mostly – the ghost of Mary B. Greene on the Delta Queen, but also about similar experiences and superstitions on the river in the Message Board in 2002 and 2003. Here is the essence of this discussion thread:

December 12, 2002, Keith Norrington: “I never saw Capt. Mary’s ghost on the DQ, but I always hoped I would for she is someone I want to meet! During the time I was watchman on the DQ there were some strange sounds in the aft cabin lounge a few times and the feeling of a “presence” but I never actually saw anything. As everyone who has been on the DQ knows, there is hardly any feeling at all of motion on the boat. One night, in the wee hours, as I was making a round through the aft cabin, the doors near the purser’s office began shaking and rattling in a strange way I never saw or heard again. It was rather unnerving and I could hardly wait to get back up to the pilothouse! When I reported on what happened, Capt. Harry Louden, the pilot on watch, said, “Oh, Keithy, it’s probably just Ma Greene upset about something like the grocery bill!” As for Dale’s account of almost being on the Silver Bridge at Point Pleasant when it collapsed in December of 1967, I well recall the late Marguerite Hammett telling of also almost being a casualty. She had driven down to Marshall University to bring Roddy (then a student there) home for the holidays. They had crossed the bridge and were up the road a short distance enroute to Marietta when they heard on the car radio that the bridge had collapsed into the Ohio.”

December 12, 2002, R. Dale Flick: “Jane, do tell ‘posters’ about when the new bar was installed on the starboard side of the DQ years ago and what happened! I don’t want to steal your thunder as you can tell it better. It got big press coverage along with photos in the papers here at the time. I’ll admit now freely to my ‘Moth Man’ vision. Last week I was driving over Glade Ave. here about 7:00 AM. It was dark just before the snow. I had nothing in particular on my mind (except driving safely) when I came to the corner of Mears Ave. I looked to my left and, in front of a large oak tree, I spotted the vision of ‘Moth Man’ standing and looking across. I blinked, slowed a bit and saw the apparition fade away. Average size, arms like moth wings folded around and a face like that of a large moth. I pondered it for a day or so, wrote it off and said nothing. Within days a tragic fire broke out in the brick house behind the tree and a lady died as a result of smoke inhalation. Now, you tell me who’s crazy. Elaine Santangelo, I know of people who’ve ‘photographed’ unknowingly ghosts on film. One lady (retired teacher) sent her photo to KODAK labs for a test and they could offer no logical explanatiion for the images either from defective film, faulty chemicals in developing, reflected light etc. The picture she caught was of a 17th century lady in the walled grounds of a large English country house wearing farthingales and a type of bonnet. I saw the pic and it’s remarkable. Jane, I recall again the story your mom told me years ago about the mystery figure of the man she and your aunt (Ms Cavendish) saw when they were kids standing by a wood fence. Letha Greene said he approached them and then disappeared in the ground. They went over and looked and nothing was there. She related he was “wearing very dark clothing not unlike a cape or great coat.” Your mom never used the term ‘Moth Man’ back then but it is interesting that it took place in West Virginia many years ago.”

December 12, 2002, Jane Greene: “YOU can tell’em about the bar incident, Dale. And that man that mother saw disappear was called the “bead man” , not a “moth man”!! I never heard her tell about a moth man. Sorry.And frankly, let’leave Letha Greene’s weird stories out this poating board, O.K.? There are quite a few weird tales on the Cavendish side of my family, but I’d rather not post them, for God’s sake! There are youngins in our family that aren’t old enough to realize that we’re all crazy yet.”

December 12, 2002, R. Dale Flick: “Jane you’re right! It was the ‘Bead Man.’ I couldn’t recall the name after all these years. Why would he have been called the ‘Bead Man?’ No, you’re the better person to tell the famous story Re: the DQ’s new bar on the starboard side and what happened here at the old GREENE LINE wharfboat. All of these ‘ghosts,’ ‘Moth Men,’ ‘Bead Men’ and ‘images in photographs’ are giving me the shivers.”

December 11, 2002, R. Dale Flick: “Jane Greene and I have discussed the ghost issue a number of times. No, I’ve never seen the fabled ghost of Mary B. Greene on the DQ. I highly respect the opinions of those who have. The famed ‘Moth Man’ (and the ‘prophecies’) is another fascinating subject. There are numerous books and a relatively recent movie on it centering around the ‘Silver Bridge’ collapse over the Ohio River in the mid 1960s. ‘Moth man’ goes way, way back to pioneer times on the upper Ohio. He’s been linked not only to the ‘Silver Bridge’ but to the tragic cooling tower collapse in West VA some years later, boat sinkings etc. He doesn’t cause it himself but is more of a malevolent prophecy of warning. Do I know people who’ve seen ‘Moth man?’ Yes. This was discussed several years ago at a September S&D meeting. There are S&D members from that area who shared their sightings and those of respected friends and relatives. One couple (no names, please) spotted him on the top of a church steeple in/around Marietta. OH. Others reported seeing him roosting up in trees or standing in their yards or nearby woods. ‘Moth man’ is also linked to stores and artistic renderings in the Dark Ages and ancient times. The movie took liberties in dragging out the collapse of bridge. It all happened with a sudden BANG! sound like an explosion and total, instant collapse in the river carrying down cars and trucks. Later was proven that the ‘I’ bar steel bridge links had weakend and couldn’t handle modern truck/car traffic. Other ‘I’ bar bridges were condemned and torn down. But still! I was driving home from my Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune for Christmas when it happened. I reached the bridge approach and was stopped by Army troopers and police to use an alternative route via Ashland, KY that night. Ambulances and rescue vehicles were still screaming up and down the highway. The disaster up ahead was something to see. I ‘could’ have been on that bridge if I’d been two hours earlier.”

December 11, 2002, Jane Greene: “My grandmother, Capt. Mary B. Greene , alledgedly haunts the Delta Queen, but I’ve never SEEN her ghost. There are 3 UNSOLVED MYSTERIESS dedicated to that phenomenon. I furthermore know of 3 people whose opinions I highly respect who”ve seen her ghost, but I’m not sure that they would want me to divulge their names. If you seek one of the Unsolved Mysteries shows, you can find out who one of ’em is.”

December 11, 2002, Tuck Tabler: “Well, I do know and worked with a former Queen crewman on the Belle who claimed one morning in the galley he was joking about the ghost, and a few moments later the OJ machine started spraying juice everywhere. Course, we were pretty far into a BSing contest on the back watch at the time so…”

December 11, 2002, Jane Greene: “If you run into my Grandma’s ghost, don’t be afraid…she’d just be one of those caring maternal types who want to remind you to “put your rubbers on”, etc. {smile}, Furthermore, she thinks that “cathy” might be someone else?”

December 11, 2002, Phyllis Dale: “As you know, I wasn’t afraid of “Grandma”. I feel blessed that I saw her. I know that Captain Mike and Marci Richardson feel the same way. Now I’ve spilled the beans. Although it’s not a secret. Our sightings have been documented in books and on the History Channel’s presentation of “Haunted Houses of New Orleans”. The Ghost of Mary Greene is REAL. Besides seeing her, there were many times I would come into my cabin on the DQ and a warm hand would touch my back. I knew she was there.”

December 12, 2002, Jane Greene: “Thanks for comin’ out with the ghost-thing, Phyllis. I know that you three don’t come up with whoppers, although there are others that I wouldn’t believe. The closest I ever came to encountering HER ghost was through a “dream’, let’s call it. It happened after I had my first chemo treatment for cancer in ’92. I was scared to death about the results of chemo that the doctors described{ like going bald, etc.}. Well, when I came home from that 9:00a.m. treatment, I laid down for awhile. I dreamed that Grandma was sitting in the chair in my bedroom, sewing aprons. { Back in the olden days on the Gordon, grandma would go uptown andbuy many cheap hankies in the dime store, get the old ladies on the boat..passengers,, to join her “sewing circle”, and they would make little aprons, sell them, and the proceeds went to Knox Presbyterian Church’s charity fund. Some of the evil dooers who came later on in the company used to call that “Capt. Mary’s little scam”, but I happened to know that she DID give the proceeds to the church, plus plenty of dough of her own and that was substantial. Anyway, in my dream, she was sewing aprons and I was weeping over my chemo dilemma. She looked up over her glasses, smiled benevolently and said ” Jane…honey… don’t pay it any mind.” That was a saying we ofter heard from her during steamboat dilemmas, and it became a catch-phrase in the family, particularly by mom. When the Delta Queen would break down., or passengers would bitch or whatever, we’d say ” oh, don’t pay it any mind”.Well, anyway, I dreamed this…just a dream, mind you. Except when I woke up, a cozy afghan that my mom knitted had been tossed over me, and I KNOW that I didn’t have that over me when I first lay down. No doubt a friend or relative dropped over to the house, found me sleeping and put the “throw” over me, but no one would own up to it. Anyway, that was a very comforting dream and seemed very real. Phyllis, Mike and Marci do have very credible stories.”

December 12, 2002, Elaine Santangelo: “The evening of the blessing of the fleet May 5, 2002- four of us from the bar staff were given permission and a short private tour of the DQ. The fact that there was a strong presence there was obvious to me. My cousin in Florida has done medium or channel work and when I explained my feelings to her- she said there probably is a haunting there. Also, when I did get my film developed there are light specks and faint rainbows- just like the ones on my film from the Winchester Mystery House in California where I also felt a sense of a presence being there. Now, I will concede that all could be the power of suggestion- but I choose to think otherwise. In both situations, I did not feel malevolence- only kindly curiosity as if to say- “who is exploring my space?” I may even have some of the film in digital format although the pictures were so foggy that I don’t know if digital reproductions would show everything. However, if anyone wants to see the digital version, they can email me. I just chalked it up to one of many happy memories.”

January 25, 2003, Ted Guillaum: “I cannot believe we all forgot to mention the most obvious good luck symbol on steamboats. ACORNS! All those acorns on the pilot house roof, flag poles, etc. Another good luck symbol is the five pointed stars on the hub of the paddlewheel crank. The Belle still has hers but the stars on the DQ have been painted over for some time. Every time I see the boat I look for it but, disappointingly, it is still not there. I know it is a maintenance problem keeping the grease off the crank but a steamboat without its stars is like getting dressed up and not polishing your shoes.”