Saturday, April 7, 2012

Delta Queen: The Ghost of “Ma” Greene

Delta Queen
The Delta Queen, a paddle steamboat, was assembled at Banner Island Shipyard in Stockton, California in May of 1927. She was one of the most luxurious American riverboats ever built at the cost of one million dollars. 

Mary Becker Greene fondly known as “Ma” was once the owner and co-captain of the Delta Queen. It is she who haunts the boat to this day.

For her first thirteen years the Delta Queen carried passengers along the Sacramento River between San Francisco and Sacramento. During World War II the Navy leased the Delta Queen and used her as a barracks and troop transport. After the war, she was put up for auction.

Mary Becker Greene was the first female licensed riverboat captain along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. 

When her son Captain Tom Greene bought the Delta Queen after World War II at auction for a fraction of her original cost, $46,250, Ma was the first person to move aboard after the boat made the 5,000 miles plus journey to New Orleans from California. 

As the Delta Queen began her 63-year service on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, Ma Greene helped her son as co-captain. 

Mary lived the rest of her life on the Queen, and when she was not acting as co-captain, she spent her time dancing, laughing and entertaining the Queens’ passengers with mesmerizing tales of her life on the river. 

While alive, Ma maintained a family atmosphere on the boat—she was a strong supporter of temperance and did not allow liquor to be served on the Delta Queen.

In April of 1949, after helping her son dock the Delta Queen at her homeport on the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Ma retired to her cabin where she passed away at the age of 79.

After her death, a saloon was established on board the Delta Queen, but shortly after the first drink was served a barge crashed into the Delta Queen. 

When the crew was finally able to untangle the mess they were amazed to discover the name of the barge was the Captain Mary B. 

So it appeared a barge carrying Ma’s name had managed to stop the one thing she never wanted on board the Delta Queen--liquor. After this incident, Ma’s ghost started to appear on the Queen.

An apparition of a lady that looks just like Ma was reported by many crewmembers and passengers.

Two female employees, one an entertainer, Phyllis Dale, and the other a guest pianist, Marie Richardson, both saw Ma’s apparition. 

Dale stated that she followed a woman wearing a long green robe through one of the Queens’ lounges, but when she rounded the corner, she suddenly wasn’t there anymore. 

Richardson reported seeing a woman in 1930s clothing drift by as she played the piano three nights in a row. When she looked up, the woman always just disappeared. 

These two women were informed after the fact that they probably saw the ghost of Ma Greene.

A captain of the Delta Queen, Captain Mike Williams encountered Ma’s ghost twice. Captain Williams believes that Ma's spirit is benevolent in nature. 

His first encounter with her happened in 1982, as the boat was being refurbished. He was awakened by a whisper in his ear. This startled him because he was the only person on board at the time—he quickly jumped up and followed the sound of the boiler room door slamming. 

He discovered that water was rushing in around a broken pipe. He was able to arrange emergency repairs, thereby saving the Queen from what could have been significant damage. 

Williams believes the voice that whispered in his ear, belonged to Ma Greene.

Captain Williams second encounter with the ghost of Ma Greene changed his life because it is how he met his wife. 

Myra Fruge joined the crew in 1985 as a purser. Late one night she received a call from Room 109, she heard an elderly woman’s voice complaining of being ill and very cold, so Fruge asked the captain to help. Much to her surprise when she entered Room 109, it was empty. 

Captain Williams shared the former occupant's story with her--Room 109 was Ma Greene’s cabin. After this introduction arranged by Ma’s ghost, the two became friends, fell in love, and married within the year.

Today the Delta Queen is no longer in service she is permanently moored on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga.

She has been restored and is a hotel and restaurant. Judging by the recent sightings of Ma by employees, guests, and even a television film crew, it is safe to say Ma’s ghost is still active.


Unknown said...

It's being refurbished and will run again in 2020

Virginia Lamkin said...

Wow, I hadn't heard that.