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Ghost Hunting on the Delta Queen

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Captains Gordon and Greene

The Ghost of Mary Greene
Shortly after Mary passed away, her son, Tom, had the Mark Twain Saloon built on the Delta Queen. Mary didn’t believe in consuming alcohol, so this was the first bar. A few days after its completion, a small tugboat, named the Mary B (Mary’s maiden name was Becker), hit the bulkhead right where the saloon was located. From then on, both crew and passengers reported seeing Mary’s ghost.

Mike Williams, then captain of the Delta Queen, had one of the most significant encounters with Mary’s ghost. He was alone on the ship in 1984, when he was awakened by someone whispering in his ear; he even swears he felt a breath against his cheek. Upon investigating, he found water flowing into the lower level of the boat through a hole — it could have sunk the ship had he not repaired it immediately.

Mary, in death as in life, seems to be where she’s needed, sometimes being benevolent and kind, while at other times the stern, business-like captain who stood at a ship’s helm for more than 50 years.

My Stay on the Delta Queen
I’m not sure whether it was Captain Mary’s ghostly intervention or something more to do with luck, but on a recent visit I took to Chattanooga, my hotel reservations ended up needing changing and I was lucky enough to end up on the Delta Queen.

From the outside, the Delta Queen seems to preside over the section of the Tennessee River where she sits in dock. Inside, there are still mahogany staircases, brass fixtures, a ship’s library complete with original books and an inlaid game board set up with checkers for passengers to play. Indeed, as I walked through the Delta Queen, I didn’t need much imagination to see life as it had been in the era of the steamboat.

My room was 119, the Robert E. Lee room, where Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret stayed in November of 1986. While the room wasn’t large, the bed was comfortable and the full curtained wall of windows looked out on the Tennessee. My private bathroom was even original, with a chain to pull to flush!

Besides having a great night’s sleep, I also found the Delta Queen a perfect location to explore Chattanooga from. The Walnut Street pedestrian bridge crosses the Tennessee from Renaissance Park (Delta Queen sits next to this park at Coolidge Landing) to the Tennessee River Walk on the opposite side. River Walk is home to the Tennessee Aquarium and the Hunter Museum of American Art, plus it’s just a few blocks to the Chattanooga Visitor Center to catch the free shuttle to explore a number of other Chattanooga attractions, including the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and Track #9 at the Terminal Station. 

The question remains, however, of whether or not I saw Captain Mary Greene’s ghost on the Delta Queen? I didn’t. However, when I awoke the first morning, I could have sworn there was an elderly black porter sitting on the chair in the corner of my room. He disappeared as quickly as the morning fog over the Tennessee.

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