[This is a two-part article, part 1 is about the history of the ship while part 2 is about our ghost hunt.]
Last night I got the opportunity to ghost hunt on the USS Salem, a Des Moines-class heavy cruiser which was in service in the 1950s. A few weeks ago, almost immediately after moving to the Rhode Island, I discovered Legend Trips which is a company which is a planning organizer for events who uses ghost hunts as a way of raising money for preserving historic locations. So far, Legend Trips has raised over $26,000 for this cause! I should also note that Legend Trips is hosted paranormal authors and media personalities Jeff Belanger, Tim Wiesburg, Andrew Lake, and Matt Moniz. If you have the oppurtunity to do one of these events, I really urge you to go! I had a blast and it was wonderful meeting a whole bunch of paranormal enthusiasts in the area! A lot of the participates have done multiple events with Legend Trips because they enjoyed the events so much.
The last all-gun heavy cruiser to enter commission, the USS Salem was built between 1945-1949 in Quincy, Massachusetts (where she is now docked.) During her decade-long service career she never saw battle, but instead served as a flagship of the US Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and of the Second Fleet in the Atlantic. Often she relieved the ill-fated USS Newport News which also was a Des Moines class heavy cruiser.
She was integral as an emergency support ship during the 1953 Ionian Earthquake. The USS Salem was the first American ship to reach the devastated Greek Ionian Islands Kefalonia and Zakynothos, which was still suffering from aftershocks of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. The USS Salem brought victims to be treated on board between August 13th-17th, 1953; which included several which were badly injured from severe burns. Many victims, all Greek civilians, reportedly died on board.
The USS Salem hosted many heads of state such as the US Ambassador to Spain, John D. Lodge, the Honorable Thomas S. Gates who was the Undersecretary of the US Navy, Admiral Arieigh A. Burke, the Shah of Iran, the President of Lebenon, and the King and Queen of Greece.
Before being decommissioned in 1959, the USS Salem was featured in the 1956 film The Battle of the River Plate where she portrayed the German pocket Battleship Admiral Graf Spee. When the USS Salem was finally decommissioned, she stored as part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet (and can technically still be brought out of retirement.) In 1994 she returned to Quincy, MA where she was constructed and where she is docked today. Now she is used as a museum ship, housing several Navy museums within her haul
An interesting connection
Things took an unexpected turn for me yesterday after I had started the tour. After the welcoming dinner but before our ship tour, I had posted a selfie of myself in front of the rear gun turret. While my phone was in air plane mode during the tour (there was no signal in the hual, and I wasnt going to waste battery power trying to find one) people commented on the photo. One of the comments was from my mother who casually mentioned “Oh, your grandfather was on that ship.”
Two hours later, after a tour and the first hour of ghost hunting where Andrew Lake and I had an interesting experience in the petty officer’s quarters, we take a break on the quarter deck and I turn my wifi back on. Immediately my phone begins to blow up with notifications, during which is when I find the news! My paternal grandfather was rather secretive about his Navy career which started during WWII and lasted into the 1950s. We know he was in Cuba for a while, and the USS Salem routinely did training around Guantanamo, Cuba. Since my grandfather passed away in the 1960s, I can’t ask him about his service. No other family member knows enough to be able to piece together this puzzle, so I’ll be researching more into it. However, it would explain some things that happened while on the ship that night.
Up next, Part II: the ghost hunt!