published Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Discovery looking for Delta Queen ghost

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Lesley Onstott Producer Kelly Lecastre, right, and audio supervisor Travis Sentell stand outside of the Delta Queen's wheelhouse while Discovery Channel's Ghost Lab shoots an interview of the captain inside Wednesday for an upcoming episode. The T.V. show focused on the suspiscion that the ghost of former Captain Mary Becker Greene continues to haunt the sternwheeler.

Capt. Mike Williams was asleep in his bunk on the Delta Queen riverboat when he heard someone whisper "psssp" in his ear. He even felt the person's breath, he said.

It happened twice more before he got up, but no one was there.

Still, he decided to check the boat's other 80 passenger cabins and only one was locked -- Cabin 109, the former cabin of former Delta Queen Capt. Mary Greene, who died in the room.

But while he was up, he saw water flowing into the lower level of the boat. A hole -- one he says could have sunk the boat -- was found and repaired.

That was 25 years ago, and to this day Capt. Williams believes it was Mary Greene who whispered in his ear, making him get up.

"There is something very benevolent and kind, sometimes stern like a great-grandmother," said Capt. Williams, who retired three years ago. "That's the kind of spirit that dwells in this boat."

Now others are in town to try to see if the ghost of Ms. Greene -- one of the nation's first female riverboat pilots -- truly wanders the decks of the Delta Queen, now a hotel moored in downtown on the Tennessee River. A crew from "Ghost Lab," a show on the Discovery Channel, is on the boat trying to prove -- or disprove -- the existence of the ghost.

Brad Klinge and his brother Barry, both of San Antonio, are the show's lead investigators.

"We're going to turn the paranormal world on its ears," Brad Klinge said Wednesday, a few hours before the filming began.

"Ghost Lab" premieres on Oct. 6, and the Delta Queen episode is expected to air in December.

Ms. Greene died at age 80 in 1949. Capt. Williams, who described her as "a very loved and gentle old lady," believes Ms. Greene led him to meet his wife.

A new employee on the Delta Queen, Myra Frugé received a call from a sick passenger in Room 109, Capt. Greene's former cabin. She notified Capt. Williams to check on the passenger, but when he got there the room was empty.

Because she was new, Ms. Frugé did not know about the ghost stories, Capt. Williams said, but the encounter led them to become better acquainted. They married in 1986, less than a year after the incident.

"We feel like it was the spirit of Capt. Mary," he said.


1869: Mary Becker Greene born

1949: She dies in her cabin on the Delta Queen

1984: Retired Capt. Mike Williams says the spirit of the late Capt. Greene might have saved the boat when she alerted him that the Queen's lower level had a hole.

1986: Capt. Williams marries Myra Frugé, believing it was Capt. Green who helped them meet.


For more information about the Delta Queen, visit

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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