Before there was television, YouTube, or cell phones, Christmas used to be a time when families were forced to congregate and spend time together. Terrible sounding, I know. But families still found comfort in the escapism of stories. Ghost stories to be exact. This connection stems back to the Norse, German, and Celtic celebrations of the solstice, during which they believed that the barrier between the worlds of the living and dead was most blurred. We see this in the work of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; and now in Aiden Sinclair’s Ghosts of Christmas Passed, A Theatrical Séance on the Queen Mary.
Sinclair started his residency at the Queen Mary this Halloween with Illusions of the Passed (read our review and interview with Sinclair here). Similar to that experience, Ghosts of Christmas Passed is a Theatrical Séance. This means you won’t see traditional card tricks, you won’t see anyone levitate, and you definitely won’t see anyone sawed in half. Instead, you might just conjure a ghost, you will experience something you can’t explain, and you definitely will feel something strongly. This séance is meant to evoke not just the spirits of the afterlife, but it’s meant to evoke emotion from deep inside of you.
Ghosts of Christmas Passed is an intimate show. With only seven rows of chairs and a maximum of fifty people, Sinclair directly involves the audience. While he leads the Séance, it is you that conjures the spirit—and communicates with the beyond. If you raise your hand, it’s likely you’ll be included in some manner. And even if you aren’t, the person next to you, or in front of you will be. There are no falsifications here. There are no strings. There are no sleights of hand. This feels real from the moment you enter.
The believability is in part due to the famous location of the experience: The Queen Mary. Entering a small hallway, audiences pass a wall lined with every person who died on this boat—cause of death is listed for those curious. Past the hallway, guests step into a small black-box bar, in which they can purchase drinks while they peruse the many artifacts Sinclair has procured from Titantic, the Stanley Hotel (famous from The Shining), among other locales. These artifacts are as interesting as they are eerie, and bookending the night with the faces of the deceased only furthers the immersion into the world Sinclair has invited you to enter.
It would be a disservice not to mention the quality of cocktails that this experience offers. As a smoke and bourbon fan, the Smoke and Mirrors was incredible: a mixture of maple bourbon, sweet vermouth and black walnut bitters provide a smooth nutty flavor—but then the spirit is trapped within a flask of hickory smoke that perfectly transforms and adds depth to the cocktail—I highly recommend it. For those that want something a little sweeter to the taste, the Drop of Lavender was perfect. Grey Goose le Citron with crème de violet, lavender syrup, and lemon juice make this the perfect drink for those with a sweet tooth. The added candied hibiscus flower on top (edible too) only elevated this aperitif.
While the drinks are strong, Sinclair’s stories are sobering. Six-thousand-three-hundred-sixteen people die every hour. Each one of these people leave something behind. Sinclair notes that most hauntings are associated with negative feelings, bad deeds, and death. But if something really bad could create a ghost—maybe something really good could as well. The walls leading in were lined with the faces of those who died, but once inside, the walls were lined with different faces: faces of people who didn’t die on the boat, but instead, had great moments upon this ship. Audrey Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Clark Gable. Maybe these ghosts resided in its walls, waiting to be called forth and perform for a new audience.
Sinclair is a master of his craft, providing guests passage into a world of unexplainable and awe-inspiring magic. I would go as far as saying Sinclair isn’t just a magician; but instead, he’s a skillful story teller. He uses these stories to summon feelings from his audience, allowing them to peer through a veil and see a world different from our own. And in doing so, we see that it isn’t our death that defines us, but rather our triumphs in life. Six-thousand-three-hundred-sixteen people die every hour, but millions more are celebrating, succeeding, and being inspired by a man in a vest and circular glasses on a stage hidden within a famous boat.