By Sherri Middleton, Managing Editor
It’s that time of year again when people dress up in strange costumes and everyone talks about spooky things. No. I’m not talking about when the Florida Gators wore those alligator-styled uniforms last week, but they were pretty spooky. I’m talking about Halloween.
Since we’re in the sports business, this seems a good time to talk about some of the sports legends and stories of haunted stadiums and ballparks. Athletes are a superstitious bunch of people in the first place, so it’s not difficult to find stories of ghosts or supposedly haunted places.
One of the most famous stories about haunted sports facilities is probably the story of George Gipp and the University of Notre Dame. “Win one for the Gipper!” is a long-told story about the All-American football player who died of pneumonia after sleeping on the steps of Notre Dame’s Washington Hall.
As the story goes, in 1920 after returning late to campus, Gipp found that he had been locked out of his dorm. He slept on the stairs that night and contracted pneumonia that would lead to his death. On his deathbed, he begged Coach Knute Rockne: “Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper. I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock. But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.”
Immediately after his death, students reported that doors to Washington Hall and across campus began to close, papers rustled and an eerie French horn could be heard. Was it the Gipp?
Chicago’s Wrigley field has its own spooky story. Security guards who patrol the park say bullpen phones ring late at night when the ballpark is empty. Legend is that the Cubs player and manager, Charlie Grimm calls the bullpen to make pitching changes. Problem is, the bullpen phone is a direct line from the dugout and can’t be dialed from any other location. Some security personnel also hear their names being called or they see Grimm in the hallways. Many people believe Grimm’s ashes are buried in left-center field.
But Grimm’s ashes aren’t the only ones. Rumor has it that fans drop ashes into the ivy and songwriter and diehard Cub’s fan, Steve Goodman’s are said to be buried under home plate. Other Wrigley stories say balls are hit in the ivy and then disappear and Harry Caray’s ghost remains at Wrigley along with other figures who hang out in the offices and bleachers.
Los Angeles Dodger’s Stadium is said to have many ghosts, including a couple on their honeymoon who plummeted to their deaths from a hillside overlooking the City of Angels. Many Dodger’s employees reported seeing a woman dressed in white diving over the cliff. Others say the field is haunted by the souls from the Hebrew Benevolent Society whose cemetery was moved to make room for the stadium’s parking lot. Other people reported stories about the stadium’s underground vaults and tunnels, where Lizard People live below the stadium in one of three lost cities of the Hopi people.
Indiana University’s Memorial Stadium known as “The Rock,” is supposedly haunted by IU student, Michael Plume. During construction of the stadium, Plume was found hanging from scaffolding. Plume’s shoes were polished and the soles of his shoes clean even though he supposedly had walked a mile from his dorm room to the stadium which was a construction site with mud and dust. Investigators ruled his death a suicide by broken neck and asphyxiation, however when the body was later exhumed it was determined he did not have a broken neck. Workers claim to have seen a ghostly figure hanging from the same location where Plume’s body was found. Is Plume still trying to prove his death was not a suicide?
Home to the Rochester Red Wings, Frontier Field in Rochester, New York, is said to be built on a site where human bones were uncovered. Ghost experts from Rochester Paranormal were called in and officially concluded the stadium to be haunted. Many believe the spirits that reportedly float around eerily are happy the stadium is in its current location.
In 1999, professional wrestler Owen Hart fell to his death while being lowered 78 feet to the ring for a WWF wrestling show in Kansas City’s Kemper arena. Employees claim to have seen and heard Hart’s spirit walking the rafters dressed in his blue blazer. Other people claim they hear Hart adjusting his harness and when they hear or see him, the lights flicker in the arena.
In Columbus, Ohio, Nationwide Arena is built on the site of the deadliest prison fire in U.S. history. The fire killed more than 300 prisoners and people claim the smell of smoke, the sound of men screaming and pacing their cells and the sound of the flames burning the prison can still be heard, particularly around the parking garage. Others say ghostly figures could be seen only in the ruins of the old building.
Are these places really haunted? Well, only if you believe in that sort of thing.