"In culture after culture, people believe that the soul lives on after death, that rituals can change the physical world and divine the truth, and that illness and misfortune are caused and alleviated by spirits, ghosts, saints ... and gods." - Steven Pinker. In the first edition of Paranormal Skatetivity last year, I brought to light 6.0 stories of the spooky and macabre that related to ice skating. From Janet and Rosetta Van Der Voort, the daughters of an overprotective wealthy helicopter pilot who are believed to haunt New York City's Wollman Rink to an entire family who perished on the ice in Pennsylvania to the ghost of three time Olympic Gold Medallist Sonja Henie, I learned in researching that article that skating is certainly not without its stories that make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. It's time to lower the blinds, turn down the lights, lock the door and light a candle. It's time for Hallowe'en and the second edition of Paranormal Skatetivity:
The Dimond Center is a mall located in Anchorage, Alaska that plays host to the Dimond Center Ice Chalet, an in-mall skating rink. The Ice Chalet offers the U.S. Figure Skating Basic Skills Program in conjunction with the Alaska Association of Figure Skaters (AAFS). So you're thinking... run of the mill rink in a mall right? Not even close. According to More Than Horror, "the locals say that when the Dimond Center was first built in 2002 the grounds under it were Native American burial grounds. While digging up the grounds to build the mall, workers came across a few graves, but due the fact there was so few of them, they continued construction. People claim to see wolves roaming the halls and hearing the sound of flute music playing... the ghosts of people dressed in Native American clothing often appear to people in the hallways of the building. There is a evil presence in one of the stores that a lot of people are afraid of. They say it appears as a dark shadow and then a deep feeling of fear comes over whoever happens to be in the room... supposedly if you
try to stay in the room you will be pinched or hear a loud hiss in your ears." I suppose have its perks. If you take your kids to the Dimond Center to learn to skate, they are bound to have posture and gorgeously straight backs just like Dorothy Hamill. They'll have to... they'll be scared stiff!
CARLTON HOTEL SKY RINK
Another haunted rink? I couldn't possibly! This one's a little different though. After closing its doors in 1997, the Carlton Hotel Sky Rink in Johannesburg, South Africa has attracted its fair share of ghost hunters. Dirk Chalmers wrote "The Carlton Sky Rink is the creepiest place I've ever seen. If you're old enough you'll remember it differently, but today it manages to tick two boxes at once - rad party venue and the perfect spot to hide dead bodies. It's rough around the edges but it's pretty much the same place it was when my parents used to skate there back in the day. It just looks like nobody did much since then besides rip out the ice and switch the lights off. On our way out, we stopped by what is definitely the most horror movie appropriate room of them all: the shoe room, filled to the brim with dusty unused ice skates. Or perhaps... murder weapons..." The Carlton Hotel Sky Rink is actually a gutted former ice rink located on the top of an abandoned hotel - which was actually quite the high end affair in its heyday. Henry Kissinger, Hilary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Whitney Houston and Mick Jagger all took up temporary residence in the hotel at one time or another. The eerie calm of this abandoned and mothballed hotel with this spooky rink left over a decade ago to fall into disrepair just seem the perfect backdrop for a horror story, wouldn't you say? Who knows, maybe Kissinger, Thatcher or Houston return for a visit from time to time? Stranger things have happened. Ottavio Cinquanta's still around, after all.
AISLE 13: HALLOWE'EN HOLOCAUST GHOSTS
Revisiting "The Hallowe'en Holocaust: A Closer Look At The 1963 Holiday On Ice Explosion", we remember that in Lori Sankowsky's book "Ghost Hunter's Guide To Indianapolis", she recounts a story of her visit to what is now the Pepsi Coliseum - the site of the grisly October 31, 1963 Fairgrounds Coliseum explosion that killed eighty two people at a Holiday On Ice show. Like something off Most Haunted, Lori and her companion Keri heard audible clicks in the silence of the arena that stopped when they asked "is someone there?" and experienced sensations of overwhelming heat even though their infrared thermometer had not changed from their initial reading of sixty seven degrees. The book includes a photo showing a red orb appearing near aisle thirteen of the rebuilt arena where by accounts the apparition of a woman has been seen previously. Whether you believe in that kind of thing or not, it's certainly not the first time figure skating has had a haunted connection.
GHOSTS OF HOT ICE
The ice rink at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in England is the oldest purpose built ice theatre and the world and has played host to the popular Hot Ice show for the last seventy years. It ALSO paid host to a team of paranormal investigators in 2002, when the popular British television program Most Haunted set up shop. Blackpool writer Juliette Gregson has claimed that she herself "heard someone or something skating on the ice... when I have gone to look nothing was there. Lights and equipment move of their own accord and doors have been wide open when they have closed with padlocks. Staff working late at night, walking across to the tractor bay, have felt really cold, chilled to the bone and an 'awful' presence." Doors which are wide open have slammed shut on their own acccord, despite there being no wind or breezes. Apparitions have even reportedly been seen in the rink's dressing rooms. With so many famous skaters connected to that rink as show performers in its seventy year run, it is almost impossible to guess just who just may be revisiting that rink. Could it be Betty Callaway, coach of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who while performing met her first (and later, third) husband Roy - a principal skater in the show - there? What about former Blackpool Pleasure Beach chairman Doris Thompson, who passed away just hours after the funeral of her son and managing director of the venue, Geoffrey Thompson? The secret just may stay safe... beyond the veil.
THE DEVIL WENT UP TO NEW JERSEY
In 1978, two teenage boys went skating near Chatsworth in the Barrens and smelled an odor like dead fish and saw two red eyes staring at them. They didn't stick around for tea but did claim they had encountered The Jersey Devil. On his website dedicated to research of the Jersey Devil legend, Dave Juliano explains more about this well known folklore figure: "The Jersey Devil, the supposed mythical creature of the New Jersey Pinelands, has haunted New Jersey and the surrounding areas for the past 260 years. This entity has been seen by over 2,000 witnesses over this period. It has terrorized towns and caused factories and schools to close down, yet many people believe that the Jersey Devil is a legend, a mythical beast, that originated from the folklore of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Others disagree with this point of view... There are many different versions of the birth of the Jersey Devil. One of the most popular legends says a Mrs. Shrouds of Leeds Point, NJ made a wish that if she ever had another child, she want it to be a devil. Her next child was born misshapen and deformed. She sheltered it in the house, so the curious couldn't see him. On stormy night, the child flapped its arms, which turned into wings, and escaped out the chimney and was never seen by the family again. A Mrs. Bowen of Leeds point said, 'The Jersey Devil was born in the Shrouds house at Leeds Point.'Another story that also placed the birth at Leeds Point said that a young girl fell in love with a British soldier during the Revolutionary War. The people of Leeds Point cursed her. When she gave birth, she had a devil. Some people believe the birth of the devil was punishment for the mistreatment of a minister by the Leeds folk." Whatever the case may be, I think we should leave this one for Theresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium to sort out. You won't catch me skating outdoors in New Jersey anytime soon, I'll tell you that.
I want to close this special Hallowe'en edition of the blog with one of MY all time favourite skating spooky skating performances, choreographed by the late and great Brian Wright. Here are World Professional Champions Anita Hartshorn and Frank Sweiding skating to "Sadeness":
I hope you all have a wonderful Hallowe'en! The next blog will take a look at my thoughts from this weekend's Skate Canada competition in Kelowna, British Columbia and don't forget that next week I'll be featuring a FANTASTIC interview with Olympic Bronze Medallist and two time U.S. Champion Ashley Wagner.