Seven of the most haunted venues in sports

Tailgaters at Camp Randall Stadium have described seeing spirits wearing Confederate soldier uniforms -- perhaps linking back to its history as the site of a prison during the Civil War. AP Photo/Morry Gash

The spookiest time of the year is officially upon us. You might think of sports as an escape from the scariness -- but you would be wrong.

The sports world has more than its fair share of haunts, and locations such as the Hockey Hall of Fame, Camp Randall Stadium and the Skirvin and Pfister hotels are part of their cities' most famed lore.

Not a believer? We get it. And sure, we don't have cold, hard evidence. But you just might change your mind after hearing these stories from seven of the most infamous spots in sports.

Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin

Long before Camp Randall Stadium became the home to Wisconsin football and "Jump Around" celebrations, it served as barracks and a training ground for Union soldiers.

Named after the state's governor -- Alexander Randall, a fierce abolitionist who had threatened Wisconsin would secede if Abraham Lincoln didn't win the presidency and end slavery -- the site wasn't intended to house prisoners of war. But following a major Union victory in April 1862, it was tasked with taking in more than 1,000 Confederate soldiers.

To say the facility was ill-prepared for the sheer volume of soldiers would be an understatement. Within weeks, viruses and illness spread rapidly through the camp. By June, all of the remaining prisoners were moved to other locations due to the inadequate and unsuitable conditions. Ultimately, 140 men died on site during the camp's brief existence as a prison. They were interred in a mass grave nearby.

"It was not a happy place to be," said Mike Huberty, the founder of American Ghost Walks (which began in Madison) and the host of "The Other Side" podcast. "And so that's why at Camp Randall and around the area, people have said they've seen spirits of Confederate soldiers.

"Just a few weeks ago, I was talking to a guy who has lived in Madison a long time and is the head of security at a factory. He said one of his security officers came up to him and said, 'You're not going to believe it. I saw a Confederate soldier walk through the room. And when I chased after it, there was nobody there.' He couldn't believe it and thought it was crazy because he wasn't familiar with the history, but these are the types of stories you hear."

Built in 1917, Camp Randall Stadium has been hosting football games for over 100 years, but fans and area residents are unable to forget its history. Tailgaters have described seeing spirits ahead of games, and they reportedly are usually seen wearing their uniforms -- as well as various slings and bandages -- and wandering in and out of the stadium, seemingly oblivious to the thousands of rowdy fans.

Huberty said this could potentially be explained by the "Stone Tape Theory," which speculates that mental impressions during severely traumatic events are preserved into the energy of a place and display as almost a residual recording -- and are not spirits doomed to spend eternity stuck in one place. He said this is what one might experience when entering a building where something distressing took place and being overwhelmed with sadness or a heavy feeling.

No matter the explanation or lack thereof, the stadium isn't the only place believed to be haunted at the university. Partial remains of two bodies were discovered when land was being cleared for a Lincoln statue in 1919. The area had been a cemetery at one time and before that the site of a sacred burial ground dating back thousands of years. The two individuals -- just their bottom halves were found on site; the top halves were discovered three years later -- had died in the 1830s and had been inadvertently left during the relocation of the graveyard.

"During the early 2000s, there's an undergrad student showing around his friend's 20-year-old sister who was visiting from Taiwan," Huberty said. "She doesn't speak much English but seems to be having a good time. That is, until they got to the Lincoln statue. Then she becomes visibly terrified and says they have to go.

"The friend doesn't understand why, but later she tells her brother while they were standing there, two heads appeared behind Lincoln's. They were both smiling at her. The brother and the friend thought she was joking, but then they learned about the two men who had been buried there. They believed her after that."

St. Mary's Stadium in Southampton, United Kingdom

After a successful, 103-year run at The Dell, Southampton F.C. moved to a brand-new stadium about two miles away in 2001. Called St. Mary's Stadium after the nearby church that founded the team in its earliest days, the state-of-the-art facility more than doubled fan capacity for the team with over 32,000 seats.

There was just one problem during the team's first season at the new stadium: It couldn't win a game.

Naturally, as fans are wont to do, they began searching for reasons for the new losing streak. Some said supporters of Portsmouth F.C., its archrival, buried a shirt under the stadium during construction and jinxed the team. But others believed there was something more sinister at play.

"There were many things happening that no one could quite explain," said Andrew Frewing-House, a Southampton-based paranormal researcher and the events and marketing director for Supernatural Tours.

"There was one worker who said he was a bit scared to go into the main stadium at nighttime because people would report these shadows and hear these voices. But once the team started to have an incredibly bad -- really bad, terrible -- season, more and more people began to believe there was a curse on the stadium because it had been built on an ancient graveyard."

The stadium, in fact, lies directly in the heart of what once was an Anglo-Saxon settlement known as Hamwic, and graves and human remains dating back to the seventh century were discovered on what became the stadium grounds. Archaeologists continue to discover artifacts around -- or, perhaps more accurately, under -- the grounds from the era.

Clearly spooked by the happenings or perhaps just the losing record, the team -- nicknamed "The Saints" -- brought in a pagan witch named Cerridwen "DragonOak" Connelly in hopes of ridding the angered spirits.

"We would call the ritual she performed a 'clearing' in the U.K., and that means it's supposed to send the spirits to whatever you believe the next plain happens to be or the afterlife," Frewing-House said. "She claimed it was evil spirits, but I suppose really, if you were upset about your burial ground being built on, you probably would be a little bit annoyed."

Just hours after Connelly performed her ritual, Southampton F.C. won its first game at the new stadium. While the team has fared better since its first season, Frewing-House said the ritual didn't completely stop the strange happenings around the stadium, and he still hears stories from fans and employees about their perceived supernatural experiences.

"I suppose the players must have really believed [the curse] enough to warrant someone coming in and doing the ritual, and I don't know if it was a coincidence or if it did actually help since they won right after," he said. "But I think they convinced themselves it was gone and made themselves believe that fully in their minds, even if it wasn't true. I tend to find, in my experience from doing this, the thing about exorcisms and clearings is, they don't always work.

"If you're [a spirit and] really upset about what happened, it doesn't matter what someone does. You're not going to go. So, to place a curse here, which is what people believed had happened, then obviously you feel very strongly about it and you're not going to give up just by someone coming and saying, 'Please, can you go?'"

The University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana

As with many Catholic colleges across the country, Notre Dame is filled with ghostly legends and haunted tales -- so much so that the admissions department even showcases many of them on its website for prospective students. And while there are believed to be many spots on campus that give people the shivers, perhaps none is better known than Washington Hall.

There have reportedly been several deaths in or near the building over its multi-century existence, including a professor, a steeplejack and student and football star George Gipp. Yes, the Gipper -- as in, "Win one for the Gipper" -- himself.

As the popular legend goes, the 25-year-old Gipp, a senior, stayed out past curfew one night and was locked out of his dorm building upon his return. It was a cold, late-autumn night, but he had nowhere to go, so he slept on the steps outside of Washington Hall, a performing arts and music venue. The next day, he contracted pneumonia and ultimately died from the infection soon after (but not before reportedly delivering his famous plea to his coach Knute Rockne from his death bed). Many believe Gipp never left Washington Hall and that he continues to haunt the building to this day, 100 years later.

Students, staff and faculty members have reported the uncanny feeling of a presence despite being alone; unexplained footsteps; frequently moved objects; the rustling of curtains; and the sound of brass instruments with no one visibly playing them. Countless student reporters, as well as professional ghost hunters, have spent nights in the hall hoping to make contact with the lurking ghost and documented their efforts without much concrete evidence.

Matthew Swayne, the author of "America's Haunted Universities: Ghosts that Roam Hallowed Halls," said the rumors of Gipp's ghost started not long after his untimely death.

"I was able to find a story from a student newspaper in 1926 or so," Swayne said. "A student claimed he was awoken one night or early morning, and he went outside and there he saw the ghost of George Gipp on a horse in front of that building. Other accounts have been about students hearing a horn blowing, and when they look for whoever is doing it, they can never find them. Some people think Gipp had this rebellious side and was a prankster, and this is just one of his pranks."

Swayne is quick to point out the story of Gipp's death is likely not accurate, and another less shared theory is more realistic as to what happened: Weeks before he was hospitalized, Gipp was teaching a teammate how to punt late at night and developed strep throat. Because there were no antibiotics at the time, he got progressively sicker and ultimately contracted pneumonia and succumbed to the illness. He most likely didn't sleep on the steps of Washington Hall, at least not that night, but this doesn't stop the lore.

"They didn't keep great records at that point, so we'll probably never be sure of what exactly happened," Swayne said. "It feels like a lot of times they create these legends to expand the myth of the person. So in this case, you have Gipp, and he's portrayed to be a little bit of a rebel and had that kind of rebellious streak to him. So that legend and these stories fit that [portrayal], but I never really came across the actual story."

The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada

It's not just the ghost of the Hartford Whalers that roams the Hall of Fame -- although we really could get behind a "Brass Bonanza"-playing spirit. Visitors have long reported seeing a woman with long, dark hair, particularly in and around the second floor women's restroom.

Formerly housed at Exhibition Place, an 197-acre mixed-use development to the west of downtown Toronto, the Hall of Fame moved to its current building at the Brookfield Place complex in 1993. Built originally in 1885, it formerly housed the Bank of Montreal -- and that is where our sad story begins.

The spirit is believed to be a former bank employee named Dorothea. In 1953, the 19-year-old shot herself in the women's bathroom at the bank. She died at the hospital the next day. There are many rumors and theories as to what caused Dorothea to take her life, but none has ever been confirmed. The Toronto Star discovered the presumed identity in 2009, after years of reports of a ghost named "Dorothy."

According to Rowena Brook, the brand development manager of Haunted Walks in Toronto, bank workers began experiencing strange happenings shortly after Dorothea's death.

"Starting in the 1950s, employees of the bank would have lights that would turn on and off," Brook said. "Doors and windows would open and close on their own. They would hear these strange noises like footsteps when no one was around, or shrieking. Some employees would step away from their work for a moment and they would come back and find their desk in disarray.

"But the main thing they said is they would feel this distinct presence, like someone else there watching them. Just that feeling that there was someone else there. And the spot it was strongest was actually in the women's [bathroom] on the second floor of the bank. It got to this point where the employees who were using that restroom were so uncomfortable being in there that the bank had to put a second [bathroom] in the basement because so many people were refusing to use it."

The bank ultimately moved, but the strange occurrences remained. Employees and guests of the Hall of Fame have reported hearing similar noises and experiencing the same overwhelming sense of not being alone. Brook said an employee at the Hall shared with her a story of a young boy on a tour of the museum with his parents and other adults. At one point, he stopped in his tracks and began staring intently at a wall. Someone asked him what was wrong, and he responded by pointing and saying, "Can you see her?"

No one could see anything, or anyone. But the young boy was insistent he was seeing a woman with long, dark hair walk in and out of the wall. He couldn't believe that no one else could see her.

Stories like this have made it one of the most well-known haunted spots in the city, and Haunted Walks begins one of its most popular tours outside of the building, with the permission of the Hall of Fame.

The Hall, which did not respond to our request for comment for this story, doesn't necessarily promote its haunted history, but it did allow Haunted Walks to host a special Halloween event on the second floor in 2013. Brook remembers it well.

"Our special Halloween tour ended on the second floor, in a room not far from the restroom," she said. "During the final part, one man left the group to go use the facilities. When he came back, he went to one of the guides, and he told them that he heard what sounded like a terrified woman screaming in the restroom next door.

"He was visibly shaken, and wanted to know if we had heard it and what was going on. I was standing right there with everyone else, and none of us heard a thing. We were so close to where he was, we would have heard something like that if it were a woman crying out like that. It really creeped all of us out to discover that he had heard that when no one else had. There have just been so many different encounters with her that I certainly believe that something is going on in that building."

Frontier Field in Rochester, New York

In the mid-1990s, the Rochester Red Wings were one of the winningest minor league baseball teams in history. The Triple-A squad, then an affiliate with the Baltimore Orioles (and now part of the Minnesota Twins organization), had won 18 titles in its nearly 100 years of existence, and had won the division title most recently in 1993 and 1995. With a dedicated fan base, the county decided it was time for a new stadium for the beloved franchise.

Construction got underway for a new facility in downtown Rochester in 1996, and workers reported discovering bones on the grounds, underneath where the stadium eventually went. It remains uncertain if they were human remains or that of an animal, or if they even were there at all, but the rumors persist to this day, and are an oft-cited explanation for anything strange that happens at the ballpark.

And there are a lot of strange things that happen at the ballpark.

The team moved to Frontier Field for the start of the 1997 season, and members of the grounds crew and custodial staff reported inexplicable happenings almost immediately, including televisions randomly turning on in rooms where no one had been for days, or lights turning on and off.

The team invited a pair of paranormal investigators to the stadium in 2004. After spending an evening looking around, they officially declared Frontier Field haunted. The team and the stadium capitalized on the distinction, and for several years hosted a "Fear at Frontier" event around Halloween.

Nate Rowan, the Red Wings' director of communications, has never personally experienced anything he can't find an explanation for, but does understand why others might feel uncomfortable at the stadium in the late hours of the night.

"I think there's something inherently creepy about the end of the night at a sporting venue that's supposed to have thousands of people in it cheering, having fun, drinking beer, and just having a good time, and at the end of the night, all the lights turn off, and you're one of the lone bodies in a huge facility like that," he said. "When there is an unexpected noise, it's jarring because there isn't supposed to be anyone there."

And, after all, since the Red Wings had experienced such success prior to moving to the new facility, he thinks it's only natural that fans would look for something otherworldly to blame for their recent struggles.

"The community is used to the team winning," Rowan said, "so there are people who are like, 'Man, we must be haunted, because we haven't won since '97.' We've only made the playoffs twice since then, so obviously they think there has to be a reason like that for it.

"Our players don't seem too concerned about ghosts at Frontier, but I have heard a lot of players say they won't or don't like to stay at certain hotels. There's a hotel in Milwaukee, where most of the Brewers' opposing teams used to stay, and there are a number of players who flat out refuse to stay there."

Which brings us to ...

Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Rowan is not exaggerating when he says there are several players who don't want to stay at the Pfister Hotel when taking on the Brewers in Milwaukee. There are countless stories from players around the MLB about their strange encounters while guests at the swanky establishment.

In hopes of creating the grandest hotel in the city, Guido Pfister began work on the hotel in the late 19th century. He died a month before its opening, but his son, Charles, was determined to carry out his father's vision. It opened in 1893, and was immediately successful. It has hosted every sitting U.S. president during its esteemed history. Charles Pfister, who never married or had children of his own, worked tirelessly for the rest of his days to ensure his father's legacy carried on at the property. Charles even lived in one of the suites for many years and was the operations manager.

And some say he never left the hotel after his death in 1927. Guests have described seeing an older, portly, well-dressed, smiling spirit who resembles Pfister's portrait still hanging in the hotel. He has been spotted looking over the lobby, as well as various other parts of the hotel, and has become something of an adored figure in the city, complete with his own parody Twitter account.

"I think when you know a little bit about Charles, it's not a surprise that he's the most-seen apparition," said Anna Lardinois, local historian, writer and founder of Gothic Milwaukee. "All of the ghost stories we hear are really just about him still trying to delight people. When people report that they see him, it's usually in conjunction with something in the atmosphere of the room changing, like lights brighten or dim, curtains open or close. And it really seems that he is still trying to just make the hotel experience as wonderful as it could be."

Professional baseball players seem to have had the most experiences with Pfister's ghost over the years. Lardinois believes this is simply Pfister trying to help out his hometown Brewers, and give them the ultimate home field advantage. She also wouldn't be shocked if some of the incidents were actually players playing pranks on their teammates, but does think these opposing players bring out Pfister's mischievous side.

"It is my understanding that it was very common to harass traveling teams during Charles Pfister's lifetime," Lardinois said. "Being at home meant not just knowing the field and the conditions, but you got to have spit-free food and you rested comfortably. Fans used to go to the hotels where the traveling teams were staying, and pound down their windows all night.

"It's pretty well known that if you're a Milwaukee Brewer and you stay at the Pfister, you're going to sleep like a little tiny angel. But if you're playing against the Brewers, it's reportedly supposed to be a very rough night. And I find that to be evidence of Charles Pfister's charm as a Milwaukeean."

Players like Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Upton have publicly discussed having their clothes thrown around the room, furniture being moved or the radio randomly turning on. Stanton compared it to the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World in its creepiness. In 2013, Michael Young, then a member of the Texas Rangers, recalled an experience he had at the hotel in a story for ESPN the Magazine.

"Oh, f--- that place," he said. "Listen, I'm not someone who spreads ghost stories, so if I'm telling you this, it happened. A couple of years ago, I was lying in bed after a night game, and I was out. My room was locked, but I heard these footsteps inside my room, stomping around.

"I'd heard all these stories about this hotel, so I was wide awake at that point. And then I heard it again, these footsteps on the floor, so I yelled out, 'Hey! Make yourself at home. Hang out, have a seat, but do not wake me up, OK?' After that, I didn't hear a thing for the rest of the night. I just let him know he was welcome, that we could be pals, that he could marinate in there for as long as he needed to, just as long as he didn't wake me up."

Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City

Baseball players have the Pfister, and basketball players have the Skirvin. Perhaps the most famous haunted hotel across sports, this Oklahoma City landmark has more than its fair share of believers.

Just ask Tim Hardaway Jr. or Eddy Curry or Metta World Peace and his then-Los Angeles Lakers teammates or just about anyone who has played on a team facing the Thunder in Oklahoma City. Some players even refuse to stay there, and book and pay for their own lodging when in town. Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving is so convinced of supernatural activity, he's currently producing a movie about it -- and many players have blamed it for their lackluster performances at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Jeff Provine is the author of several books about Oklahoma City and the state's haunted history, as well as the founder of OKC Ghost Tour. Despite his résumé, he calls himself skeptical by nature, but acknowledges there have just been too many strange happenings at the hotel to simply be a coincidence.

"I border on cynicism naturally, but I've talked to so many people over the years who have no reason to lie," he said. "They all have very specific details as to what they've seen. Something is definitely going on there."

After the oil bust of the 1980s, the Skirvin closed in 1988 after decades of prominence. Once the epitome of wealth and status in Oklahoma, it sat empty for 19 years before reopening after a large renovation project in 2007. Ghost stories began emerging during its closure, as it sat there, a massive abandoned building in the heart of the state's capital city, ripe for trespassing and rumors.

Many refer to the ghost of a woman named Effie as the primary spirit to walk the halls. As legend goes, the hotel's founder and owner W.B. Skirvin had an affair with a maid named Effie, who became pregnant with his child. In hopes of avoiding public disgrace, he locked her in a room on the 10th floor throughout her pregnancy so she wouldn't be seen. After giving birth, she was so despondent by her situation that she jumped out the window, with her baby in her arms, and plunged to her death. Guests have reported seeing a female ghost with long, dark hair, as well as hearing a baby's cries at all hours of the night.

But there isn't evidence such a woman ever existed, and, as Provine is quick to point out, Skirvin's wife died three years before the hotel opened its doors in 1911 so a relationship with another woman wouldn't have been much of a scandal. In fact, Skirvin reportedly had a reputation for being known as a womanizer and a heavy drinker, and there were said to be salacious activities happening on the hotel's then-top floor.

"I think it goes back to the days of Prohibition, which started in Oklahoma in 1907 when we got our statehood," he said. "The Skirvin was the luxury hotel of Oklahoma City, and had all these rich and famous folks coming in, and of course they wanted to keep them entertained. The story was that if you wanted to get a drink in downtown Oklahoma City, you could go to the top floor of the Skirvin Hotel.

"They had all these parties up there, and it wasn't exactly a secret. From time to time, the police had to go raid it, and when they did, they'd have to run past the front desk, and up the 10 flights of stairs. The front desk would call up everybody on the 10th floor and let them know the police were on the way. And if there was anything they wouldn't want them to find, [they would] just toss it out the window. They would send people out to pick up young ladies from around Oklahoma City to come party with these guys, so I believe these legends stem from this type of activity at the hotel."

Some visitors have reported seeing spirits that look like Skirvin, or his daughter, Perle Mesta, who became the American ambassador to Luxembourg under President Harry Truman in 1949. Other visitors don't see anyone specifically, but feel like they are not alone.

"There was one guy who said he saw the foot of his mattress in his room depressed, as if someone was sitting on it," said Provine, who includes a stop outside the Skirvin on his walking tour. "But there was no one there. And then, it started moving up the bed, like it wanted to sit right next to him or cuddle with him. He went and stayed somewhere else.

"And there was someone else who woke up in the middle of the night because he heard the bathroom door slam shut. He was spooked but he decided to check out the bathroom, and in it, he finds the light on and the bathtub filled with water, just to the point of spilling over. There have been so many stories like this that just have no rational explanation."

Editor's Note: This story first ran in 2019, and has been updated with added haunts and spookiness for your Halloween enjoyment.