Go beyond the game on a visit to America’s haunted football stadiums and campuses. Many times we sit in a stadium, cheering on our favorite team and munching on popcorn, but seldom do we know the history, or haunted history, or these iconic spots. Eerie stories pay homage to the history of football and provide a novel look at the world of sports. And if you keep an eye out, you might spot the famous ghosts.
Notre Dame University- The “Gipper”
The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana have a long and storied history, and quite possibly the most famous ghost in sports. George Gipp was the first Fighting Irish player to make the All-American team and still holds the university record for the most average yards per rush for a season, but he would not get to live in glory for very long. One December evening Gipp slept on the steps at Washington Hall and afterwards caught pneumonia (some historians say he contracted the illness from strep throat). Tragically, he died from the illness at age 25 in 1920. But if the Gipper couldn’t live in glory, he would have it in death. Shortly after his death, doors in Washington Hall and throughout campus mysteriously closed, papers rustled and an eerie French horn blew in the night.
By 1925, there were reports of Gipp riding a white horse up the same steps, perhaps in an attempt to join the 1924 football team’s famed Four Horsemen: Jim Crowley, Elmer Layden, Don Miller and Harry Stuhldreher. Gipp now has a new reason to be upset–last November his body was exhumed and stripped of a femur to settle a long-standing paternity suit. Buy tickets here to check out a Fighting Irish game and seek out the Gipper here.
Indiana University- Mr. Plume
The state of Indiana has yet another football player haunting his alma mater, and this story is more gruesome. Michael Plume, a student at the university in 1960 and an active member of the U.S. Air Force, suffered a tragic death that remains a mystery to this day.
Memorial Stadium is the second football stadium to be built on Indiana University’s campus. In February of 1960, months away from its completion, 19-year-old Michael Plume was found hanging from the rafters of the incomplete west side of the stadium stands. Though it was a construction site, Plume’s shoes were clean. His feet were resting in the bed of a pick-up truck, his neck had been snapped and he had been hanged by an 18-foot rope—gruesome, we know.
There are many theories surrounding Plume’s death, including espionage, murder and anti-gay sentiments; however, not one has been confirmed. Ultimately, Plume’s death was ruled a suicide, but Plume’s doubtful family would attempt and fail to reopen the case in 1988.
Plume’s ghost lingers at Memorial Stadium. Fans and stadium staff report seeing his ghost dangling in the same location. Catch a game and keep your eyes open for Plume hanging out.
Kansas State University – Nick
In the 1950s the East Stadium that sits on top of buildings below was used as the athletic dormitory with a cafeteria on the ground level. While on the field, Kansas football player Nick suffered an injury and was rushed to the cafeteria where he soon passed away. Today the area where Nick died is home to the Purple Masque Theater where Nick still hangs out. Nick can’t give up his college antics. The ghost moves auditorium chairs, plays music, makes wooden boxes levitate, and spins fire extinguishers. See the game and check out campus in search for Nick. Click here to see a game.
Detroit Lions and New York Giants – Jimmy Hoffa
Jimmy Hoffa is a phantom that manages to haunt two football stadiums. Hoffa was the leader of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union and saw the union’s highest enrollment while in charge. However, with power came many enemies and Hoffa disappeared on July 30, 1975 from the parking lot of Machus Red Fox Restautant. Hoffa was never found, and many speculate that he was murdered. Hoffa was a major Detroit Lions fan, and the staff at Ford Field believe Hoffa is dead. Hoffa’s voice is heard all throughout the stadium cheering on his beloved team. Meanwhile, legend links Hoffa’s body to the old, now demolished, Giants Stadium. It is rumored that Hoffa’s body was buried under one of the field’s end zones in concrete. Before the stadium’s demolition in 2009, Mythbusters tried and failed to find Hoffa’s body in the end zones (the TV show aired Feb. 25, 2004). Click here for Lions tickets.
5. University of Wisconsin-Madison – Camp Randall
The Wisconsin Badgers’ stadium has a murky past that is begging to be heard today. The stadium’s namesake, Camp Randall, was in fact a Union soldier training ground during the Civil War and nearby was a prison camp for Confederates. Many soldiers died there and still show up dressed in slings and period clothing. On the ground where students now “Jump Around,” men once trained to fight America’s bloody battle. See a game at the haunted stadium here.
And a high school story…
6. Lee Williams High School – Pioneer Phantoms
Lee Williams High School in Kingman, Arizona is now situated on the grounds of an old Pioneer Cemetery that once held over 300 coffins of settlers and local Hualapi. Part of the high school’s football field and bleachers now stands on that hallowed ground of the old Pioneer Cemetery. During renovations in 2010 construction workers ran across a nasty surprise. In a trench dug behind the bleachers seven coffins and artifacts were unearthed. These ghosts, perhaps angry that their resting place had been disturbed, present themselves at games and graduations. A man in a bowler hat and a little girl demanding “to go out and play” are the most prominent apparitions. Feelings of unease, disembodied voices and light orbs are other unexplained paranormal activity.
Whether lore or reality, there is something to be seen and heard at these campuses and stadiums. Catch your next group game and enjoy more than just the center-stage action – watch for the sideline phantoms. Take a walk on campus and check out the spots where the football ghosts are said to frequent—and just maybe your group will catch a haunting glimpse of football history.