The Fifth Annual Skate Guard Hallowe'en Spooktacular


It's the ghost wonderful time of the year! Hallowe'en has once again fallen upon us and all of you loyal Skate Guard readers know that means. It's time for a yearly Skate Guard tradition... The Annual Skate Guard Hallowe'en Spooktacular! Dim the lights enjoy this creepy collection of darker stories that have peppered skating's history through the years!

THE MIRROR LAKE GHOST

For decades, Ohio State University's Pomerene Hall in Columbus has reportedly played host to an unwelcome resident: a ghostly lady in pink who reportedly haunts Room 213. However, long before the legend of the lady in pink worked its way into dorm room ghost stories, students were telling the tale of a ghost that haunts a small pond on campus known as Mirror Lake. The ghost is said to appear as a female skater, garbed in clothing of another era, warming her hands in a muff. An article in the October 26, 1990 issue of "The Ohio State Lantern" noted, "It is hard to find people willing to talk about the sighting because many do not believe what they saw. Interestingly, most of the sightings of the skater are by witnesses standing on a Pomerene Hall balcony overlooking the lake, while the lady in pink can be seen when looking across the north side of Mirror Lake towards Pomerene Hall. No one has ever linked the two ghosts, but it is curious that the lady in pink chooses to walk to a window overlooking the lake. The two women are also dressed in clothing which could be from the same period." In 1990, the university asserted that no deaths were documented in either Room 213 or the Mirror Lake pond since the university has been in existence but since then more than one student has tragically died in Mirror Lake. Did the skating ghost or the lady in pink play a hand? You be the judge.

Anita Hartshorn and Frank Sweiding performing to Enigma's "Mea Culpa" at the 1994 Miko Masters

A SALEM WITCH?

The infamous Salem Witch Trials occurred in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693. In the mass hysteria and religious fervour, more than two hundred people were accused of practicing witchcraft, and two hundred were executed. You'd think the good people of Massachusetts would have learned their lesson, but apparently not. Over a century later, a school teacher in Salem had her 'virtue' and character called into question - and was even accused of witchcraft - for teaching her female students how to do something as 'undignified' as ice skating. Jennie Holliman was one of the first to recall the story in the twentieth century in her 1939 book "Amusements And Sports In American Life". She noted, "In 1801, at Salem, Massachusetts, it was reported that a teacher of that place had instructed her pupils in the art of skating. The virtue of this woman and that of the girls was vindicated, however, when it was proved through the columns of the local newspapers that the report was an absolute falsehood." One primary source that verifies the story is the diary of William Bentley, the Pastor of the East Church in Salem. On December 1, 1801, Pastor Bentley recalled, "The vile slanders propogated last year to injure a school mistress* [Mrs. Rogers] in this town, have been echoed from other parts of the Continent, and the writer under the name of the Hindu, has dared to report that a teacher in Salem instructed her female pupils in the art of skaiting. A proper notice of this absolute falsehood is taken in the Imp. Register of this day." Through the help of Jen Ratliff, The Salem Historical Society and the Boston Public Library I was able to track down a clipping from the December 3, 1801 edition of the "Salem Impartial Register" that corroborates the story,


While far from spooky, this tale goes to show you just how far skating has come. What is now a pursuit dominated largely by females was once in some parts considered something worth burning over.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA HOUSE 



The site of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London has a long, fascinating history. The present venue which occupies the site is actually the third theatre in the space. The first two were destroyed in fires in 1808 and 1856. When the theatre underwent construction in the summer of 1999, workers reported having bricks, nuts, bolts and metal plating hurled at them from above while they toiled away. The workers laughed off the incidents, referring to their unseen attacker as 'The Phantom Of the Opera'. Security was beefed up, a reward even offered if someone could prove the attacks weren't otherworldly in nature, but nothing ever came of it. Did the phantom have a skating connection? It's possible. In 1937, Claude Langdon's "Rhapsody On Ice", a lavish skating production in two parts comprised of two ice ballets - "Enchanted Night" and "The Brahman's Daughter". Ten thousand pounds alone was spent on installing ice on the theatre's fifty five by seventy foot stage. A cast of one hundred and twenty professional skaters were employed, including two time Olympic Gold Medallists Andrée and Pierre Brunet, barrel jumper Phil Taylor and no less a legend that Belita Jepson-Turner herself. The show was largely panned by critics. Choreographer Alfred Mégroz was blamed by some for the production's failure and Langdon took a huge financial loss. In his 1953 book "Earl's Court", Langdon wrote, "To this day I confess I do not know all the reasons why this show was such a disappointment, while ice at the Stoll [Theatre] was such a success. Perhaps the regular 'Garden' enthusiasts resented the intrusion of ice entertainment and were slow to see the advantages of ballet on ice. Perhaps it is always an uphill task to present a show, of any sort, in a setting and background which is startlingly different. Gordon Jackson devised a perfect portable ice floor for the Covent Garden stage, the show was artistic, musical and colourful. In fact all our troubles were centred on the other side of the footlights, where there was (after the first few opening days) almost no audience. I was bitterly disappointed." Was a resentful Langdon the mystery phantom, lashing out at workers at a venue that cost him a pretty penny? Heaven (or hell) only knows.


THE HICKLING SKATER

The legend of The Hickling Skater first appeared in Ernest Richard Suffling's 1890 book "History and Legends of the Broad District". As the story goes, one cold winter in the early nineteenth century around the time of the Battle Of Waterloo, a young soldier was on a month's leave from duty and came to visit his sweetheart, who lived across the Hickling Broad near the village of Potter Heigham, England. His sweetheart's father didn't approve of the young man, so the couple had to meet in secret. On one secret rendezvous, the couple decided to go skating on Hickling Broad, when the soldier fell through the ice and drowned. His body wasn't found for several days. For decades, locals claimed to have seen his ghost on Hickling Broad around seven o'clock at night on cold February evenings, zooming around the ice looking for his beloved. The ghost was said to have been seen beating a drum and whistling along to gather his lover's attention.  Did Suffling encounter The Hickling Skater himself? Perhaps. In his 1887 book "The Land of the Broads: A Practical and Illustrated Guide to the Extensive but Little-Know District of the Boards of Norfolk and Suffolk", he stated, "I have sometimes been on the beautiful crystal surface of Hickling Broad, about a square mile in area, with perhaps only a dozen other persons on it besides myself; no fear of being knocked down by the crowded state of the ice here! In very cold weather, one may skate for miles and miles along the rivers; or if the skater be nervous, he may try his fortune on the glassy covering of ice which surmounts the flooded marshes, with a depth of only about a foot of water; so that, if he should happen to go through, he can step quietly out again." It's certainly possible that a chance encounter with The Hickling Skater inspired Suffling to write about the legend, but he made no mention of such an encounter. Instead, he claimed in 1890, "this 'poor ghost' appears to have been exorcised, for it is now a number of years since he has been seen, in fact, not since the advent of the superstition-destroying School Board". Did The Hickling Skater really pass over to the other side? If you decide to head out to Hickling Broad on a cold February night to find out for yourself, you might want to stay off the ice.

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