"Black is the clear glass now that he glides,
Crisp is the whisper of long lean strides,
Swift is his swaying - but pricked ears hark.
None comes to Ghost Lake late after dark!"
- excerpt from "The Skater Of Ghost Lake" by William Rose Benét
THE KILLER ICE RINK
From 1943 to 1951, Hugh Reamer Hendrickson toured the United States as a featured performer with Shipstad and Johnson's Ice Follies, wowing audiences with his dizzying spins and Russian split jumps.
Hugh was an electrician's son from Kansas who moved to Los Angeles, the city of his father's birth, when he was in his twenties. While touring with the Ice Follies, he met both of his wives - fellow skaters Shirley Ann 'Ginger' Clayton and Pollyanna Crawford. When he decided to stop touring, he took a position managing the San Francisco Ice Arena. The 48th Avenue rink had fallen so badly into disrepair that it was closed for two months in June 1959 so that it could be overhauled.
Hugh Hendrickson. Photo courtesy University Of Washington, Special Collections.
On August 12, 1959, thirty one year old Hugh was in the building's basement, where a 'brine room' was housed and pumps ran brine through cooling pipes in the ice to maintain the ice. He was working on the brine pump while holding a drop light when suddenly the pump came on, splashing water on him and electrocuting him. Though rushed to a nearby emergency hospital, he was pronounced dead on arrival. In 2002, Emiliano Echeverria recalled, "My Dad was on the crew to help repair and renovate the plant. The refrigeration plant... was a dark and spooky place. [After Hugh's death] Polly, then thirty with two young boys, four and six, and all of us were devastated. One of the few times I saw my Dad weep. [Hugh] was a great guy, kind and generous. It just wasn't right... Eventually Polly sold her interest in the [San Francisco] Ice Arena to Joe Thurston, who eventually acquired complete ownership. He was the final owner. The rink reopened in late September '59, but it wasn't the same, and a few years later we drifted away." Though the rink remained open for many years after Hugh's tragic death, it was eventually torn down to make way for residential housing. It's a good thing too. The basement where Hugh's life came to a tragic end took on a very eerie quality.
MAN'S BEST FRIEND
As they say, a dog is a man's best friend. In nineteenth century Ireland, one skater's faithful companion came to their rescue when they fell through the ice and paid the eternal price. The book "True Irish Ghost Stories", compiled by John D. Seymour and Harry L. Neligan in 1992 shared, "In the winter of 1840-1, in the days when snow and ice and all their attendant pleasures were more often in evidence than in these degenerate days, a skating party was enjoying itself on the pond in the grounds of the Castle near Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin. Among the skaters was a man who had with him a very fine curly-coated retriever dog. The pond was thronged with people enjoying themselves, when suddenly the ice gave way beneath him, and the man fell into the water; the dog went to his rescue, and both were drowned. A monument was erected to perpetuate the memory of the dog's heroic self-sacrifice, but only the pedestal now remains. The ghost of the dog is said to haunt the grounds and the public road between the castle gate and the Dodder Bridge. Many people have seen the phantom dog, and the story is well known locally."
A HYPNOTIZED CAT?
Raymond T. Robinson
In June of 1919, Raymond T. Robinson and a group of his friends headed to a swimming hole in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. On the way, the boys stopped on a trolley bridge, where Raymond climbed a pole to reach for a bird's nest. He was badly electrocuted and was so disfigured that he lost his eyes, nose and right arm... but he survived. Over the years, he became something of a living urban legend in town and earned the nicknames of 'Charley-No-Face' and The Green Man, because the legend developed that his skin was green and glowed.
Eleven years prior to Raymond's accident, a stone's throw from that trolley bridge, Zella Wylie and R.C. Patterson met their end while ice skating... after escaping death one year prior in the exact same spot. The below clipping from the February 1, 1908 issue of "The New York Times" illustrates the very real dangers that Victorian and Edwardian era skaters faced when skating on natural ice.
THE STRANGE CASE OF ROSA DAY
The strange case of Rosa Day reads like something straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. This trio of clippings, just a small sampling of many that appeared in British newspapers in February of 1899, describe the unusual disappearance and alleged kidnapping of a governess from Cheshire, who was out for a day of ice skating.
"A Lady Skater's Mystery" ("Sheffield Independent", February 4, 1899)
Miss Rosa Day, who disappeared from her home at Rowton, near Chester, on Sunday morning, and who was been anxiously searched for since, was found lying unconscious outside her home late last Thursday night. She had a tremendous wound across her forehead, caused either by a kick or a blow, and was bruised all oer. When she had partly rallied Miss Day told an extraordinary story. On Sunday morning, she said, she went to skate on a pit near her home. Finding the ice was not safe, she went to another pit about three-quarters of a mile away. When she was sitting down putting her skates on a man came behind her, blindfolded her, tied her hands and said, "If you scream I will shoot you." The terrified girl says she then felt him put his hand in her pocket, and on finding no money he swore horribly. She became unconscious, and when she recovered she found herself in a strange loft some distance away. She was detained there until the following Thursday, during which time she was unconscious off and on. The man visited her several times but did not bring her anything to eat. On Thursday she succeeded in breaking a hole in the roof of the shed and getting through, and jumped to the ground. A little distance away she found a stream she knew, and managed to partly crawl and walk home. When she arrived there the feeling she was at home overcame her, and she had just strength to throw her hat at the door before fainting away. Luckily one of the servants on subsequently opening the door saw the hat, which led her to look for her young mistress. But for this discovery it is probable Miss Day would have frozen to death, as the household were on the point of retiring for the night. Doctors were immediately summoned from Chester, and though Miss Day is suffering from severe shock and exhaustion due to her not having tasted food since Sunday morning she is now practically out of danger. Miss Day, who is 21 years of age, is well connected and highly respected, and her story, extraordinary as it seems, is generally believed, and has given rise to intense indignation. The police are thoroughly investigating the matter. Another Chester correspondent states that with the exception of the injury to the head, which might have been caused by either a blow or a fall, and which had a more favourable appearance yesterday, there is not evidence of an assault having been committed upon her, beyond her statement that she was abducted while putting on her skates on Sunday morning, and was taken to a loft and bound until she managed to free herself on Thursday, and managed to escape by making a hole in the roof. No explanation has been given as to how she subsisted during the four and a half bitter winter days she was away. The police are investigating the case, and probably some more coherent statement may be expected. The correspondent states that shortly before Christmas, Miss Day had a narrow escape from falling into a deep quarry while collecting greenery for decorating a church. She hung on to some bushes for twenty minutes, and was rescued from what appeared to be certain death by two men. Since then she had been in failing health, and it is feared that her mind had been affected by the incident.
"Kidnapping Of Miss Rosa Day" ("Penny Illustrated Paper", February 11, 1899)
This belated young lady, after being absent since Sunday week, returned home on Thursday se'nnight, and related how she had been seized while skating, blindfolded, gagged, handcuffed, and led to some mysterious place of captivity by an unknown man. She had an ugly wound on her forehead, which fractured her skull. The read that the story told by Miss Day is altogether so remarkable that some skeptical people suggest that she may be suffering from mental aberration; but this theory of hallucination does not answer the obvious inquiry where the lady could possibly have been for five days. The family and neighbours, however, believe implicitly the whole story as related by Miss Day. She alleged that when the attack was made she was standing upright by the pond, not as previously stated, putting on her skates. The man approached, and asked the time, and it was when she was feeling for her watch that he secured her hands and made her a prisoner. When he asked for her money, he threatened to shoot her if she did not give it up, and when he found she had none, he cursed and swore horribly, and used violence. It is, however, strange that a gold brooch she was wearing was in its place when she returned home.
"The Rowton Disappearance" ("Cheshire Observer", February 18, 1899)
The police have been making the most strenuous efforts in regard to the strange disappearance of Miss Rosa Day, in order to discover anything by which an opinion can be formed on the probability or improbability of such things as Miss Day describes having happened. Despite every endeavour on the part of Superintendent Pearson - who, judging by his smartness, may be depended upon to leave no stone unturned, no likely theory untested, to get to the bottom of the mystery - no clue of any kind, say the police, has been discovered.
Every theory brought forward as yet is to be met with objections, which make them more improbable than the story itself. An idea which seems to have taken hold of several of the detectives, and many local residences, is that Miss Day was concealed in some building or other not far away, basing the argument on the fact that Miss Day's boots, on her return, were cleaner than one would expect after such wanderings. Against this, however, it can only be stated that on the Sunday she disappeared the thaw had only just set in, and the ground was like adamant, as was also the case when she returned. Her way back seems to have been from the direction of Saighton, as she was found near the pump, which is situated at the back of the house, and which would necessarily have to be passed before her home could be reached from the fields. Had she entered from the front, she would have had no occasion to go near the pump.
Taken all round, the mystery seems to thicken as the days go by, and neither the hut, the skates, nor the weapon are found. Still Miss Day who, in the doctor's opinion, has been perfectly rational ever since her return home, insists that the brutality described was exercised upon her. It may not be generally known that as she was returning to consciousness on being carried to the house, she shudderingly moaned, 'Oh! that horrid man.' Since then she has dreamt about the terrors of the journey home, her experiences on the Sunday, &c. One day last week she asked if the man had been found yet. "No," was the reply. "They are looking for the shed." Miss Day thereupon manifested the utmost surprise, said it was dark when she left it, and that she was so weary, so frightened, and so anxious to get away that she did not look at it. She is of the opinion that it was part of a larger building. On Friday Colonel Hamersley and several police detectives had arranged to interview Miss Day personally, but Dr. Taylor, noticing his patient's condition, said that she was not in a fit condition to be questioned, and the interview had to be postponed. Meanwhile Miss Day is progressing slowly. It is hoped that in a short time she will be able to throw more light upon what is at present a dark mystery.
By March of 1899, the story of Rosa Day's case had been dropped completely by local newspapers. No confirmed explanation was ever announced to the press by Cheshire detectives. The case, it seemed, had gone cold. A little digging in Census records revealed that Rosa had left her family's home in Cheshire by 1901 and was working as a hospital nurse in Liverpool. Ten years later, she was living in High Wycombe, in service to a large family. Her occupation was listed as 'sick trained nurse'. From there, she seemingly disappears from the pages of history - her skating mystery a chilling footnote from another time.
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